Keep 'Em Flying

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Keep 'Em Flying
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Produced by Glenn Tryon
Written by True Boardman
Nat Perrin
John Grant
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Martha Raye
Carol Bruce
Music by Charles Previn
Edited by Philip Cahn
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • November 28, 1941 (1941-11-28)
Running time
86 min
Country United States
Language English
Budget $450,000[1]

Keep 'Em Flying is a 1941 film starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello. The film was the third service comedy based on the peacetime draft of 1940. The comedy team had appeared in two previous service comedies in 1941, before the United States entered the war: Buck Privates, released in January, and In the Navy, released in May. The film's title is taken from the official motto of the U.S. Army Air Corps, some five months after it had been reformed into the USAAF.


Jinx Roberts (Dick Foran) is a stunt pilot and his assistants are Blackie (Bud Abbott) and Heathcliff (Lou Costello). All three are fired from the carnival and air show that they work for after a disagreement. Jinx decides that he should join the Army Air Corps, so they go to a nightclub to party one last time. While there Jinx falls for the club's singer, Linda Joyce (Carol Bruce). Coincidentally, she becomes a USO hostess at the same Academy that Jinx and her brother Jimmy (Charles Lang) are enrolled at. It turns out that Jinx's instructor, Craig Morrison (William Gargan), was his co-pilot on a commercial airplane years earlier, and the two still hold animosity for each other. Meanwhile, Blackie and Heathcliff join the Air Corps as ground crewman and fall in love with twin USO hostesses (Martha Raye in a dual role).

Jinx attempts to help Jimmy solo, nearly getting him killed. For his efforts, Jinx is hated by Linda for nearly killing her brother and is dishonorably discharged from the corps, along with his assistants Blackie and Heathcliff (who were discharged for their own mishaps). As they are leaving, Craig gets his parachute caught on the tail end of the plane that he just jumped out of. Jinx confiscates a plane and comes to his rescue. For his heroic actions, he is allowed back into the corps and gets back Linda.[2]



Keep 'Em Flying was filmed at the Cal-Aero school in Ontario, California from September 5-October 29, 1941 under the working title Up in the Air. Costello's brother Pat Costello was used as Lou's stunt double.[3]

Although it was filmed after Ride 'Em Cowboy, it was released first to coincide with the War Department's Keep 'Em Flying Week.[3]


Reviews from critics were generally not as positive as those for previous Abbott and Costello films. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times found the "routine and sticky" plot overly intrusive on the duo's antics and concluded that "As sustained entertainment ... 'Keep 'Em Flying' doesn't heed its own advice. Too often it hits the ground with a dull, resounding plop."[4] Variety wrote: "'Keep 'Em Flying' is the fourth release starring Abbott and Costello within a 10-month stretch. It indicates that the boys are appearing too often with their burlycue type of roustabout comedy to remain in public popularity for any length of time, unless new material is provided for their screen appearances. Too many of the numerous laugh routines displayed here are only slight variations of previous material, with resultant loss of audience reaction."[5] However, Film Daily reported: "Easily as good as before and maybe funnier, Abbott & Costello score again in another laugh-fest that's primed for top grosses."[6] Harrison's Reports wrote, "Here's another Abbott and Costello picture that will set audiences roaring with laughter."[7] John Mosher of The New Yorker called the film "a bit too usual. Many may even feel that the Costello squeal is getting feebler."[8]

Academy Award anomaly[edit]

One of the songs from the film, “Pig Foot Pete,” received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. However, the Academy attributed the song to another Universal Pictures release, Hellzapoppin', even though it was not used in that production.[9]


It was re-released with Ride 'Em Cowboy in 1949, and with Buck Privates in 1953.[3]

DVD release[edit]

This film has been released twice on DVD. The first time, on The Best of Abbott and Costello Volume One, on February 10, 2004,[10] and again on October 28, 2008 as part of Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection.[11]


  1. ^ Dick, Bernard F. (1997). City of Dreams: The Making and Remaking of Universal Pictures. Kentucky University Press. p. 132. ISBN 9780813158891. 
  2. ^ Jim Mulholland (1977). The Abbott and Costello Book. Popular Library. pp. 80–86. 
  3. ^ a b c Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0
  4. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Movie Review - Keep em Flying". Retrieved December 14, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Keep 'Em Flying". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc. November 26, 1941. p. 9. 
  6. ^ "Reviews of the New Films". Film Daily. New York: Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc.: 6 November 21, 1941. 
  7. ^ "'Keep 'Em Flying' with Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Martha Raye and Carol Bruce". Harrison's Reports: 190. November 29, 1941. 
  8. ^ Mosher, John (December 6, 1941). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp. p. 123. 
  9. ^ Tim Dirks. "1942 Academy Awards Winners and History". The Greatest Films. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  10. ^ "The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 1 (Buck Privates / Hold That Ghost / In the Navy / Keep 'Em Flying / One Night in the Tropics / Pardon My Sarong / Ride 'Em Cowboy / Who Done It?): Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Richard Carlson, Joan Davis, Mischa Auer, Evelyn Ankers, Marc Lawrence, Shemp Howard, Russell Hicks, William B. Davidson, A. Edward Sutherland, Arthur Lubin, Charles Barton, Edward Bernds, Erle C. Kenton, Arthur T. Horman, Bradford Ropes, Charles Grayson: Movies & TV". Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  11. ^ Communications, Nuance. "Abbott & Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello: Movies & TV". Retrieved 2012-02-03. 

External links[edit]