Friday, March 26, 2004

“Have you got two dimes for a nickel?”

I spent some more time with the DVD player this morning (it seems like the only time I ever get to watch movies is on my days off), watching The Accused (1988). It doesn’t quite fit into the whole scheme of things here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear—but I followed it up with a pair of Abbott & Costello features from the DVD set I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

Bud and Lou’s 1942 comedy Who Done It? does occupy a place in this blog’s purview—it’s a mystery-comedy set against the background of a fictional radio network. The head (Thomas Gomez) of the General Broadcasting System is murdered during the network’s popular mystery program “Murder at Midnight” (no relation to the 1946-47 series of the same name), and the boys are two mystery-writer-wannabees who masquerade as detectives in an effort to solve the murder. I think it’s one of their best vehicles—it’s certainly a favorite of mine—with some uproariously funny sequences including a reworking of the old burlesque chestnut “Alexander-2222”; Lou is attempting to win a radio giveaway show’s prize of $10,000 but can’t get the operator to put him through even though he’s calling from a drugstore located across the street from the broadcast. My favorite bit features William Bendix (The Life of Riley) as a cop who’s even dumber than Costello, who lets Lou trick him into his own handcuffs. Other old-time radio pros in the film include Mary Wickes, William Gargan (who was in Keep ‘Em Flying), Paul DuBov and Walter Tetley (The Great Gildersleeve), who has a great bit with Lou where he bets him a nickel he can drink orange juice faster than Costello can set ‘em up (keep in mind that a glass of orange juice costs Lou fifty cents).

Others in the supporting cast include Patric Knowles (who would also appear in A&C’s Hit the Ice), Louise Albritton, Don Porter (Gidget’s dad and Ann Sothern’s romantic interest in both Private Secretary and The Ann Sothern Show), Jerome Cowan, Ludwig Stossel and an uncredited Norman Lloyd at the organ. Who Done It? was directed by Erle C. Kenton, who also directed A&C’s Pardon My Sarong and It Ain’t Hay; he was a very underrated comedy director who was at the helm of classics like W.C. Fields’ You’re Telling Me! (1934) and the Joan Davis/Leon Errol vehicle She Gets Her Man (1945).

I finished up with Pardon My Sarong (1942)—I used to love this one, but the romance has kind of soured somewhat. I still think it’s a worthwhile A&C entry; with Bud and Lou as Chicago bus drivers who wind up matching wits with evildoer Lionel Atwill on an island in which Atwill is stealing precious jewels from the natives. Most of the best stuff is in the film’s first thirty minutes—including songs by the Ink Spots (“Do I Worry?”) and an eye-popping tap routine from Tip, Tap and Toe. The boys also have several amusing encounters with filmdom’s lovably cranky William Demarest (including a bit where they masquerade as magicians), but the comedy comes to a screeching halt once they set sail for sea and are shipwrecked. The comedy routines do rebound (including the famous “Tree of Truth” sequence) but you have to sit through an indeterminable number of musical numbers from the island’s inhabitants before the film nicely wraps up with a zany chase sequence.

I skipped watching Buck Privates (1941) on this DVD set, because I saw it not too long ago (it was originally released separately on Image a while back), and as for One Night in the Tropics (1940) and In the Navy (1941)—I saw both of these movies once and that was enough for me. There are a couple of good routines in Navy (one of my all-time favorites is the one where Costello proves to Abbott that 7 x 13 = 42), but Tropics—their first feature film appearance—is almost too painful to watch. The DVD box says the film runs 83 minutes, but the movie is actually much shorter than that (it’s been re-edited a time or two and the missing footage has since vanished from the scene), and even then it seems longer than it is.

No comments:

Post a Comment