Based in part on several of Buster's own
experiences in the army, the script (by Richard Schayer, Al Boasberg,
and Sidney Lazurus) has Buster playing millionaire playboy Elmer J.
Stuyvesant, a character similar to his roles in The Saphead,
The Navigator, and
It is the period of World War I.
While Elmer waits for Mary (Sally Eilers),
the girl he has been trying unsuccessfully to impress, outside the
store where she works, his chauffeur, stirred by a recruiter's
speech about fighting the enemy, abandons Elmer and his manservant
Gustave (Arnold Korff). In need of a new chauffeur, Elmer
unintentionally enlists in the army by mistaking a nearby recruiting
station for an employment agency.
The film becomes a typical military
comedy, with scenes in boot camp, complete with a belligerent drill
sergeant (Ed Brophy), and in the trenches. Military life is
made tolerable for Elmer by the presence of the ukulele-strumming
recruit Nescopeck (Cliff Edwards) and Mary, who has joined the
army's entertainment division. "Over There" in France, Elmer
endures life in a trench for a short time before the war is over.
film ends with Elmer and Mary as husband and wife, with Nescopeck
and Elmer's other army friends as business partners in the
manufacture of gold-plated ukuleles.
Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, a character
actor famous for his trademark instrument, was responsible for the
ukulele and the film's delightful musical interlude in which Buster,
Edwards, and director Ed Sedgwick (who appears in the film as
Guggleheimer, the camp cook) scat sing while aboard ship bound for
France. Edwards appeared with Buster in his next two films,
and they became good friends, both delighting in singing old
vaudeville songs and playing the ukulele.
The comic highlight of Doughboys
is the stage revue performed for the entertainment of the troops in
which Buster's character, dressed as a woman, is thrown around the
stage as the female partner to an Apache dancer. For this
scene, Buster drew on his own wartime experience, as he had put on
similar shows for the troops in France while waiting to come home.