Half Shot At Sunrise (1930) DVD
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After serving as comedy relief in three big-budget RKO Radio musicals, the comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey were rewarded with their own starring vehicle, the dated but still delightful Half Shot at Sunrise. Set in Paris during WWI, the film casts Bert and Bob as Gilbert and Tommy, two AWOL doughboys. When not posing as officers to impress the local mademoiselles, our heroes spend their time ducking a pair of diligent MPs, and while doing so make the acquaintance of the hoydenish Annette (Dorothy Lee), the daughter of dyspeptic Colonel Marshall (George MacFarlane) and Marshall's snooty wife (Edna May Oliver). Tommy falls in love with Annette, while Gilbert is equally enamored of Olga (Leni Stengel), the Colonel's sultry lady friend. Hoping to save the boys from court-martial by turning them into war heroes, Annette and Olga contrive to send Gilbert and Tommy to the Front with "borrowed" secret orders. After nearly being killed by enemy shellfire, the two errant soldiers are arrested and brought to Marshall's headquarters, averting a firing squad only by revealing that their "secret orders" were actually love letters written to the Colonel by the flirtatious Olga. There are many funny routines in Half Shot at Sunrise (the scene in which Wheeler and Woolsey pose as French waiters is a riot), and the songs, particularly the Wheeler-Lee duet "Whistling the Blues Away," are quite entertaining. But the film's highlight is an uncharacteristic "straight" scene toward the end, when a panic-stricken Woolsey risks death to rescue an injured Wheeler from No Man's Land (and never mind that the scene ends with a satirically comic punch line). Half Shot a Sunrise proved beyond all doubt that Wheeler and Woolsey could carry a picture by themselves; they would remain top box-office attractions until Bob Woolsey's death in 1938.