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Comedy Classics [10 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

St. Benny the Dip
Filmed very cheaply in New York, St. Benny the Dip (British title: Escape Me If You Can) has a charm and appeal that transcends its modest production trappings. Dick Haymes, Roland Young and Lionel Stander star as Benny, Matthew and Monk, three confidence tricksters forced by circumstance to pose as priests, tending to a slum mission. While clerically garbed, the three sharpsters slowly but surely change their ways, to the benefit of all concerned. As a result, two of the three find honest jobs in the civilian mainstream, while the third elects to remain a man of the cloth. The handpicked supporting cast includes Nina Foch as Haymes' sweetheart, and former child-star Freddie Bartholomew, making his final film appearance as an uptight genuine priest. Devotees of director Edgar Ulmer have insisted upon finding all sorts of hidden meanings in St. Benny the Dip, though it appears that Ulmer's primary concern while making the film was keeping all three of his formidable leading men within camera range. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Topper Returns
The third of producer Hal Roach's Topper films, Topper Returns eschews the frothy "screwball" format of the first two in favor of an "old dark house" comedy-mystery. Roland Young returns as banker Cosmo Topper, who gallantly offers a lift to pretty hitchhikers Gail Richards (Joan Blondell) and Ann Carrington (Carole Landis). This results in a few baleful glances from Topper's wife, Clara (Billie Burke), but the worst is still to come. It seems that Gail and Ann are en route to a chilly old mansion, recently inherited by Ann and populated by all manner of sinister types, including old reliable menaces Dr. Jeris (George Zucco) and Lillian (Rafaela Ottiano). The only person whom the girls can trust -- or can they? -- is Ann' father (H.B. Warner). Unable to sleep in the creepy mansion, Gail suggests that she and Ann exchange bedrooms. This proves to be a major mistake when a mysterious, hooded assailant, intending to murder Ann, kills Gail instead. Seconds later, Gail's ghost arises from her body and heads to the nearby summer house where Mr. and Mrs. Topper are staying. Having had his fill of ghosts in the first two Topper films, Topper wants nothing to do with Gail's spirit, but she finally convinces him to help her identity her killer, and to rescue Ann from a similar fate. Some of the film's best moments belong to Eddie "Rochester" Anderson as Young's eternally frightened chauffeur (at one point, Anderson threatens to quit the Toppers and go back to Jack Benny)! More contrived and slapstick-oriented than the earlier Toppers, Topper Returns still works as a neat and entertaining comedy, even in its dreadful computer-colorized version. A decade later, Thorne Smith's "Topper" characters would be revived for a popular TV series, starring Leo G. Carroll, Anne Jeffreys, and Robert Sterling. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Little Tough Guy
The first of the "splinter" groups to emerge from the Dead End Kids was the Little Tough Guys, consisting of veteran Dead-Enders Billy Halop, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Bernard Punsly and David Gorcey (Hally Chester and Billy Benedict would also appear in this new grouping from time to time). Though most of the "Little Tough Guy" vehicles were played for laugh, the initial entry was not. When labor activist Jim Boylan (Edward Pawley) is executed for a murder he didn't commit, his son Johnny (Billy Halop) decides to become a crook. He and his pals Pig (Huntz Hall), String (Gabe Dell), Sniper (David Gorcey) and Dopey (Hally Chester), embark upon a crime spree, aided and abetted by thrill-seeking rich kid Cyril (Jackie Searl), who happens to be the son of the district attorney. While committing a robbery orchestrated by Cyril, Johnny and Pig are trapped by the police. Pig makes a break for it, only to be killed in a hail of bullets. This startling turn of events convinces Johnny to mend his ways, but not before an obligatory stretch in reform school with his fellow Little Tough Guys-including Cyril! Beyond the spectacle of Huntz Hall dying in agony, Little Tough Guy offers very little that is new and innovational: still, the film made money, prompting a whole series of "Little Tough Guy" quickies from the Universal assembly line. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Freckles Comes Home
The bucolic, down-home novels and short stories of Gene Stratton-Porter had been fodder for Monogram's screenwriting staff ever since the early 1930s. This cinemazation of Stratton-Porter's Freckles Comes Home stars Johnny Downs as the title character, who returns from college to his sedentary home town. Freckles' efforts to bring the community kicking and screaming into the 20th century somehow require him to tackle a group of gangsters who've taken up residence for the purpose of knocking off the town's bank. Every so often, the story stops dead in its tracks to permit black comedian Mantan Moreland to indulge in one of his famous "interrupted conversation" routines; they're the highlight of the picture. Seen as Johnny Downs' hometown sweetheart is Gale Storm, who does some of her best acting to date as the bank president's daughter. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Nasty Rabbit
This parody takes a poke at Cold War espionage films as it tells the tale of two Red spies who sneak into the U.S. and onto a Western dude ranch with an infectious bunny. It is hoped that the little hopper will cause a deadly epidemic. Once on the ranch, the Soviet agents finds themselves surrounded by similarly disguised agents from all over the world. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Rescue From Gilligan's Island
Eleven years after the network cancellation of Gilligan's Island, the crew and passengers of the ill-fated S. S. Minnow returned to the small screen in Rescue from Gilligan's Island. The cast remains the same, with one significant change. Bob Denver plays inveterate bumbler Gilligan, Alan Hale is the long-suffering Skipper, Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer are the fabulously wealthy Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell III, Russell Johnson is the resourceful Professor, and Dawn Wells, as perky as ever, is Mary Ann. Tina Louise wanted no part of any Gilligan's Island reunion, so her role-perennial starlet Ginger Grant-is filled by Judith Baldwyn. The premise: a huge tidal wave transports the seven castaways back to civilization. While they're thrilled to be back in the real world, none of the seven are able to adjust to life outside the island....least of all Gilligan, who on top of all his other problems must contend with a pair of enemy agents (Vincent Schiavelli and Art LeFleur). Conceived as a two-hour pilot film for a weekly revival that never materialized, Rescue from Gilligan's Island was originally telecast in two ratings-grabbing 60 minute installments, shown on October 14 and 21, 1978. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

