Popular crooner Russ Raymond (Dick Powell) abandons his career at its peak and joins the Navy using his real name, Tommy Halstead. However, Dorothy Roberts (Claire Dodd), a reporter, discovers his identity and follows him in the hopes of photographing him and revealing his identity to the world.
Aboard the battleship Alabama, Tommy meets up with Smoky (Bud Abbott) and Pomeroy (Lou Costello), who help hide him from Dorothy, who hatches numerous schemes in an attempt to photograph Tommy/Russ being a sailor. Pomeroy is in love with Patty, one of The Andrews Sisters, sends her numerous fan letters, and tries to impress her with false tales of his physique and his naval rank. Eventually, Patty discovers that Pomeroy is only a baker, and Pomeroy spends much of the movie attempting to win her affection.Bud Abbott as Smokey Adams
Lou Costello as Pomeroy Watson
Dick Powell as Thomas Halstead
Claire Dodd as Dorothy Roberts
The Andrews Sisters as Themselves
Dick Foran as Dynamite Dugan
Billy Lenhart as Butch
Kenneth Brown as Buddy
Shemp Howard as Dizzy
After Buck Privates became a huge hit, the studio rushed Abbott and Costello into a second service comedy. In the Navy was filmed from April 8, 1941 through May 9, 1941. This was actually after the team had already completed Hold That Ghost. The latter was held back for revisions and the naval comedy was released as the team's second starring vehicle.
There was, however, one problem before it could be released: when the film was screened for the Navy, officers were offended by the sequence where Pomeroy (Costello) impersonates a captain and puts the battleship through a series of madcap maneuvers. Since the sequence was the climax of the film, it could not be edited out. The studio solved the problem by making the sequence Pomeroy's dream. This caused the film to go over its original budget of $335,000.
Portions of the film were shot in the Coachella Valley, California.
Abbott and Costello perform the "Lemon Bit," a crooked shell game routine; the math routine, "13 x 7 = 28"; and "Buzzing the Bee" (called "Sons of Neptune"), an initiation routine where the team tries to trick the other into asking to be sprayed in the face. During this sequence, Costello began laughing and spit his water on the deck. Director Arthur Lubin left it in the film.
Reviews from critics were positive. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "Maybe they aren't quite as funny as they were in 'Buck Privates,' but even fair with Abbott and Costello is good enough for now ... Yes, the boys make something of 'In the Navy' in spite of the fact that there is very little there. Certainly the Andrews Sisters and Mr. Powell, with their flat songs, would not be missed. They simply get in the way when you want to be watching Lou and Bud, who are the show." A review in Variety reported that "Abbott and Costello provide constant laughs with their zany routines." Film Daily wrote, "The picture is timely, tuneful and highly amusing screenfare for all audiences." Harrison's Reports wrote, "It may not be as hilarious as 'Buck Privates' since some of the gags are already known; yet it is a very good comedy, with many amusing situations."
The film was a massive hit, becoming the sixth most popular movie of 1941. In the Navy was re-released in January 1949 with Who Done It?.
This film has been released three times on DVD. Originally released as single DVD on August 26, 1998, it was released twice as part of two different Abbott and Costello collections. The first time, on The Best of Abbott and Costello Volume One, on February 10, 2004, and again on October 28, 2008 as part of Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection.