Comedy Kings 50 Movie Pack, Disc 4

The Admiral was a Lady, 1950, b&w. Albert S. Rogell (dir.), Edmond O’Brien, Wanda Hendrix, Rudy Vallee, Johnny Sands, Steve Brodie, Richard Erdman, Hillary Brooke. 1:27.

A post-WWII romantic comedy with a little screwball comedy added in, and an absolute charmer. “The Admiral” is four vets’ nickname for a returned WAVE (Hendrix) after they all meet in an unemployment-insurance line. The four guys are dedicated to not finding jobs and living well without spending money—they work really hard at not working in style. The woman has been waiting for her fiancée to return, but now finds he’s not coming—so she’s heading home for Walla Walla.

It gets more complicated. The leader of the four (O’Brien) gets a phone call threatening promising a job for him and the others—unless he makes sure the girl stays in town. It has something to do with her fiancée and a juke box tycoon’s twice ex-wife who he wants back. Things go on from there. We eventually find out why the leader’s so intent on keeping the four together. All ends reasonably well. Hendrix is an absolute charmer, O’Brien is handsome and funny, Rudy Vallee (the jukebox king) is quite wonderful, and it’s all funny and well played. One of the best old movies I’ve seen in quite some time. $2.00.

His Double Life, 1933, b&w. Arthur Hopkins (dir.), Roland Young, Lillian Gish, Montagu Love, Lumsden Hare, Lucy Beaumont. 1:08.

A charming comedy, somewhat undone by heavy-handed direction. The setup: England’s foremost painter (Young) is an introvert, so much so that he’s spent years traveling around Europe with his valet to avoid the public—even his agent’s never seen him, and his first cousin hasn’t seen him since he was 12. But the valet’s also corresponding with a women (Gish) he “met” via a marriage/introduction service and would like to actually meet her—and convinces the painter that they could move back to their house in London and nobody would recognize him.

But when they arrive, the valet’s down with double pneumonia. The doctor arrives, assumes that the valet (who the painter’s put in the master bedroom) is the painter and vice-versa, announces him dead…and things go on from there, especially after the officious cousin arrives, regards the “valet” as an incompetent and shoos him away.

He winds up running into the young woman—who also assumes he’s the valet. As things progress (including the “painter” being buried in Westminster Abbey), she doesn’t much care who he is and assures him that between his modest bequest and her brewery shares, they’d be fine. They marry, and they are fine—and then he starts painting again, this time without signing the paintings. She sells the paintings to a framer for modest sums; he sells them, framed, to someone else for a substantial markup…and they wind up with the artist’s agent. That agent guarantees them to be genuine and sells them for many times as much to a collector…who gets a bit upset when he notes a date on the back of one that’s two years after the artist was buried. Oh, along the way, the valet appears to have walked out on his wife 25 years earlier—and she shows up, twin sons (both clergy) along, claiming that the artist (using the valet’s name) is clearly her long-lost husband.

All of which leads to a trial—the collector suing the agent for fraud, the agent (who found the earlier wife) claiming that the valet’s really the painter, a charge of bigamy…all eventually resolved thanks to two birthmarks.

It’s an interesting plot. Gish does a remarkable job as a wholly unflappable young woman who’s quite happy with her husband whether he’s a former valet or an artist. Young’s good also (I was thinking he reminded me of Cosmo Topper—and, indeed, he was Cosmo Topper). The problem? The trial is wildly overdone (with jurors acting as a chorus of sorts), other “messages” that should have been delivered once are delivered six times, and it’s all a bit heavy-handed. Even with that, it’s worth $1.50.

Boys of the City, 1940, b&w. Joseph H. Lewis (dir.), the usual Dead End Kids/East Side Kids (Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey, etc., etc.) 1:08 [1:00].

I gave it ten minutes. That was more than enough. Life really is too short to sit through yet another Dead End Kids/East Side Kids movie. The rave reviews on IMDB do not convince me otherwise.

Escape to Paradise, 1939, b&w. Erle C. Kenton (dir.), Bobby Breen, Kent Taylor, Marla Shelton, Rudolph Anders. 1:00.

Let’s see. The handsome son of a millionaire, on a cruise in South America, is hounded by one annoying young woman who regards him as her boyfriend…and manages to escape by zipping off with a young guide while ashore in “Rosarita” (certainly much darker and less interesting than the actual Rosarito, Mexico). After cutely meeting a beautiful young woman, he decides to stick around for the 21 days before the ship stops again on its way back…and gets involved in maté exporting as a way of meeting the girl again (don’t ask).

A local businessman who wants the girl for his own also wants to monopolize the mate trade and pay prices so low they’ll ruin the growers. One thing leads to another (including an amusing scene of workers unloading 200 bags of mate in the hero’s hotel room), and…well, happy ending and all that.

Except that it just doesn’t work. For one thing, the print’s lousy, sometimes so bad as to almost be unwatchable. For another, the mix of languages (in the obligatory musical numbers and conversation) is little short of bizarre. For a third, well, it just doesn’t work very well even as a light concoction. Charitably, $0.75.

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