East Side Kids
Police detective Pat O'Day (Leon Ames) involves himself with a gang of slum kids led by Dutch Kuhn (Hally Chester) and Danny Dolan (Harris Berger). He tries to keep them from getting into trouble and to help out Danny, whose brother, Knuckles Dolan (Dave "Tex" O'Brien), is about to be executed for a murder allegedly committed as part of his involvement in a counterfeiting ring. O'Day knows Knuckles, having tried to keep him on the right side of the law, and knows that he couldn't have done the shooting, regardless of the circumstantial evidence, because Knuckles resolutely refused to carry a gun -- the real killer is the gang leader, Mileaway (Dennis Moore), a smooth-talker who earned his nickname through his knack for always being "a mile away" whenever a crime is committed by his gang. O'Day not only wants to catch Mileaway, but tries to keep the teenagers from falling in with the hood. When the detective starts to get too close, Mileaway sets him up for a brutality charge using crooked shop owner Schmidt, and gets O'Day busted back to uniformed patrolman. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

Dreaming Out Loud
Dreaming Out Loud represented the film debut of radio favorites Lum 'N' Abner, aka Chester Lauck and Norris Goff. Proprietors of the Jot-Em-Down Store in Pine Ridge, AR, our heroes are currently preoccupied by their efforts to construct a mobile hospital unit in their community. In time-honored movie-comedy tradition, Lum 'N' Abner also set aside a moment or two to help out young lovers Dr. Kenneth Barnes (Robert Wilcox) and Alice (Frances Langford). More serious in nature than subsequent Lum 'N' Abner movie vehicles, the storyline is partially devoted to the search for the hit-and-run driver who struck down and killed lovable little Emmy Lou (Bobs Watson). Bandleader Phil Harris is allotted a surprisingly tiny amount of screen time, and isn't even afforded the chance to sing. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Never Wave at a WAC
Self-centered Washington socialite Rosalind Russell joins the WACS in order to be near her boyfriend William Ching, a GI stationed in Paris. Russell is certain that her DC connections will enable her to get out of the service as easily as she got in. Unfortunately for her, Russell's ex-husband Paul Douglas decides to teach her a lesson by pulling a few strings himself. Several of the army-camp scenes are stolen by Marie Wilson as an amply proportioned chorus girl, who's joined the WACS to escape stage-door johnnies. Filmed in part on location at the Women's Army Corps training center at Fort Lee, Virginia, Never Wave at a WAC was produced by Rosalind Russell's husband, Frederick Brisson. The film was released in England as The Private Wore Skirts. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Smallest Show on Earth
The Smallest Show on Earth is a gentle, frequently uproarious takeoff of Britain's neighborhood-cinema industry. Real-life husband and wife Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna star as Matt and Jean Spencer, a middle-class couple who inherit a decrepit movie house in a tiny railroad whistle stop. They also inherit the theater's ancient, doddering employees: bibulous ticket-taker Percy Quill (Peter Sellers), former silent-movie accompanist Mrs. Fazackalee (Margaret Rutherford) and doorman/janitor old Tom (Bernard Miles). Making the best of things, the Spencers set up shop going through the usual travails of small-time cinema owners: substandard projection and sound reproduction, a dismal selection of films (all they can afford is American B-Westerns), and sundry mishaps with the audience. Just when they're about to write off the theater as a loss, crafty old Tom comes up with an underhanded but effective method to allow the Spencers to make a huge profit on their shaky enterprise. Though chock full of entertaining vignettes, the best and most poignant scene in The Smallest Show on Earth finds the three elderly employees tearfully reveling in a nostalgic screening of the 1924 silent film Comin' Thro' the Rye. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

