Tanks a Million
Cast & Crew
Noah Beery Jr.
After he is drafted, Dorian "Dodo" Doubleday, an information clerk in a railroad station, puts his photographic memory to use by memorizing entire manuals on Army procedure. Unfortunately, when he reports for basic training at Camp Carver, Dodo's encyclopedic knowledge of military protocol makes him unpopular with his fellow recruits and gets him off to a bad start with his drill instructor, the tough-as-leather Sergeant Ames. The officers are impressed, however, and Dodo is immediately made a sergeant and put in charge of the notoriously undisciplined Company F. When the soldiers mock Dodo's orders by reporting for training wearing nothing but overcoats, Ames, gleefully anticipating Dodo's downfall, hastens to tell Major Greer. Dodo improvises a story about experimenting with minimal equipment in case of a surprise attack, adding that his men are a hardy breed from the Kentucky hills and can march better without shoes. Greer has the barefoot soldiers march in formation all day, and at a dance that evening, the young women flock admiringly around Dodo. The next day, Ames sees Dodo's men carrying out sentry duty on bicycles, in taxis and on a mule. After the mule disrupts the marching band, Captain Rossmead angrily sentences the men to the guard house, but Dodo takes the blame, and, to Ames's dismay, Rossmead dismisses the matter. Dodo's gesture earns him the men's respect and loyalty, and they swear to stand behind him and become good soldiers. Determined to see Dodo put in his place, Ames urges Rossmead to assign Dodo to serve as orderly to the new post commander, Colonel "Spitfire" Barkley. In Barkley's quarters, Dodo finds the eccentric colonel, who is intimidated by microphones, nervously practicing for an upcoming radio address to the troops. While Barkley is in the shower, Dodo accidentally spills powder on the colonel's jacket and hat, and as he is brushing them off, he cannot resist trying them on. Just then, Dodo's girl friend Jeanne, who has joined the Buddies Entertainment League to be near him, comes along and sees him in the colonel's uniform. Jeanne assumes that he has been promoted to colonel, and Dodo cannot bring himself to correct her, even when an escort arrives to take the "colonel" to the radio station for his speech. Standing before the microphone, Dodo gradually warms to his subject, the importance of military service, and the speech, which is broadcast throughout Camp Carver, is a huge success. Ames and Rossmead bring Dodo back to Barkley's quarters, and as Dodo is guiltily removing the uniform, congratulatory calls begin coming in from Washington. Barkley is pleased and asks Dodo to write down the speech for him, and Ames becomes the colonel's new orderly.
Noah Beery Jr.
Charles D. Hall
Edward E. Seabrook
Paul Gerard Smith
W. L. Stevens
Tanks A Million - Tanks a Million
Capitalizing on the increasing interest in military subjects and the popularity of Army comedies such as Abbott and Costello's Buck Privates (1941), Roach made Tanks a Million (1941) and cast Tracy as Dorian "Dodo" Doubleday, a railroad information clerk with a photographic memory who is drafted into the service. His special talent enables him to memorize entire procedural manuals at a single glance, making him unpopular with his fellow recruits and putting him at odds with his gruff drill sergeant. But his commanding officers are impressed, quickly promoting him to head up a troublesome platoon, thereby setting the stage for a comic rivalry between him and his former sergeant.
The formula proved such a hit with audiences that Roach characteristically turned Dodo and the supporting characters into series stars, putting them in ever more bumbling situations and, as the war progressed, incorporating such elements as German spies and Japanese submarines into the stories.
Although peerless character actor James Gleason appeared in only the first two (the second entry was Hay Foot ), Tracy and Joe Sawyer, as the ever-exasperated Sgt. Ames, made four more in the series during the war years. They were joined from time to time by such comic stalwarts as Noah Beery, Jr. and Margaret Dumont who is best known as Groucho Marx's comic foil in several Marx Brothers movies. All five films also featured popular supporting actor Frank Faylen, although he played a different character in each movie. After the war, attempts were made to revive the series, and installments appeared in 1948 (Here Comes Trouble), 1951 (As You Were) and 1952 (Mr. Walkie Talkie), with diminishing returns. Roach retired from the business in 1955, and his once-booming studio was bankrupt by the end of the decade. Tracy went into television, appearing in the series Terry and the Pirates, this time not as Caniff's title hero but as the character "Hotshot Charlie." He made one more film and the occasional TV appearance before his death at the age of 49 in 1967.
Although only a fifty-one minute programmer, Tanks a Million received an Academy Award nomination for Edward Ward's score, earning a place in a nominee field for 1941 that included Suspicion (Franz Waxman), Sergeant York (Max Steiner), Citizen Kane (Bernard Herrmann), and the winner, Herrmann's score for The Devil and Daniel Webster. Ward was also nominated that same year for his score for the drama Cheers for Miss Bishop and the musical All-American Co-Ed.
Director: Fred Guiol
Producer: Hal Roach
Screenplay: Edward E. Seabrook, Paul Girard Smith, Warren Wilson
Cinematography: Robert Pittack
Art Direction: Charles D. Hall
Original Music: Edward Ward
Cast: William Tracy (Sgt. Dodo Doubleday), James Gleason (Col. Spitfire Barkley), Noah Beery, Jr. (Charlie Cobb), Joe Sawyer (Sgt. Ames), Elyse Knox (Jeannie).
by Rob Nixon
Tanks A Million - Tanks a Million
According to the Film Daily review, this film was originally called The Tanks Are Coming. Although a print of the film was viewed, most of the onscreen credits were taken from a copyright cutting continuity. The viewed print was a compilation of Tanks a Million and About Face, another film in Hal Roach's series featuring William Tracy as "Sgt. Doubleday" and Joe Sawyer as "Sgt. Ames," and did not include the full credits for Tanks a Million. The two films were apparently combined for a later release.
According to news items in Hollywood Reporter, Jeff Moffitt was assigned to write the script of Tanks a Million, but his participation in the final film has not been confirmed. A May 22, 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that director Fred Guiol was to collaborate on the screenplay with Moffitt and screenwriter Warren Wilson, but no other source credits him as a writer. A Hollywood Reporter news item dated June 13, 1941 erroneously stated that Gordon Douglas was slated to direct. A report from the War Department on file at NARS indicates that the film was disapproved by the department's Board of Review, which objected to the portrayal of Army personnel in "ridiculous, stupid and unmilitary scenes and actions." The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic Picture).
Tanks a Million was the first in a series of "streamlined features," released by Hal Roach. The films, which were distributed by United Artists throughout the 1940s, were short, but feature-length comedies intended to fill the second half of a double bill and allow audiences to be entertained in less time. This film was also the first in the "Doubleday-Ames" series, all of which starred William Tracy and Joe Sawyer. The series, which was comprised of six films, ended in 1952 with Mr. Walkie Talkie. For additional information on the series, please consult the Series Index.