50 Movie Comedy Classics Disc 12

Spooks Run Wild, 1941, b&w. Phil Rosen (dir.), Bela Lugosi, Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall and the gang. 1:05 [1:03].

Since the sleeve says “Starring: Bela Lugosi” I didn’t realize until the opening credits came on that this is another East Side Kids flick, although it doesn’t use that name. And, even by the low standards of those films, this one—despite Lugosi—is poorly plotted and mostly a waste.

We start out with the kids all being rounded up by cops—and put on a bus to go to camp? Really? Meanwhile, in the town near the camp, people are all upset because a “monster killer” seems to be on his way there. Lugosi pulls into a gas station, with his vehicle piled high with boxes that could be coffins and an extremely short sidekick, and asks the way to the long-deserted old mansion next to the cemetery…after which, another car pulls in with a bearded gentleman who claims to be a monster-hunter. Anyone who can’t figure out the plot twist will probably find this movie suspenseful and enjoyable, but really…

Anyway, the kids want to leave the camp’s dorm to go to town, they get shot at in the cemetery, one thing leads to another and the next thing you know, you’ve wasted a little more than an hour. Best line of the movie: Lights out in the dorm, one kid’s reading—in full dark. Another one says “How can you read in the dark?” to which he responds, “I went to night school.” That was the highlight of the film—unless, I suppose, you’re an East Side Kids fan. Charitably, I’ll give it $0.50.

His Girl Friday, 1940, b&w. Howard Hawks (dir.), Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart, Cliff Edwards, Regis Toomey. 1:32 [1:21].

Remake or not remake? Two discs down, the same source material (a play by Ben Hecht)—but a very different flick than The Front Page. Yes, it’s the same plot—an ace reporter wants to leave the paper and get married, the editor tries every trick in the book to keep the reporter on the job, and there’s a hapless prison break in the middle of all of this, with a sadsack about-to-be-executed (but reprieved by the governor, if the mayor or sheriff would accept the reprieve) prisoner in a roll-top desk. No, it’s not the same plot: This time, the reporter’s a woman, the editor’s her ex-husband, she’s actually been away for a month—and there’s a lot more repartee between the two leads.

It’s a better movie. It’s also a very different movie, although 20-30 minutes are fairly familiar. I think I see why the two flicks weren’t adjacent on the same disc, although that might have been interesting. Grant and Russell both do great jobs, and Ralph Bellamy is fine in a smaller role (in which the character is identified as someone who looks like Ralph Bellamy). The flaws this time around? The print’s noisy at times—and I think a few minutes are missing. Even so, I’ll give it $1.75.

Love Laughs at Andy Hardy, 1946, b&w. Willis Goldbeck (dir.), Mickey Rooney, Lewis Stone, Sara Haden, Bonita Granville, Lina Romay, Fay Holden, Dorothy Ford. 1:33.

This one surprised me. I’ve never seen any Andy Hardy pictures and I’m not the world’s biggest Mickey Rooney fan. But this movie was fun, funny, sweet and really quite enjoyable.

The plot: Hardy’s just back from a stint in the Army, and returning to college (still a freshman, and at the same college his parents attended). He plans to ask his girlfriend—with whom he’s just been corresponding—to marry him. Meanwhile, lots of hijinks and physical comedy before he leaves for college, and there’s a South American young woman new in town who seems to have the hots for him (and who sings a truly odd song that mixes polkas and Latin American rhythms). Once at college, the girlfriend’s a little busy, and Hardy gets roped into chairing the frosh get-together with the expectation that every young woman will have a date…which turns out to include a remarkably tall student (the 6’2″ Dorothy Ford, wearing heels besides—Rooney’s 5’2″. One thing leads to another, and he winds up going to the dance with her, a mismatch that makes for some great scenes.

The title probably gives the rest away—but, of course, all works out at the end (for the continuation of the series at least—although this was the last of 15 (or 18?) flicks in the series until one final attempt 12 years later). It’s nothing great, but it’s not bad at all. Also, the print is one of the best b&w public domain prints I’ve seen (apparently re-released as part of an Academy Award collection). $1.50.

Pot O’ Gold, 1941, b&w. George Marshall (dir.), James Stewart, Paulette Goddard, Horace Heidt, Charles Winninger, Mary Gordon, Frank Melton. 1:26.

This tall skinny guy who looks like an impossibly young James Stewart, right down to the speech pattern, is going broke running his father’s unsuccessful music store—and his uncle, who owns a health food factory, wants him to come work for him. After final failure, the young man travels to the factory’s city, and on his way to the factory encounters this boarding house that has really great big-band music apparently coming from the sky—right next to the factory.

Turns out the uncle hates music, and also wanted to buy out the boarding house to expand the factory, and the boarding house owner is letting a just-forming band (Horace Heidt’s band, playing itself) rehearse on the roof, at least partly to annoy the old coot. But the nephew doesn’t know any of this when he winds up listening to the band, quietly taking out his harmonica, and showing himself as a natural talent…

Well, that’s the start. We get tomato-throwing, a remarkable jail musical scene, gaslighting the old man with mysterious band music coming from nowhere (to get him to take a vacation), more musical scenes…and, of course, a contrived happy ending. It’s part musical, part comedy, and all quite good, really. (OK, so the musical number that’s supposedly the fledgling band making its first radio appearance is a bit improbable, as it involves two dozen or so dancers and elaborate scenery, but plausibility and musicals never have gone well together.)

Stewart is, as always, great. Paulette Goddard as a daughter of the boarding-house owner and, of course, love interest is very good. The musical numbers are remarkably good, particularly the jailhouse number and an extended, complex scene at the boardinghouse table (a scene that includes barbershop harmonies, glass-rim playing and more). There are some print problems at times, and some sound problems, but this one still earns $1.75.

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