My Dear Secretary
Produced by comedy specialist Harry M. Popkin and his brother Leo Popkin, My Dear Secretary stars Kirk Douglas as Owen Waterbury, a best-selling novelist with an eye for the ladies. When aspiring writer Stephanie Gaylord (Laraine Day) signs on as his secretary, Waterbury assumes that he's lined up another sexual conquest. But Stephanie is not so easily won over, and the rest of the film finds Waterbury striving to come up to her standards. Whenever the film's pace lags, one can count on the farcical expertise of Keenan Wynn, borrowed from MGM to play Douglas' sardonic confidante, to save the day. Along with Strange Love of Martha Ivers, My Dear Secretary is one of the most accessible of Kirk Douglas' early films thanks to its public-domain status. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Hook, Line and Sinker
The comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey made their fourth film appearance of 1930 in the hectic comedy-melodrama Hook Line and Sinker. This time the boys are cast as itinerant insurance salesmen Wilbur Boswell and J. Addington Ganzy ("Not Pansy -- Ganzy, with a 'G'"!) After talking their way out of a traffic ticket, Wilbur and Addington make the acquaintance of penniless socialite Mary Marsh (Dorothy Lee), who is fleeing a wealthy marriage arranged by her mother Rebecca (Jobyna Howland). Falling in love with Mary himself, Wilbur talks Ganzy into helping her renovate a seedy hotel willed to her by her uncle. With the dubious aid of a decrepit bellboy (George F. Marion) and a nutty house detective (Hugh Herbert), the boys turn the hotel into a thriving enterprise. The plot thickens when a gang of jewel thieves and a band of bootleggers register at the hotel, followed in short order by Mary's mother and the girl's prospective fiance, lawyer John Blackwell (Ralf Harolde) -- who happens to be in league with the bootleggers! A wild gangland shoot-out and nocturnal chase caps this dated but amusing Wheeler and Woolsey vehicle. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Clancy Street Boys
Even non-fans of the East Side Kids will get a goodly share of laughs out of the 1943 series entry Clancy Street Boys. The story commences when Muggs McGinnis (Leo Gorcey) learns that his wealthy Uncle Pete (Noah Beery Sr.) is coming to town for a visit. The problem: Muggs' mom (Martha Wentworth) has claimed that she has seven children so that big-hearted Pete will continue sending much-needed money to her fatherless family. To avoid disillusioning Pete, Muggs' pals are enlisted to pose as his siblings, with Glimpy (Huntz Hall) posing as sister Annabelle (it is explained that Scruno, the black member of Muggs' gang, was "adopted"). Uncle Pete and his pretty daughter Judy (Amelita Ward) are taken in by the ruse until local crook George Mooney (Rick Vallin) spills the beans. But all is forgiven when Muggs, Glimpy and company rescue Pete from kidnappers. Best bit: About to go into a huddle, the East Side Kids turn "en masse" towards the camera, politely tip their hats and say "Excuse us!" ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

