50 Movie Comedy Classics, Disc 5

All four movies on this disc star the East Side Kids in various permutations. My tolerance for repeated doses of these charming JDs is limited, so I interleaved Hitchcock and East Side Kids movies.

Clancy Street Boys, 1943, b&w. William Beaudine (dir.), Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, Noah Beery. 1:29/1:06 [1:05]

Muggs’ late father used to brag to his brother that he had seven kids, slightly exaggerating from the one. Since then, the brother—a wealthy Texan—has been sending seven birthday checks each year. Now the brother’s coming to town… And Muggs’ uses the Kids to act as his brothers (and one sister). A slick local hoodlum somehow uses this as an excuse to kidnap the Texan. The kids save the day.

Not terrible, but nothing special. Huntz Hall in drag (as the sister) may be a highlight. I guess you have to be a fan. Some missing clips. Charitably, very charitably, $0.75.

Pride of the Bowery, 1940, b&w. Joseph H. Lewis (dir.), Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Kenneth Howell, Mary Ainslee, Bobby Stone, David Gorcey, Kenneth Harlan. 1:01 [1:00]

This time, Muggs wants to train as a boxer for the Golden Gloves—and his pal sets up a way to get him fresh air and lots of training. How? By signing the whole gang up for a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. After initial issues, Muggs and the gang take to the situation fairly well (the $22 a month going back to his mom doesn’t hurt). The movie involves boxing and honor, and portrays Muggs as a prince among kids, maybe too much so.

I liked this one better. Maybe it was the outdoors or the filming (which seemed more natural than some, although the print has some damage and a persistent flare in a lower corner). Maybe it was the plot and the acting. It certainly wasn’t a laugh-fest, but it was more enjoyable than I expected. As a one-hour second-feature, I’ll give it $1.

Smart Alecks, 1942, b&w. Wallace Fox (dir.), Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, Max “Slapsie Maxie” Rosenbloom, Gale Storm. 1:07 [1:05]

The plot this time: The Gang wants uniforms to play baseball, but has no money. Older brother (or friend?) of one of them drops by in suit, offers money—but they assume it’s “dirty money” and they don’t take dirty money. Turns out they’re right—he’s a lookout for bank robbers. One thing leads to another, there’s a scene in which one of the robbers (Rosenbloom) grabs nearly half of a cake that a nurse (sister of one of the gang, played by Gale Storm) baked for the gang and Muggs retaliates by spiking extra frosting (and adding alum to coffee).

The rest has to do with loyalty in various ways. Probably fine for what it is, although unless you’re a big fan of Muggs’ malapropos and gestures, most of the humor is in the cake-doctoring scene. The print’s good and it’s over an hour, but I can’t give it more than $1.

Mr. Wise Guy, 1942, b&w. William Nigh (dir.), Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, Billy Gilbert, Guinn Williams, Joan Barclay. 1:10 [0:58].

It’s clear that the only way I could make it through four of these is by breaking them up with early Hitchcock flicks—but it also works the other way around. Still, it’s a relief to get to the last one; if only I wasn’t aware that the next disc has two more.

Let’s see. There’s one good comic moment, very near the beginning: The gang are outside a bakery, a brick comes through the window, the cops show up and start to haul them in—and the baker says “nah, I’m just clumsy, that was me.” After that, the plot revolves around an escaped convict who supposedly drowned trying to swim to shore, a “stolen” truck that the gang gets blamed for—and all get sent to the reformatory, where they have spiffy uniforms and seem happy enough, a robbery gone bad that winds up with an entirely innocent older brother of one of the gang (who was forced to drive a getaway car) convicted of murder…and, of course, the gang saving the day.

I can’t think of anything particularly good or bad to say about this one. It just seems like more of the same old, same old, and you really have to love Leo Gorcey to much care about this group of semi-juvenile semi-delinquents. Charitably, $0.75.

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