Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Operation Mad Ball


This is from early in Jack Lemmon’s career. He had made three or four movies, including Mr. Roberts and It Should Happen to You (co-starring with Judy Holliday), but he hadn’t really arrived as a big-time box office draw. The Apartment and Some Like it Hot were in his near future. This is one of those “service comedies” that were so popular in the ‘50s, that tended to make it look like war had been a lot of fun. So many guys had been in the military and knew the language and situations that I guess it was a guaranteed audience. I imagine their wives wanted to see what their men had experienced. These movies tended to take place in the rear areas, or involve an odd SNAFU, like Operation Petticoat or The Wackiest Ship in the Army. (Come to think of it, in any war, at least since WWII, more men serve in the rear areas than in combat zones.) Here Lemmon plays Pvt. Hogan (oddly enough, the same name he had in a movie we just saw: Under the Yum Yum Tree), one of those guys who knows how to get things done, one way or another, in war or peace. It takes place just post-war, and involves a bunch of mostly non-coms setting up a big party under the noses of the officers, and in particular an asshole major played very well by Ernie Kovacs. Hogan spends most of his time bamboozling the officers and ordering sergeants around. It reminded me of Ex-PFC Wintergreen in Catch-22, the man who was really calling the shots in the European Theater, no matter what the generals thought.