So This Is Washington
So This is Washington is one of the better entries in the "Lum 'N' Abner" film series. Chester Lauck and Norris Goff recreate their popular radio characters of Lum and Abner, folksy general-store proprietors in the village of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. This time, the boys become convinced that they've developed a synthetic-rubber formula, so they head to the nation's capital to offer their invention to the government. Thanks to the wartime housing shortage, Lum & Abner are obliged to set up residence at a park bench. Before long they've transformed into a pair of backwoods Bernard Baruchs, dispensing sage wisdom to pedestrians and pundits alike. Very much a product of its times, So This is Washington seems more quaint than funny when seen today. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Nothing Sacred
"This is New York, Skyscraper Champion of the World...Where the Slickers and Know-It-Alls peddle gold bricks to each other...And where Truth, crushed to earth, rises again more phony than a glass eye..." With this jaundiced opening title, scripter Ben Hecht introduces his classic comedy Nothing Sacred. Fredric March plays Wally Cook, a hotshot reporter condemned to writing obituaries because of his unwitting complicity in a fraud. Anxious to get back in the good graces of his editor Oliver Stone (Walter Connolly), Cook pounces on the story of New England girl Hazel Flagg (Carole Lombard), who is reportedly dying from radiation poisoning. Actually, Hazel isn't dying at all; she's been misdiagnosed by Moscow's eternally drunk doctor (Charles Winninger). But when Cook offers to take her on an all-expenses-paid trip to New York in exchange for her exclusive story, it's too good an offer to pass up. Once in the Big Apple, Hazel is feted as a heroine by the novelty-seeking populac; she enjoys the adulation at first, but soon (and with the help of gallons of alcoholic beverages) suffers the pangs of conscience. She confesses her deception to Cook, who by now has fallen in love with her. Cook and Stone conspire to keep the public from discovering the truth, eventually dreaming up a phony suicide. Travelling incognito to avoid arrest, Wally and Hazel marry and go on a honeymoon, secure in the knowledge that New York City has forgotten all about her and moved on to their next fad. Brimming with witty, acerbic dialogue and hilarious bits of physical business, Nothing Sacred is among the best "screwball" comedies of the 1930s. The musical score by Oscar Levant both mocks and celebrates the George Gershwinesque musical style then in vogue. As an added bonus, the film is lensed in Technicolor (avoid those two-color reissue prints), allowing modern viewers to see what New York City looked liked back in 1937. Nothing Sacred was later adapted into a Broadway musical, Hazel Flagg, which in turn was filmed by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis as Living It Up (1954), with Lewis in the Carole Lombard role. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Bashful Bachelor
The Bashful Bachelor was the second of six 1940s B films inspired by the popular radio series Lum 'N' Abner. The two principal characters are the proprietors of the Jot 'Em Down Store in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Lum (Chester Lauck) endeavors to impress a marriageable middle-aged lady (ZaSu Pitts) by becoming a hero. Lum's partner Abner (Norris Goff) reluctantly agrees to pretend to be the victim of several staged accidents, so that Lum can come to the rescue and prove his courage. Somehow this ends with a slapstick horse race. Director Mal St. Clair reaps better results from Lum 'N' Abner than he would in his subsequent Laurel & Hardy comedies at 20th Century-Fox. The Bashful Bachelor was put together by independent Voco Productions, and released by RKO Radio. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Admiral Was a Lady
In this film Wanda Hendrix plays a WAVE officer who is endlessly pursued by ex-airmen Edmond O'Brien, Johnny Sands, and Steve Brodie. However, Hendrix only has eyes for her boyfriend Dick Erdman, who is on the lam from vengeful millionaire Rudy Vallee. ~ Iotis Erlewine, Rovi

The Town Went Wild
In this romantic comedy, two warring neighbors are aghast when their respective daughter and son fall in love and plan to marry. Despite their parents' objections they begin planning and getting the legal paper work done; it is then they learn they could be brother and sister. Fortunately, the situation is straightened out and the two find out they are related only by marriage. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

