SOLDIER IN THE RAIN is an example of how a seeming sure bet ticket, chocked with talent, can vanish adios into The Great Scheme of Things unless the elements jell. From 1963, this is set at a stateside base of the lollygagging peacetime Army. Young doofus Sergeant idolizes his older, world-weary Master Sergeant buddy, amusing him with wacky brainstorms about after-service life and also introducing his wiser pal to ditzy teenage minx ‘Bobby Jo Pepperdine’, which brings trouble to their otherwise ordered world.
Part broad comedy, part sentimental sap, with a vicious barroom brawl added to further disjoint things. Sloppy 88 minutes drew a dud with audiences, its $2,000,000 take not even cracking the top 75 of the year. Apologists blamed bad luck in being released five days after JFK was murdered, but that didn’t deter It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World—this idea just doesn’t work. The odd thing is it starred Steve McQueen (hot off The Great Escape), Jackie Gleason (riding high from The Hustler and Requiem For A Heavyweight, and an increasingly popular Tuesday Weld. Proven hitmakers Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini co-wrote and scored and Ralph Nelson (fresh off Requiem For A Heavweight and Lilies Of The Field) directed.
Of them all, only Gleason drags anything out of the material. McQueen is annoyingly obvious, mugging in probably his most undisciplined performance. Weld, 20, is sexy as ever but the role is too poorly written for her to do much more than overplay it.
Shot at Ford Ord, with Tony Bill (terrible), Tom Poston, Ed Nelson, Lew Gallo, Chris Noel and Adam West.