Comedy Kings Disc 10

Riding On Air, 1937, b&w. Edward Sedgwick (dir.), Joe E. Brown, Guy Kibbee, Florence Rise, Vinton Haworth, Anthony Nace. 1:10 [1:07]

Whether you find this amusing, hysterical or annoying will depend mostly on how you feel about Joe E. Brown, the rubber-faced comic who here plays the managing editor (and only staff) of a small-town daily newspaper, which he’s saving up to buy for $5,000. He has a thing for a young woman whose father owns a department store and doesn’t much care for him. There’s a romantic rival, who has a job as a stringer for a Chicago paper and stands to inherit $10,000…with which he plans to buy the small-town daily. Oh, and Brown’s character wins a radio essay contest with a $5,000 prise.

That’s just the start. In all, it involves perfume smuggling, radium deliveries, radio-controlled airplanes (not model airplanes), swindlers and a whole bunch of physical humor. I’m somewhere in the middle where Brown is concerned: At the start of the movie I found his schtick tiresome, but by the end I was enjoying it. Incidentally, both plot summaries at IMDB are almost entirely wrong, as is the plot summary on the disc sleeve. $1.00.

Road to Bali – Previously reviewed.

St. Benny the Dip, 1951, b&w. Edgar G. Ulmer (dir.), Dick Haymes, Nina Foch, Roland Young, Lionel Stander, Freddie Bartholomew. 1:20

I’m not entirely sure why, but this one’s absolutely charming. Maybe it’s the strong cast (consider: Topper—Roland Young; Max from Hart to Hart—Lionel Stander, who by the way was blacklisted during the HUAC years; this was his last credited film role until 1963; and there’s no gainsaying any of the other players, surely not Nina Foch or Dick Haymes); maybe something else. The plot: A trio of con men are pulling a little sting, where they play poker with a guy, dope his drink, convince him—before he passes out—that four women are coming up for an evening of fun, and then take off; he’d be too embarrassed and worried about his wife’s reaction to his obvious philandering to call the cops.

Except that the hotel switchboard operator who’s calling him with the setup call has also notified the cops. And the three con men wind up on the lam, which takes them to a Catholic church, which somehow—with the indirect help of a priest who doesn’t care for a cop’s attitude—leads to them being back out on the street dressed as priests. And winding up in a derelect tabernacle or mission…where the police discover them and decide it’s a miracle: They’ve been sent to resurrect the mission.

That’s how it starts. How it ends? Oddly—but with a load of heart and good humor, despite few belly laughs and nearly zero credibility. It’s even a romantic comedy of sorts. And Dick Haymes has one good musical number. The music on the soundtrack tends to distort, and that’s the biggest strike against it. Still, $1.50.

Swing It, Sailor!, 1938, b&w. Raymond Cannon (dir.), Wallace Ford, Ray Mayer, Isabel Jewell. 0:57 [1:02].

I’m guessing this movie might be good…if you’re a Wallace Ford fan and think he’s insanely funny. or if you think Navy comedies must be funny (and quite a few of them are). Otherwise? Not so much. The plot is based on a sailor who consistently gets his muscular, unable-to-swim buddy Husky to loan him money, do his work, take the blame, whatever. When they come back into port, Husky’s planning to propose to a woman…and the moocher wants to make sure that doesn’t happen, and that Husky reenlists. To that end, the moocher courts the woman (who’s on the make in any case).

Real amusing stuff, right? Sure, there’s some physical comedy, but it’s mostly a little depressing (yes, it was set in the depression, but that’s no excuse). I’m being extremely generous in giving this one $0.50.

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