On Approval
English actor Clive Brook's only directorial effort, On Approval, is based upon Frederick Lonsdale's frothy 1926 play, though reset in the late 19th century. Brook plays George, a titled duke whose wealth has largely been spent but who has no intention of settling further into genteel poverty. George is enormously appealing to Helen (played by Googie Withers), a good-natured American heiress, and is equally appalling to Maria (Bea Lillie), an Englishwoman of considerable means. The imperious Maria is dating the eternally devoted Richard (Roland Culver), who worships her. Maria decides that she will marry Richard -- after he spends a month with her in a secluded Scottish castle, where she will try him out "on approval." Maria, however, does not intend to discover whether they are suitable for all aspects of marriage; every night he is to row across the loch and spend his nights at a local inn. Neither Maria nor Richard will lack for company, though, as George and Helen invite themselves along. Things get complicated when it turns out that there are no rooms available at the inn, leaving the men to share the castle with the women -- a prospect that so horrifies the servants that they promptly leave the two couples high and dry. Left to their own devices, the foursome get to know each other -- and they don't necessarily like what they find. ~ Craig Butler, Rovi

Behave Yourself!
One of the oddest comedies of the 1950s, Behave Yourself! stars Farley Granger and Shelley Winters as a pair of none-too-bright newlyweds. Granger and Winters adopt a stray pooch named Archie, who unbeknownst to them has been trained as a go-between for a couple of underworld gangs. To the ever-mounting amazement of our hero and heroine, corpses begin to pile up all around them as one gang endeavors to rub out the other during a million-dollar smuggling operation. While it's quite possible to treat murder as a farcical situation-remember Arsenic and Old Lace?--the killings in this film are sometimes too graphic to induce laughter (there's nothing terribly mirth-provoking about gang flunkey Hans Conried lying dead in a bathtub with a bullet hole between his eyes). Another detriment is the casting of Granger and Winters, both of whom are woefully unsuited to their roles. In fact, such veteran villains as Lon Chaney Jr., Sheldon Leonard, Francis L. Sullivan and Elisha Cook Jr. come off funnier than the stars! The film's best sequence occurs during the closing cast credits, so try to stick around after the "THE END" title. Behave Yourself was the first coproduction between Wald-Krasna Productions and RKO Radio. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Not the best of Buster Keaton's silents, Steamboat Bill, Jr. nonetheless contains some of Keaton's best and most spectacular sight gags. Keaton plays Willie Canfield, the namby-pamby son of rough-and-tumble steamboat captain "Steamboat Bill" Canfield (Ernest Torrence). When he's not trying to make a man out of his boy, the captain is carrying on a feud with Tom Carter (Tom McGuire), the wealthy owner of a fancy new ferryboat. Carter has a pretty daughter, Mary King (Marion Byron), with whom Willie falls in love. The two younger folks try to patch up the feud, but this seems impossible once the captain is jailed for punching out Carter. Willie tries ineptly to bust his dad out of jail, only to wind up in the hospital while trying to escape the law. As Willie lies unconscious in bed, a huge cyclone hits town, knocking down tall buildings like kindling. Upon awakening, he does his best to remain standing as the winds buffet him about. He takes refuge in a tree, which is promptly uprooted and blown toward the waterfront. Here is where Willie proves his manhood -- and ends the feud between Steamboat Bill and Carter -- by rescuing practically everyone in the cast from a watery grave. Steamboat Bill, Jr. would be memorable if only for one eye-popping (and dangerously real) sight gag: as the cyclone rages, the facade of a three-story building collapses upon Keaton -- who is saved only because the upstairs window has been left open! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

All Over Town
Olsen and Johnson's second starring vehicle for Republic was better than their first (Country Gentlemen), but a Hellzapoppin' it wasn't. Ole and Chic play a couple of itinerant vaudevillians, teamed with Sally the Singing Seal ("the eighth wonder of the world"). Heroine Joan Eldredge (Mary Howard) is about to lose the theater left to her by her father, so O&J offer to stage a gala fund-raising show. Unfortunately, one of the potential backers (Eddie Kane) is murdered -- and for a while, it looks like the killer was Sally the Seal! Our heroes decide to capitalize on this setback by offering to reveal the real killer's identity during a nationwide radio hookup -- but first they need a sponsor, so the boys perform their old vaudeville musical act for "The Mackerel King" (played by perennial Laurel & Hardy stooge Jimmy Finlayson). Kidnapped just before the broadcast, Olsen and Johnson escape in time to finger the murderer, whereupon the culprit leads them on a zany chase throughout the darkened theater. All Over Town never really pulls together, but the irrepressible Olsen and Johnson deliver what may well be their funniest joint screen appearance. Incidentally, nominal leading man Harry Stockwell was the singing voice of the Prince in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs--and the father of present-day actor Dean Stockwell. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

