50 Movie Comedy Classics, Disc 6

Million Dollar Kid, 1944, b&w. Wallace Fox (dir.), Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, William ‘Billy” Benedict, Louise Currie, Noah Berry, Herbert Heyes, Johnnny Duncan. 1:05.

Yet another East Side Kids flick—but one of the more heartwarming, if you can deal with the premise of this large band of young adults with no jobs, no visible means of income but also a firm opposition to any actual criminal activity. (“Young adults” gets to be more of a stretch over time…)

In this one, the Kids hear about muggings taking place on their turf that could damage their reputation. They encounter one of them: three punks taking on an older man. They fight off the punks, rescue the man…and find his wallet in the trash, money intact. Then the cops pick them up, but the man comes to the police station and identifies them as his saviors. He convinces them to drop by his house (there’s a nice little class-warfare scene involving the butler) where he shows them a well-equipped gym and invites them to use it. They also meet his daughter, a looker who Muggs falls for instantly.

Rest of the plot? One son’s a pilot overseas; the other seems a little lost (and spends his time in a pool hall filled with unsavory characters). The daughter’s semi-engaged to a Frenchman who seems a little off…and her father’s managed to alienate most of the servants so she’s not sure who can cook or serve at a party she wants to throw. The Kids provide the cook and servant, and along the way discover that the Frenchman’s a grifter with a phony accent (and reveal that to her in the right way), the son was one of the muggers (but he’s mostly confused, not really bad), and manage to convince the son to clean up his act. All sweetness and light, and occasionally amusing—and for a change the Kids get along pretty well with the cops. Unfortunately, the sound track is noisy and there are just enough missing frames to be annoying. $0.75.

Bowery Blitzkrieg, 1941, b&w. Wallace Fox (dir.), Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, Keye Luke and the usual gang. 1:02 [0:59]

This time the plot concerns Muggs being sent to reform school on a phony charge, getting out as long as he’s training (as a Police Athletic League rep) for a boxing tournament, claims by a local hood that he’s getting Muggs to throw the bout and lots more. The culmination: Muggs donates blood to save his pal (that’s all involved with the bout-throwing; it’s complicated and has to do with some of the less ethical or more stupid ESKs) on the day of the Big Bout…but all comes out OK in the end, of course.

That’s a short summary because I didn’t write it up right after seeing the film, and there was really no long-term memory of the movie. It was OK, better than some, and—as with most of these—really for people who love Leo Gorcey and the gang. For that crowd, I’ll give it $1.

Three Broadway Girls (aka The Greeks Had a Word for Them), 1932, b&w. Lowell Sherman (dir.), Joan Blondell, Madge Evans, Ina Claire, David Manners, Lowell Sherman. 1:19.

Not an East Side Kids picture—instead, a comedy about three gold-diggers, whose methods are tipped off by an opening title, noting that half of the women in the world are working women—and the other half are working the men. It’s amusing, and all three women are interesting characters, but it’s also a bit forced: One of the three repeatedly undermines any chance for happiness or love by the others, and you’d think the other two would freeze her out at some point. But that would be serious, and there’s nothing serious about this flick. It’s amusing, it’s distinctly amoral in a pre-Code way, and I’ll give it $1.25.

Swing High, Swing Low, 1937, b&w. Mitchell Leisen (dir.), Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Charles Butterworth, Jean Dixon, Dorothy Lamour, Anthony Quinn. 1:32 [1:22]

Comedy? Really? Maybe a musical romantic “comedy,” but even that’s a stretch. Maggie, working on a cruise ship, meets Skid (Fred MacMurray), just getting out of the army, while on her way through the Panama Canal locks. She winds up with him in a nightclub, there’s a brawl, they wind up in jail, she’s stranded… He turns out to be a great trumpet player.

Events ensue. They get married. He gets a great offer to play in New York—and he’ll send for her later. He’s a big hit. Except that another woman, the singer in New York, Anita Alvarez (Dorothy Lamour), makes sure he’s always broke and, when Maggie takes a ship to New York on her own, makes sure he doesn’t get the telegram to meet her…and takes him back to her room.

Maggie gets a divorce. He falls apart completely—even though he’s really never spent much time with her and has always treated her badly, as far as we can tell. It all ends well, I guess—but I never quite see why she doesn’t just dump this self-centered schmuck and go marry the cattleman who clearly loves her. Maybe I’m just not romantic enough. Maybe the missing 10 minutes is important.

Ah, but it has Lombard, MacMurray, Lamour and more—there’s also Charles Butterworth doing a fine turn as a piano player and others doing good work. Well photographed, reasonably well acted, some good music. As a comedy, though, it’s a washout. Charitably, $1.25.

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