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A peacetime soldier plots to throw a party under his strict captain's nose.
Just after the end of World War II, at the American Hospital Division outside Le Havre, France, Hogan, a glib young private, lowers his rifle to talk to Lt. Betty Bixby, an attractive nurse who has just arrived at the base. Their conversation is witnessed by the self-satisfied, officious Capt. Paul Lock, who arrests Hogan for fraternizing with an officer and lowering his weapon while on duty. As Hogan awaits his hearing, he commiserates with his friend, Corp. Berryman, who laments that he will be unable to spend time with his sweetheart, nurse Lt. Schmidt, before he is shipped out to the South Pacific. As an antidote to Berryman's plight, Hogan envisions a romantic little inn where the lovers can spend their last night together. At Hogan's hearing, Col. Rousch, the post's kindly commander, questions Lock's hard-nosed determination to court-martial Hogan. When Hogan points out that the Geneva Convention forbids medical personnel to carry a rifle, thus rendering the charge of lowering his weapon moot, the colonel dismisses the case. Still determined to discipline Hogan, Lock reassigns him to the morgue. Afterward, Hogan, bent on finding Berryman a romantic rendezvous, drives through the countryside and comes upon a run-down inn. The landlady, the cantankerous Madame Lafour, orders the GIs off her property because she holds all Americans responsible for the damage done to her inn by a group of rowdy servicemen. When Hogan agrees to refurbish the inn in exchange for hosting a party there, Madame agrees. For the "mad ball," as Hogan terms it, Hogan enlists the base ambulance drivers to transport the nurses and asks the provisions agent for the officer's club to supply the repast. To win Betty's sympathy, Hogan shows her the x-ray of an officer's ulcer, claiming that it is his. This prompts the alarmed Betty to put Hogan on a special diet and order him to report to her every two hours. Occupied with the party arrangements, Hogan has no time for his morgue duties, and so asks an underling to pick up a corpse for him. Still suspicious of Hogan, Lock enlists Corp. Bohun to spy on the private and suggests that Bohun bad-mouth Lock to gain the men's confidence. Bohun, who secretly detests Lock for burying his promotion requests in order to assure that the corporal will remain his permanent assistant, is delighted to derail the captain's plans. When Rousch receives word that his brother has just been promoted to general and plans to pass through Le Havre, he decides to throw a party in his brother's honor on the same night as Hogan's mad ball. Rousch entrusts Lock with the arrangements and instructs him to have a crow's nest constructed in the officer's club because his brother is fond of nautical themes. Soon after, Lock calls for a surprise inspection of the base, and when Hogan is unable to locate the corpse he was to deliver to the morgue, he enlists Oskar, a German war prisoner, to pose as the deceased. When Lock arrives at the morgue, a soda bottle stuffed inside Oskar's pocket begins to leak, and Locke mistakes the liquid for blood. Suddenly detecting a heart beat, Lock panics and orders Hogan to find a hospital bed for the miraculously revived corpse. Afterward, Hogan tries to convince Betty to accompany him to the ball in order to "safeguard his health," but she is reluctant to defy regulations forbidding the fraternization of enlisted personnel and officers. The entire ball is jeopardized when the nurses are restricted to base and ordered to attend the party for Rousch's brother. To assure that Rousch's party will be cancelled, thus freeing the nurses, Bohun tricks the unwitting Lock into issuing orders that result in Rousch's brother being shipped out before the party. With the help of transportation sergeant Yancy Skibo, the general and his men are whisked out of Le Havre and sent to sea. On the night of the party, a disappointed Rousch gazes at the newly built crow's nest in the deserted officer's club. When Betty discovers Hogan's ruse and refuses to attend the ball, he accuses her of hiding behind her commission. Lock, ever vigilant, learns that a convoy of camp vehicles has been driving from the base toward Le Havre and enlists Bohun's help to investigate. When Bohun alerts Hogan, they conceive of a plan to give the captain his "comeuppance." Following Hogan's instructions, Bohun tells Lock that the men have planned a ball for that evening. Claiming not to know the location, Bohun suggests that Lock pose as an ambulance driver, pick up a load of nurses and follow the other ambulances to the party. When Lock, disguised as an enlisted man, drives an ambulance into the motor pool, Hogan's men, who have been told about the ruse by Bohun, load several German prisoners into the back. After Lock drives off, Hogan notifies Military Police Headquarters in Le Havre to stop his ambulance. Betty, meanwhile, has been waylaid by the lonely Rousch, who asks her to join him at the officer's club. After she bursts into tears, Betty makes Rousch promise to keep a secret and then tells him of her disappointment in missing the festivities. The sympathetic colonel offers to drive her there, and along the road, they pass Lock, who has been arrested for transporting German prisoners of war. After Lock insists that he is a captain at the hospital, the colonel, still angry at Lock for spoiling his brother's party, claims that Lock is impersonating an officer. When Betty and the colonel enter the ball, the servicemen spring to attention, after which Rousch tells them he promised Betty that he would ignore all infractions for the night. Hogan, who thinks that Betty spurned him, is glumly sitting alone in the barracks when the colonel dispatches a car to drive him to the party. Afterward, a flirtatious Madame LaFour tells the colonel that Hogan is the best good will ambassador he could have. When Hogan arrives, he thinks that he is going to be arrested, but instead, the colonel congratulates him and sends him over to Betty as the rest of the GIs and nurses whirl around the dance floor.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 20 Nov 1957|
|Release Date:||1957||Production Date:||
A Jed Harris Production
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Columbia Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Columbia Pictures Corp.|
|Duration(mins):||103 or 105||Country:||United States|
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