In the 1934 Best Picture nominee, Flirtation Walk, Dick Powell plays a soldier who is constantly trying to go AWOL.
It’s not that Richard “Dick” Palmer Grant Dorcy Jr. dislikes the army. In fact, he’s actually getting a pretty good deal out of his enlistment. He’s been stationed in Hawaii, where he gets to go to luaus and hang out on the beach. He has a wonderful friend and mentor in the person of Sgt. Scrapper Thornhill (Pat O’Brien). Since this film was made in 1934, he’s not going to have to worry about going to war for another 7 years. He’s known as The Canary because he loves to whistle and sing. Everyone like Pvt. Dick Dorcy and that includes Kit Fitts (Ruby Keeler).
Unfortunately, Kit’s father is General Fitts (Henry O’Neill) and he’s none too amused about his daughter having a romance with an irresponsible enlisted man. He would much rather that Kit marry his aide, Lt. Biddle (John Eldredge). After he’s told to stay away from Kitt, Dick makes plans to desert so he can run off with her. Fortunately, Scrapper finds out what Dick is planning and he goes to Kit and warns her that Dick’s about to throw away his life for her. Not wanting him to get into trouble, Kit pretends that she never felt anything for Dick. When a broken-hearted Dick wonders why Kit rejected him, Biddle smugly informs him that he’s neither “an officer nor a gentleman.”
Stung, Dick decides to fix that problem. In order to become an officer, he applies for admission to West Point and gets in. Dick leaves Hawaii for the mainland and he does very well at West Point. He’s even put in charge of producing, writing, and directing West Point’s annual theatrical production. However, things get complicated with Gen. Fitts arrives to serve as superintendent. Coming with Gen. Fitts are both Kit and Lt. Biddle.
Deciding to express his angst through art, Dick writes a show about a female general. Since Kit is the only female at West Point, guess who gets the lead role? Though Kit is still in love with Dick, she can’t get him to listen to her explanation for why she rejected him. Will a stroll along West Point’s famed Flirtation Walk help fix things?
Well, it is a Dick Powell musical….
Flirtation Walk is a pleasant but forgettable movie. Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler make for a cute couple but neither one of them gives a particularly interesting performance and the bland songs don’t make much of an impression either. Those who are into military history might enjoy the fact that the film was actually filmed on location at West Point but, for the rest of us, this is a nice but not particularly memorable musical romance. For me, the most interesting part of the film was that it didn’t even attempt to be realistic when it came to Dick’s theatrical production. It’s a huge production, if never coming close to being as much fun as the one from 42nd Street.
Why was Flirtation Walk nominated for Best Picture? I imagine it was because it was a hit at the box office. It only received one other nomination, for Best Sound Recording. Regardless of why it was nominated, it lost to the far more memorable It Happened One Night.