Here Comes the Navy ★★★

Uneven peacetime war movie with lots of drop-of-a-hat fistfights whose tone is hard to figure; it's too wacky to be a drama and too infatuated with its characters' machismo to be a comedy. James Cagney is a diminutive local tough who joins the Navy explicitly to get revenge on a random guy who slighted him once, in what may be the pettiest scheme ever recorded in a Hollywood picture. The film's engaging enough due to Cagney (though his blackface scene is... regrettable), and an interesting snapshot of its time thanks to the conspicuous participation of a pre-war U.S. Navy, but it's just too silly to carry much weight and its Best Picture nomination is hard to swallow. I don't want to deny it's fun to watch for all its Warner Bros. grit and directness, and it does have an intriguingly ambiguous male friendship at its center between Cagney (whose character's name is "Chesty") and one Frank McHugh ("Droopy"), plus a very entertaining and totally ridiculous climactic blimp-stunt scene, but it loses even this scrappy appeal with its copout ending, violating the asshole integrity that makes Cagney's performance interesting in the first place!