A long, long time ago I saw maybe the first 20 or 30 minutes of a comedy movie. The movie was in English, and I think it was black-and-white. (Or maybe I was just sitting in front of an old black-and-white television -- not sure.) I'm not sure just when I saw this, but probably sometime before 1996, and I suspect it was already a few decades old at that time. It had a pretty corny, old-fashioned feel to it (and probably pretty low-budget), not like the sort of comedies that Hollywood was making in the 1980s.

Here's what I remember about the bit of the plot that I saw:

  1. The story took place during the American Civil War. Early on, it is established in dialogue that the first few scenes are set in some backwater area where a Union regiment and a Confederate regiment have been "stalemated" for months. Stalemated, but not actually shedding any blood, as we soon realize when the Union colonel says something along the following lines to one of his officers:

"Every morning at six o'clock we fire off fifty rounds! Then, at six-thirty, the Rebels fire off fifty rounds, and everybody's happy!"

  1. We also start learning that a few members of this regiment have unusual talents or quirks. The only one I remember clearly is a guy who says that horses just naturally like to follow him around, even when he isn't trying to get their attention. (My wild guess was that his body constantly emitted some sort of pheromone which horses enjoyed smelling.)

  2. Somehow, a handful of the Union soldiers do something which, in a sort of Rube Goldberg fashion, ends up looking an awful lot like a successful attack on the Rebel position, even though nobody had intended this! For instance, I believe that the guy I mentioned above accidentally gets close enough to the Confederate camp for their horses to catch a whiff of him and start following him, with the result that all of a sudden the Confederate regiment, when it wants to use its horses to react to some other scary thing that just happened, reaches the angry conclusion that the Union has cleverly stolen those horses as part of a Master Plan to soften up the opposition!

  3. With no loss of life on his side (I think), the Union colonel now finds himself in the position of just having scored a "victory." Most of the Rebel soldiers have either surrendered or retreated on foot, I think. But he is none too happy about this, because this probably means his report of his "victory" will cause him to receive new orders to do something else, such as marching further south into Confederate territory, where he might get shot at! I think he wants those "troublemaker" soldiers transferred out of his unit in a hurry.

  4. A junior officer ends up making a dynamic sales pitch to someone senior (maybe the colonel, maybe a general; not sure). His brainstorm is that the U.S. Army ought to make a concerted effort to identify all sorts of soldiers with extremely odd talents, and form them into a new unit for special operations. Starting with the few we've already met.

I think that's about all I ever saw of this "Civil War comedy." Does anybody recognize it from my description, so that I can someday see the rest of it?

  • Good description. – John Feb 11 '17 at 4:40

I think this is Advance to the Rear (1964) also known as Company of Cowards with Glenn Ford and Stella Stevens


Union Colonel Claude Brackenbury has a cozy arrangement with his Confederate counterpart. They fire a few artillery rounds in each other's general direction at precisely the same time each morning, then go back to contentedly waiting for the war to end.

TCM Synopsis

During the Civil War a Union Army general officer has a comfortable encampment and a pleasant "agreement" with the enemy: every morning his company fires at them, they fire back, and no one gets hurt.

When finally he is ordered to attack, his horse bolts and charges to the rear with the infantry following. As punishment for his apparent cowardice he is put in charge of a company of misfits and sent west to Indian Territory.

Through an error, the fact that his unit is replacing one that is protecting Union gold has been overlooked. The men journey westward by riverboat and are joined by a group of camp followers led by Easy Jenny and including Martha Lou Williams, a Confederate spy.

A romance develops between Martha Lou and Capt. Jared Heath, though he perceives her devious purpose. Her efforts to obtain information while retaining her virtue result in the misfits' losing their horses, their pants, and the Union gold to a group of renegades and then undertaking a countercharge in their long underwear. They lose their weapons but use their eccentric talents to defend themselves, and they save the gold by building and using a catapult.

  • Thank you. From the Wikipedia article, I conclude that this was the one I saw the first part of. Although apparently I'd forgotten it was the Union outfit, and not the Rebel outfit, that was thrown into chaos and humiliated, early on in the film. – Lorendiac Feb 13 '17 at 2:40

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