New Faces
Producer Leonard Sillman's 1952 edition of his popular Broadway revue New Faces was filmed just as it was staged, save for a wraparound fictional romantic story. The newly grafted plotline involves the efforts of director Ronny Graham to stave off an angry creditor long enough to open his show. We occasionally cut away to the backstage intrigues, but never long enough to take anything away from Sillman's talented cast of newcomers. The cast includes Eartha Kitt, singing such standards-to-be as "C'est Ci Bon" and "Monotonous"; Robert Clary, doing a medley of his hit "I'm in Love With Miss Logan"; Alice Ghostley, belting forth a brace of satirical torch songs; Paul Lynde (heavier than we're used to seeing him), offering his "safari" monologue and later participating in a screamingly funny Death of a Salesman takeoff; and Ronny Graham, performing an extended lampoon of either Tennessee Williams or Truman Capote (we aren't too sure; judge for yourself). Carol Lawrence also makes her first film appearance herein. The Broadway production's biggest song hit, "Love Is a Simple Thing," is sung and danced to the oversaturation point. Among the many writers was a young fellow by the name of Melvin Brooks (that's how he's billed). Its production flaws and budget shortcomings notwithstanding, the widescreen, full-color New Faces offers a rare opportunity for a 1990s audience to see what a '50s-style musical revue really looked like to the opening-night crowd. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Sin of Harold Diddlebock
Country Gentlemen
The zany vaudeville comedy team of Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson was still one year away from their smash Broadway hit Hellzapoppin' when they starred in Republic's Country Gentlemen. The daffy duo plays a couple of gold-stock swindlers who try to fleece the citizenry of a small town. They end up purchasing a vacant lot for $4000, which they try to pass off as an oil field. A group of local WWI veterans invest heavily in Olsen and Johnson's latest venture, meaning that the boys will be in for quite a lot of lumps if the expected "gusher" doesn't come in. Thanks to good influence of heroine Lila Lee, our heroes change their crooked ways -- but not quite in the nick of time! Critics weren't keen on the notion of middle-aged Ole Olsen being cast as a romantic lead, but everyone was satisfied with the supporting performance of perennial "dumb blonde" Joyce Compton as the team's Girl Friday. Originally released at 66 minutes, Country Gentlemen is presently available in its 53-minute TV reissue form. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Spooks Run Wild
In their first of two Monogram spook comedies, the East Side Kids and Bela Lugosi square off in yet another haunted house. On their way to summer camp, the malapropism dependant East Siders are warned of a "monster killer" loose in the area, and, sure enough, almost immediately encounter Nardo (Lugosi) and his weird little helper Luigi (Angelo Rossitto). Nardo does very little to repudiate the Kids' impression of him as a vampire (the Kids say "vulture" lest Monogram should get in trouble with Universal, who held the rights to Dracula), but is he really the monster killer? Perhaps Doctor Von Grosch (Dennis Moore) knows, the famed mystery writer and "monster hunter" having arrived like clockwork at the creepy Billings mansion with camp nurse Linda Mason (Dorothy Short) in tow. Although Peewee (David Gorcey) is at one point feared to have become the victim of the "vulture," the smart aleck turns up safe and sound, and Muggs (Leo Gorcey) and the Kids decide to trap the killer. And so they do, ably assisted by young attorney Jeff Dixon (Dave O'Brien), who, for reasons not immediately clear, has a vested interest in the well being of the East Side Kids. O'Brien and leading lady Dorothy Short were married in real life. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Groom Wore Spurs
Since someone had already used the title The Bride Wore Boots, it follows that there'd eventually be a film called The Groom Wore Spurs. Jack Carson stars as movie cowboy hero Ben Castle, who in "real life" is exactly the opposite of his screen image. When Castle gets into a scrape in Las Vegas, he is bailed out by lady lawyer Abigail Furnival (Ginger Rogers). Despite Castle's many faults, Abigail can't help falling in love with the big lug. Once they've entered into a marriage of convenience (a plot device better seen than described), Abigail sets about to force Castle to truly become the virtuous, hard-riding, sweet-singing character he plays on screen. The film is bogged down with an unnecessary murder-mystery subplot, which is happily disposed of during a climactic slapstick chase. The Groom Wore Spurs was produced independently by Fidelity Pictures and released by Universal. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

