Brother Rat

Brother Rat is a 1938 American comedy drama film about cadets at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, directed by William Keighley, and starring president-to-be Ronald Reagan, Priscilla Lane, Eddie Albert (in his film debut), Jane Wyman, and Wayne Morris.

Brother Rat
Directed byWilliam Keighley
Produced byRobert Lord
Hal B. Wallis
Written byRichard Macaulay
Jerry Wald
Based onBrother Rat
1936 play
by John Monks, Jr. and Fred Finklehoffe
StarringRonald Reagan
Jane Wyman
Priscilla Lane
Wayne Morris
Johnnie Davis
Jane Bryan
Music byHeinz Roemheld
CinematographyErnest Haller
Edited byWilliam Holmes
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • October 29, 1938 (1938-10-29)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film is an adaptation of the successful Broadway play of the same name written by two former VMI cadets, John Monks, Jr. and Fred Finklehoffe, which ran for 577 performances between December 1936 and April 1938. Albert and supporting actor William Tracy reprised their roles in the stage productions.[1]

After the film's production, Reagan married Wyman in 1940.[2] The title refers to the term used for cadets in their first year at the Institute. Scenes of the film were shot on site in Lexington on the Institute's historic Parade Ground, and the baseball game scene was filmed at Alumni Memorial Field.


At the Virginia Military Institute, roommates Billy Randolph (Wayne Morris), Dan Crawford (Ronald Reagan) and Bing Edwards (Eddie Albert) are three good-natured troublemakers who are trying to clean up their act in the weeks leading up to graduation. Still, try as they might, they cannot seem to stop breaking the rules. When the secretly married Edwards learns his wife (Jane Bryan) is pregnant, his preoccupation leads to events that really send everything out of order.



Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times called the film "an excellent transcription of the play, loyal to all its screenable material and matching the playwrights' lively humors in the added scenes."[3] "None of the factors that made the play a success has been lost ... Albert gives a splendid performance," reported Variety.[4] Film Daily wrote that Keighley gave the film "warm, sympathetic direction and has injected many human touches," and called Eddie Albert "a definite screen 'find'".[5] Harrison's Reports declared it "A delightful comedy" with "excellent" performances.[6] John Mosher of The New Yorker called it "a serviceable time-filler."[7]

A sequel, Brother Rat and a Baby, with several of the same main actors, was released in 1940.

See also


  1. Brother Rat, Playbill Vault, retrieved 9 January 2015.
  2. Helfer, Andrew (author), Steve Buccatello (artist), and Joe Station (artist). Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography. Hill and Wang. 23.
  3. The New York Times Film Reviews, Volume 2: 1932-1938. New York: The New York Times & Arno Press. 1970. p. 1544.
  4. "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc. October 19, 1938. p. 12.
  5. "Reviews of the New Films". Film Daily. New York: Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc.: 7 October 17, 1938.
  6. "Brother Rat". Harrison's Reports. New York: Harrison's Reports, Inc.: 70 October 22, 1938.
  7. Mosher, John (November 5, 1938). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp. p. 74.
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