What's Next, Corporal Hargrove?
A native New Yorker and former reporter, Kurnitz (1908-1968) wrote his first screenplay, Fast Company, based on his own book, in 1938. He was a prolific screenwriter who also wrote novels and such successful plays as A Shot in the Dark and Once More, With Feeling. He was a co-writer on Billy Wilder's adaptation of Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution (1957) and was nominated for a Writers Guild Award for the William Wyler comedy How to Steal a Million (1966).
Robert Walker, whose lanky frame, spaniel eyes and comic sense made him the perfect sad-sack soldier, had emerged as a star at age 26 in See Here, Private Hargrove. He returned for the sequel, along with Keenan Wynn as his wheeler-dealer buddy Private Mulvehill. While the original film covered the bumbling pair's misadventures in boot camp, What Next, Corporal Hargrove? follows the boys as they serve in an artillery unit in wartime France (as recreated on MGM's back lot). Chill Wills is again on duty as Hargrove's nemesis, Sergeant Cramp, but Jean Porter steps into Donna Reed's shoes as the romantic interest. Future lower-rung stars Cameron Mitchell, Ted Lundigan and Jim Davis are also in the cast.
Between the two Hargrove films, Walker had solidified his star status with sensitive performances in David O. Selznick's Since You Went Away (1944), playing opposite his wife, Jennifer Jones; and MGM's The Clock (1945), with Judy Garland. But the period also saw the end of Walker's marriage to Jones, who subsequently married producer Selznick, and the actor's slide into self-destructive behavior. Although he continued acting in a dozen or so films and was particularly effective in Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951), Walker's behavior became increasingly erratic. He died suddenly in 1951 after doctors gave him sedatives to calm an emotional outburst.
After the success of the films bearing his name, Hargrove (1919-2003) became a screenwriter, creating scripts for both feature films and such TV shows as Maverick, Fantasy Island and The Waltons. He won a Writers Guild of America award for his screenplay for The Music Man (1962).
Producer: George Haight
Director: Richard Thorpe
Screenplay: Harry Kurnitz, based on the characters by Marion Hargrove
Cinematography: Henry Sharp
Editing: Albert Akst
Original Music: David Snell
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Leonid Vasian
Costume Design: Irene
Cast: Robert Walker (Cpl. Marion Hargrove), Keenan Wynn (Pvt. Thomas Mulvehill), Jean Porter (Jeanne Quidoc), Chill Wills (Sgt. Cramp), Hugo Haas (Mayor Quidoc), William "Bill" Phillips (Bill Burk).
BW-95m. Closed captioning.
by Roger Fristoe