College
The silent comedy feature College stars Buster Keaton as a scholarly young man who doesn't know beans about sports. When he arrives in college, Buster finds that all the Big Men on Campus are jocks. To impress pretty coed Anne Cornwall, Buster tries and fails to join all the school teams. Even when he attempts to take a job at the campus soda fountain, Buster is a washout. Through the kindness of dean Snitz Edwards, Keaton is placed on the varsity rowing team where, despite several clumsy moments, he manages to win the big race. This infuriates his athletic rival Harold Goodwin, who seizes Cornwall and runs off with her. In racing to her rescue, Buster is compelled to repeat all the sports activities at which he'd previously failed--and does so, magnificently. He bursts into Goodwin's dorm room and saves Cornwall from the usual worse-than-death fate. Hero and heroine kiss--at which point this lighthearted film takes a sudden, chilling turn. As always, Buster Keaton performs his own stunts in College, except for the pole-vaulting bit, which was accomplished by Olympic champ Lee Barnes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

One Week
One Week was the first Buster Keaton-directed film to be released to the public (The High Sign was made earlier but shelved for several months). Based on a now-obscure educational short called Home Made, it involves a build-it-yourself house given to Keaton and his new bride (Sybil Seely). Unbeknownst to the couple, the wife's disgruntled former suitor has changed the numbers on the boxes containing the building materials. Keaton does make the house in one week, as the instructions have promised, but what a house! Right off the bat, this early Keaton film shows his penchant for big props (the cockeyed house, a passing train). Even though it's only a two-reeler, it still managed to become one of the top-grossing movies of 1920. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Love Laughs at Andy Hardy
For his first post-WWII starring film, 26-year-old Mickey Rooney returned to familiar territory in Love Laughs at Andy Hardy. In true Art-Imitates-Life fashion, Rooney plays returning GI Andy Hardy, who arrives in his home town of Carvel to the open arms of his family: Father Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone), mother Mrs. Hardy (Fay Holden) and Aunt Milly (Sara Haden). After reels and reels of "Gee, Mom and Dad, it's great to be home", Andy launches into a new romance with college coed Kay Wilson (Bonita Granville). His boundless ebullience is dampened when Kay elects to marry another, setting the stage for a another of those man-to-man talks between Judge Hardy and Son. Fortunately, Andy bounces back to his old self when he meets Latin American exchange student Isobel Gonzales (Lina Romay). Wisely, MGM decided that Mickey Rooney was too old to continue to play Andy Hardy, and the studio dropped the series with this entry (there would be a so-so "reunion" picture, Andy Hardy Comes Home, in 1958). If it seems nowadays as though Love Laughs at Andy Hardy is being telecast at least seven times per week, it may be because the film lapsed into public domain in 1974. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Only with Married Men
In this made-for-television comedy, a young woman gets herself into trouble when she begins fulfilling her man-craving with a string of married men. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Parlor, Bedroom and Bath
Based on the stage comedy by Charles W. Bell and Mark Swan (previously filmed in 1920), Parlor, Bedroom and Bath is a curious mixture of all that was good and everything that was bad in Buster Keaton's talkie features. Keaton plays Reginald Irving, a dimwitted bill-poster who finds himself the pawn in a scheme cooked up by wealthy Jeffrey Haywood (Reginald Denny). It seems that Jeffrey will not be permitted to marry Virginia Embrey (Sally Eilers) until a suitable husband is found for Virginia's older sister Angelica (Dorothy Christy). Since Angelica has rejected all the available suitors, Jeffrey schemes to offer Reginald as an eligible mate. First, however, he has to transform our dopey hero into a gentleman -- and a great lover. Somehow or other, poor Reginald innocently ends up in a compromising situation involving vampish Polly Hathaway (Charlotte Greenwood) and the very married Nita Leslie (Joan Peers) at a posh no-tell hotel. Keaton is permitted a few choice pantomimic moments in Parlor Bedroom and Bath, notably his scenes with the aggressive Charlotte Greenwood and a spectacular sight gag "borrowed" from his 1920 silent classic One Week. On the whole, however, Keaton is lost in a sea of unfunny dialogue and tired farcical situations -- a not untypical pitfall of his MGM talkies. Long unavailable due to legal complications, Parlor, Bedroom and Bath can be purchased from any of the public-domain video companies proliferating in the U.S. (Incidentally, that baronial "upstate New York" mansion in the film's early scenes was actually Buster Keaton's Beverly Hills home) ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The General
Buster Keaton plays Johnny Gray, a Southern railroad engineer who loves his train engine, The General, almost as much as he loves Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack). When the opening shots of the Civil War are fired at Fort Sumter, Johnny tries to enlist -- and he is deemed too useful as an engineer to be a soldier. All Johnny knows is that he's been rejected, and Annabelle, thinking him a coward, turns her back on him. When Northern spies steal the General (and, unwittingly, Annabelle), the story switches from drama and romance to adventure mixed with Keaton's trademark deadpan humor as he uses every means possible to catch up to the General, thwart the Yankees, and rescue his darling Annabelle -- for starters. As always, Keaton performs his own stunts, combining his prodigious dexterity, impeccable comic timing, and expressive body language to convey more emotion than the stars of any of the talkies that were soon to dominate cinema. ~ Emru Townsend, Rovi

Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus
Peck's Bad Boy and his gang of mischievous misfits (including Spanky McFarland) make all kinds of trouble around the circus. ~ Deb Rainsbottom, Rovi

Two Weeks to Live
The title of this "Lum 'N' Abner" comedy isn't explained until the film is half over. Chester Lauck and Norris Goff repeat their radio characterizations of Lum and Abner, proprietors of the Jot-Em-Down Store in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. This time, the boys journey to Chicago, where Abner hopes to collect his share of an inheritance, only to find out that they're responsible for their "benefactor's" debts. Required to take a medical exam, Abner is incorrectly informed that he has only two weeks to live (from the motion picture of the same name). In their efforts to raise enough money to square their debts, Our Heroes get mixed up with a Nazi spy ring. When this plot point is abruptly dropped (indeed, it looks as though the script was being made up as it went along), Abner agrees to take an experimental rocket trip to Mars for a huge cash sum. The climactic special effects are as ridiculous as the rest of the film; even so, Two Weeks to Live did well at the box-office thanks to the popularity of the Lum 'N' Abner radio show. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

It's a Joke, Son!
Radio actor Kenny Delmar created the character of bombastic Southern Senator Claghorn for a 1945 installment of The Fred Allen Show. The character immediately caught on with the public, spawning an overabundance of merchandising and thousands of ersatz Claghorn imitators (foremost among these was the Warner Bros. cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn). In 1947, Delmar attempted to parlay Claghorn into film stardom with It's a Joke, Son. From the outset, screenwriters Robert Kent and Paul Gerard Smith were faced with a problem: Senator Claghorn was very funny in small doses on The Fred Allen Show, but could the character sustain a feature-length picture? Their solution to this dilemma was to "humanize" the Senator by removing some of his obnoxious braggadocio and transforming him into a harmless, henpecked small-town windbag. Living in his decaying ancestral Southern mansion with his long-suffering wife Magnolia (Una Merkel), Claghorn has trouble making ends meet financially. Magnolia hopes to resolve their money problems by running for state senator on behalf of the Daughters of Dixie. A band of northern political crooks convince the gullible Claghorn to run against his wife in the senatorial race, thereby splitting the vote so that their own equally crooked candidate can win the election. Complication piles upon complication until Magnolia, realizing that Claghorn is being set up as a patsy, has him kidnapped "for his own good"-a plan which predictably backfires. Future TV star June Lockhart is decorative as Claghorn's daughter, while Kenneth Farrell is adequate as the obligatory romantic lead. It's a Joke Son was the initial Hollywood effort from the Eagle-Lion Productions, a British-based firm which would eventually absorb PRC Pictures, where this film was made on the very cheap. Though moderately successful, the film proved that Senator Claghorn was much funnier heard than seen. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Lady Says No
The lady of the title is author Dorinda Hatch (Joan Caulfield), who writes a scathing best-seller in which she trashes all men. Photographer Bill Shelby (David Niven) vows to make Dorinda eat her words, thereby proving the superiority of the male of the species. Suffice to say that he doesn't succeed--at least until the very, very end. The middle portion of The Lady Says No consists of a surrealistic dream sequence in which Dorinda realizes that she loves Bill despite his rampant chauvinism. This film is not a likely candidate for screening at the next N.O.W. meeting. Lady Says No was produced and directed by Frank Ross, who at the time was married to star Joan Caulfield. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Milky Way
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