Wednesday, June 01, 2011
SOLDIER IN THE RAIN stars Steve McQueen as Sgt Eustis Clay, an Army Supply Sergeant. Eustis spends his days in the barracks coming up with various get rich quick schemes and hanging out with his best friend M/Sgt Maxwell Slaughter (Jackie Gleason who is very good in a rather serious role).
Slaughter has been in the service since the War. It is his life. His office is air conditioned with its own Pepsi machine. He doesn’t see leaving the Army any time soon.
Co-written and produced by Blake Edwards, and directed by Ralph Nelson, SOLDIER IN THE RAIN is an odd film that is tonally all over the place. At times it is very funny, there is also a very brutal fight scene, along with a tragic finale.
The supporting cast includes Tuesday Weld, Tom Poston, Tony Bill, Ed Nelson and even Adam West in a small role. There is a memorable theme song by Henry Mancini, who would team up with Edwards soon after for THE PINK PANTHER.
With Gleason, it is a surprise to see that McQueen turns in the wildest comic performance. His character has this strange squeaky voice reminiscent of Jerry Mathers in early LEAVE IT TO BEAVER episodes. If this had been anyone other than Steve McQueen, you might say the performance ruins the film. But McQueen was so charismatic, it is still watchable.
SOLDIER IN THE RAIN was released soon after THE GREAT ESCAPE, when McQueen was one of the biggest stars of the day. It also had the misfortune of being released a week after the JFK assassination. Because of that, the film has largely been forgotten.
SOLDIER IN THE RAIN is available now from the Warner Archive.