Bombs Away: THE ROOKIE (20th Century Fox 1959)


If there’s a film room in hell, you can be sure THE ROOKIE is playing there continuously. This totally unfunny service “comedy” stars the team of Tommy Noonan and Peter Marshall. They’re about as funny as having a spike driven through your forehead. The only reason I’m writing about this atrocity is to give you all fair warning: DON’T WATCH IT!!

The story makes no sense whatsoever. Tommy is drafted just as WWII is over, and demands to be put through boot camp. A mix-up occurs at the Pentagon when two drunken janitors answer the phone, and Camp Clyde is ordered to stay open and put Tommy through basic training. This doesn’t sit well with Sgt. Peter Marshall, who was looking forward to discharging and marrying his sweetheart, starlet Lili Marlene (Julie Newmar, who’s wasted in this mess).


News of this nonsense makes Lili’s PR man (Jerry Lester) come up with a brilliant idea: Lili will be the girl Tommy left behind, and drum up more pub for her career. The premise serves to spotlight a number of slapstick schticks and downright lousy jokes (Tommy: “I have laryngitis”- Peter: “Then why aren’t you whispering?”- Tommy: “Why, it’s no secret”). Peter gets to sing an ersatz rock number that’s as bad as you’d think it could be. Somehow or other, Noonan, Marshall, and Lili end up on a deserted island where they’re threatened by two Japanese soldiers who don’t know the war is over. The two are also played by Noonan and Marshall, and was probably as offensive back then as it is today.


George O’Hanlon, of the “Joe McDokes” shorts (and the voice of George Jetson), directed this mishmash from a screenplay by himself and Noonan. It’s easy to see why he never got to direct again. I won’t mention the other cast members here, and I’m sure they would’ve wanted it that way. Believe it or not, the film actually turned a profit, and Noonan and Marshall starred in a sequel, SWINGIN’ ALONG, that didn’t do so well and mercifully put the nail in their screen coffin for good.


After the team went their separate ways, Peter Marshall went on to success as the host of TV’s THE HOLLYWOOD SQUARES. And Noonan? He would make a couple of nudie-cuties, PROMISES PROMISES (with Jayne Mansfield) and THREE NUTS IN SEARCH OF A BOLT (with Mamie Van Doren) before succumbing to a fatal brain tumor in 1967. There’s an easy joke in there, but I’m not gonna make it. Just do yourselves a favor… do not waste your precious time watching THE ROOKIE. You’ve been warned!

10 Replies to “Bombs Away: THE ROOKIE (20th Century Fox 1959)”

  1. I’d love to see a film that documents how, and why, The Rookie was greenlit and made. Even though the studio system era was almost dead by 1959, remnants of it still existed, which is most likely why this turkey was made.

    In some ways, it mimics the Monkees fiasco, though without the limited success. Someone talked someone else into thinking that a brand-new comedy team . a’la Martin & Lewis, could be a money-maker. And maybe a few other someones were owed a favor or two, and thus were allowed to direct, script, produce, or be included in the cast. At best, films such as this kept the studio payroll people and the craft union folks busy, and that’s worth something. Sort of.

    And thus was born a film destined to be the second feature at your local drive-in.

    P.S.: The other, often overlooked virtue of these dud flicks was that they were the perfect fare for all of us who would get totally ripped on some mind-altering substances, and would have enough sense to realize that driving around aimlessly in that condition was both potentially dangerous and a bit dull. So finding a flick like The Rookie at the local drive-in that didn’t require any brainpower to comprehend was kind of wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

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