Hay Foot, 1942, b&w. Fred Guiol (dir.), William Tracy, Joe Sawyer, James Gleason, Noah Beery Jr., Elyse Knox. 0:48 [0:46]
This wartime B feature is a charmer—fast moving, funny and with a nice balance of logic and slapstick. Sgt. Doubleday (a very young Tracy), a young soldier who made Sergeant on the basis of his book learning (and apparent eidetic memory—for text, that is) is Colonel Barkley’s assistant, disliked by the blowhard marksmen (Sawyer and Beery) who don’t care much for that book stuff. Thanks to some plausible accidents, Barkley (Gleason) gets the idea that Doubleday, who’s gunshy, is an even better sharpshooter—while Doubleday’s enchanted by Barkley’s beautiful daughter. (This turns out to be the second in a series of six Hal Roach Studios short comedies starring Sgt. Doubleday.)
Lots of laughs as the two blowhards get themselves in trouble as they’re trying to bring down Doubleday. The print’s tonal range is excellent. The performances are all appropriate; Gleason is particularly good as the slightly pompous Colonel. There’s one big problem: Just enough print damage (in the form of missing frames) to make some of the dialogue hard to follow. Even with that defect and its short length, this one is an easy $1.00
Her Favorite Patient (orig. Bedside Manner), 1945, b&w. Andrew L. Stone (dir.), John Carroll, Ruth Hussey, Charles Ruggles, Ann Rutherford. 1:19
We start out with a beautiful young woman stopping to pick up a sailor who’s on his way to Chicago for 30-day leave…and then another sailor down the road and another. She needs to stop off at the little town she grew up in to say “Hi” to her uncle, one of the two doctors in town—but the town’s grown a lot and her uncle’s hoping she’ll stay—she’s also an MD—instead of taking on a research position in Chicago.
Before that happens, actually, she mistakes a test pilot for an old friend, much to his date’s dismay; this confusion plays out again over a couple of days. What follows is a series of happenstances and subterfuges with the overall effect of keeping her around…and I realized partway in that this is really an early romantic comedy with wartime overtones.
Quite good, all in all, with Charles Ruggles fine as a slightly bemused and very busy doctor and John Carroll (the pilot) and Ruth Hussey (the woman doctor) both good, as is a solid supporting cast. One review calls this “frothy” and I think that’s both right and a compliment. I would note that the IMDB listing shows this film as 1:12, presumably based on data contributed by someone who viewed a truncated release. In fact, as the original Variety review makes clear, the movie originated at the 1:19 of this print. Not great, but fun, a good print, and worth $1.50.
Affairs of Cappy Ricks, 1937, b&w. Ralph Staub (dir.), Walter Brennan, Mary Brian, Lyle Talbot, Frank Shields, Frank Melton, Georgia Cane, Phyllis Barry, William B. Davidson. 1:01 [0:56]
Here’s another short B movie with one great virtue for a comedy: it’s funny. Walter Brennan—playing a crusty 60-year-old although he was only 43 at the time—is head of a San Francisco shipbuilding company who’s been out of the country for a year or more. During that time, things have gone to hell in a handbasket in his home and his family—with his nemesis, head of an automation company, ready to take control of his company and become father-in-law to one of his daughters, while the other gets divorced.
To try to set things straight, he gets his kids and the soon-to-be exhusband, plus his former general manager and ex-fiancée of the daughter and bossy mother of the soon-to-be-ex (who’s taken over the household and bought enough of the company’s stock to assure a merger with the automation company) out on his yacht for a weekend sail…which turns into an 8-week adventure down to the Marquesas (incorrectly labeled “uninhabited,” but some of them are). At that point, feeling that he’s failed to get people to straighten up, he stages a shipwreck.
That’s just part of the plot, and there’s plenty of plot to keep things moving. This is a fast-paced little film with a fun cast. Lyle Talbot as the ex-fiancée is excellent, as is most of the cast. Apparently five minutes are missing, but I didn’t see any continuity gaps. I found it thoroughly enjoyable, but since it’s under an hour I can’t come up with more than $1.
All Over Town, 1937, b&w. James W. Horne (dir.), Ole Olsen, Chic Johnson, Mary Oward, Harry Stockwell, Franklin Pangborn, James Finlayson. 1:03 [1:01]
Another Olsen & Johnson flick, this time with the two playing Olsen & Johnson, a vaudeville team—one that’s trying to get a musical-seal act going while staying in a cheap vaudeville hotel. They get a tiny check and are overheard in a way that makes them sound like millionaires; this leads to Putting On a Show in a jinxed theater; which leads to problems. Eventually, there’s a murder and, well, lots of frantic farce.
Basically, this is an extended vaudeville act. I find the Olsen & Johnson shtick tiresome after a while, which makes the movie itself a little tiresome. Also, there’s one key scene where there’s enough missing footage to scramble the dialogue. All things considered, I give it $0.75.
Niagara Falls, 1941, b&w. Gordon Douglas (dir.), Marjorie Woodworth, Tom Brown, Zasu Pitts, Slim Summerville, Chester Clute. 0:43.
A shaggy dog story or curiously innocent bedroom farce, depending on how you look at it—the whole told as a flashback by a guy about to jump off Suicide Point at Niagara Falls to a peanut vendor (who apparently sells peanuts for those who get hungry on the way down…)
You see, this guy’d been dating a farmer’s daughter for 20 years and finally struck oil so he could afford to marry her. So they’re on their way to their honeymoon and encounter this apparent couple trying to fix a car alongside the road… Well, things go on from there. Let’s just say the guy’s a born meddler, the couple (who weren’t a couple, but become one) are charming and it’s all fluffy but fun, although with few real laughs. It’s also a long short subject, too short for even a B movie. The best I can do is $0.75.