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Literature / Rally Round the Flag, Boys!

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Rally Round the Flag, Boys! is a 1957 comic novel by Max Shulman.

Putnam's Landing is a typical suburban village in Fairfield County, Connecticut, whose main industry is raising large families for New York City commuters. The town's status quo, zealously maintained by the Yankee descendants of the original settlers with the help of the Italian immigrant community, is disrupted when the United States Army buys up one hundred acres of Johnnycake Hill for a Nike guided missile installation.

Betty O'Sheel's well-researched plan for the town to build a modern garbage disposal plant is buried indefinitely. Lieutenant Guido di Maggio barely avoids being shipped off to Fairbanks, Alaska by seizing the opportunity to run the 992nd Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion public relations campaign in Putnam's Landing, where he was born and raised, though his fiancée, Maggie Larkin, takes objection to his own management of a Little League team. Angela Hoffa, tired of her television-producer husband Oscar, plunges into an adulterous affair with Harry Bannerman, a commuter discontented with the civic preoccupations of his wife Grace, who has just been pressed into becoming chairman of the Nike Hospitality Committee. Isaac Goodpasture, the conservative Yankee editor of the Putnam's Landing Gazette, finds that his sixteen-year-old only daughter Comfort has suddenly become interested in boys. And a long-simmering rivalry develops between the New Delinquents of Webster High School and the group of youthful soldiers shipped in from Fort Bliss, Texas.

The Film of the Book, released in 1958, was directed by Leo McCarey and starred Paul Newman as Harry Bannerman, Joanne Woodward as Grace Bannerman, Joan Collins as Angela Hoffa, and Jack Carson as Captain Hoxie.

Tropes appearing in Rally Round the Flag, Boys! include:

  • All Part of the Show: The reenactment of a Revolutionary War battle ends with the Greaser Delinquents turning a battle between the Minutemen and the Redcoats (played by members of the U.S. Army) into an all-out brawl. The audience's first reaction is to applaud how realistic the acting is.
  • Attempted Homewrecker: Angela Hoffa, on the verge of divorcing Oscar, faces a dilemma: Putnam's Landing is no place for a childless divorcĂ©e to live, but at age 38 she's too old to return to the social scene in New York City. However, while Putnam's Landing is devoid of eligible bachelors, it is home to more than a few Henpecked Husbands, and she comes to the conclusion that pursuing a discontented husband and offering herself to him as a superior mate is as moral as "to find a man in bondage and set him free." She identifies Harry Bannerman as her most promising target, and spends most of the rest of the story pursuing him.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Comfort Goodpasture, a curvaceous sixteen-year-old who cares infinitely more about Elvis Presley than her schoolwork. Her Totally Radical speech and her Supermodel Strut drive her conservative-minded single father up a wall.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Comfort Goodpasture, known as "The Iron Maiden" around school until she gets tired of saying no.
  • Famous-Named Foreigner: Guido di Maggio doesn't really like to play baseball, but he always has to because, as someone says to him, "Whoever heard of anybody named di Maggio who didn't feel like playing ball?"
  • Finger Gun: When the School Play is being rehearsed without props, the Minutemen are forced to mow down the Redcoats by pointing their index fingers at them and saying "bang, bang, bang."
  • Greaser Delinquents: There's a whole clique of these at Webster High School, lead by Grady Metcalf. They even call themselves "the New Delinquents".
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Oscar Hoffa blames women for reducing male life expectancy.
    "They've turned the goddam country into a goddam matriarchy. All they need from a man is money and stud. You take the average slob on this train. What's his day like? He crawls out of bed at six a.m., goes to New York and works his tail off all day, comes stumbling home at seven o'clock, more dead than alive, and then his wife tells him he's going to have to work a little harder because she's decided to put a new wing on the house. No wonder the poor bastards drop dead at forty!"
  • Henpecked Husband: Harry Bannerman, a tired businessman who tries to achieve inebriation on the 5:29 train home because he knows what awaits him there. Not that he doesn't regret providing his wife with a nice house in Suburbia and three too-perfect sons (though all of these were really her plans, requiring no more than absent-minded consent from him), but he is rather more interested in sex, even after ten years of marriage, than the community issues she considers more important to married life.
  • List of Transgressions: Opie Dalmrymple, for his part in provoking the Fourth of July melee, is threatened with court-martial for violations of "several Articles of War, several local ordinances of Putnam's Landing, and possibly the Kellogg-Briand Pact."
  • Misspelling Out Loud: Comfort Goodpasture, after meeting Opie, responds to one of Grady's come-ons: "No. N-O-E. No."
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: The story begins with Guido di Maggio facing reassignment to Alaska, which he manages to avoid at the last moment by offering to conduct a public relations campaign for a Nike missile installation in Putnam's Landing, where he was born and raised and his fiancée is currently living. The civilian-hating Captain Walker Hoxie, however, is revolted at his being assigned to take command of said installation. The public relations campaign ends in disaster, and Guido ends up sent to Alaska anyway.
  • Slip into Something More Comfortable: Subverted: Angela tells Harry to wait while she goes upstairs to "slip into something more comfortable," and Harry has seen enough movies that he expects her to come on and seduce him in see-through lingerie, and prepares the scene accordingly. He is disappointed when she returns wearing velvet pants and a silk blouse, both quite opaque. She explains that she didn't "do the kimono bit" because she didn't see him as the "Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am" type.
  • Supermodel Strut: Comfort Goodpasture, to her father's distress, learns to strut like Marilyn Monroe even before she becomes interested in boys.
  • Tempting Fate: The chapter where Guido di Maggio gets his first impression of Walter Hoxie ends:
    "Boy," he said to himself, "there is one guy I am never going to get mixed up with!"
    Somebody Up There chuckled.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Laura Beauchamp is taller and far more energetic than her husband Willard.
  • Totally Radical: Comfort Goodpasture speaks in what is described as "an execrable mishmash of teen-age patois." The narration sometimes imitates her habit of affixing "-sville" to adjectives and buzzwords.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The epilogue tells what happened to the characters after the Fourth of July. It mostly ties up loose ends, particularly Harry and Grace's Second-Act Breakup.

Alternative Title(s): Rally Round The Flag Boys