Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.
Showing posts with label Red Skelton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Red Skelton. Show all posts

Thursday, December 20, 2012

THE FULLER BRUSH MAN

Red Skelton succumbs to the charms of Adele Jergens
THE FULLER BRUSH MAN (1948). Director: S. Sylvan Simon.

Red Jones (Red Skelton), who has trouble holding on to a job, to put it mildly, is told by his girlfriend Ann (Janet Blair) that if he doesn't make good at something they're through. He decides to try for a job at the Fuller Brush company where Ann works, but a romantic rival, Mr. Wallick (Don McGuire), who's a top salesman, makes it his business to screw up Red's chances at every turn. Things take a turn for the worse when Red becomes the suspect in the mysterious murder of Commissioner Trist (Nicholas Joy), who fired him from his last assignment. Skelton is in top form in one of his funniest movies, with an inventive script by Frank Tashlin [and Devery Freeman] that is full of so many great sight-gags that the movie is at times a live-action cartoon [typical of Tashlin's work]. A bit in a garden involving bug spray, pruning shears, and legs in weird positions is nearly classic, as is a hilarious sequence wherein Red tries to sell a shower brush to the man-hungry starlet Miss Sharmley (Adele Jergens), who's "brushed off more men than the porter at the Waldorf." In this brief bit sexy Jergens almost walks off with the movie, but there are also very good performances from the rest of the cast, which includes Hillary Brooke as Trist's wife, Sara Franzen as his protege, and Arthur Space as a police lieutenant. Don McGuire scores as the wolfish cad Wallick and Blair is attractive and capable as Skelton's girl.The ending in a factory is also full of clever physical action, all well-handled by director Simon and a variety of stunt people. Verna Felton and Jimmy Hunt [Invaders from Mars] have a funny scene wherein Red tries to sell the former one of his brushes and her not-so-adorable grandson interferes.

Verdict: One of Skelton's best! ***. 


Thursday, February 12, 2009

THREE LITTLE WORDS


THREE LITTLE WORDS (1950). Director: Richard Thorpe.

A perfectly pleasant and completely undistinguished biopic about the not terribly distinguished song writing team of Bert Kalmar (Fred Astaire) and Harry Ruby (Red Skelton). The casting pretty much insures that there won't be a heck of a lot of drama in this movie, and there certainly isn't, although the two men spend a lot of time bickering and having misunderstandings [although the humor is not of the laugh-out-loud variety]. Vera-Ellen is Kalmar's spouse and a warmer-than-usual Arlene Dahl is Ruby's better half, Eileen. Gloria DeHaven, Keenan Wynn, Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter have smaller roles (walk-ons in the case of the last two). Gale Robbins is sexsational as Terry, the singer that Ruby initially falls for. Astaire's fans will enjoy his smooth and fancy foot work. As for the songs, well ... they're pleasant enough, tuneful, but Kalmar and Ruby were not exactly Rodgers and Hammerstein or Rodgers and Hart. They spend the whole movie trying to make a song out of a tune Ruby keeps playing and when they finally do at the climax it's only the utterly mediocre title number!

Verdict: If you don't expect much ... **1/2.

Friday, April 18, 2008

MERTON OF THE MOVIES


MERTON OF THE MOVIES (1947). Director: Robert Alton.

Red Skelton stars as a movie usher, Merton Gill, with big dreams who winds up going to Hollywood and supposedly becoming protege of big star Lawrence Rupert (Leon Ames), who has no use for him. Befriended by a stunt woman, Phyllis (Virgina O'Brien), who also has ambitions, he winds up starring in parodies of Rupert's films -- only he thinks they're supposed to be serious. Not much of a "laugh out loud" movie but the picture is well-acted, good-natured and pleasant, with a happy wind-up for all. After Skelton, Gloria Grahame is the cast stand-out as sexy movie star Beulah Baxter, who at one point tries to "vamp" Merton. O'Brien is a perfectly pleasing leading lady with a certain elusive quality, yet ... somehow she lacks a certain oomph, although she's more than competent. She does show more emotion in this than she did as a singer (her funny shtick was to have an immobile face as she sang).

Verdict: pleasant time waster with nice performances and sentiment. **1/2.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

THE SHOW-OFF (1946)


THE SHOW-OFF (1946): Director: Harry Beaumont.

One of several versions of a play about an overbearing know-it-all and braggart who drives his in-laws to distraction but is loved by his wife, who recognizes his essential good heart and that he means well. Skelton is very well-cast in the part of Aubrey Piper, and as his gal, Marilyn Maxwell is more subdued and pleasing than usual. But the picture is nearly stolen by Marjorie Main as Skelton's exasperated mother-in-law. Marshall Thompson is Skelton's young brother-in-law, and Leon Ames is married to Maxwell's sister, Clara (Jacqueline White). Virginia O'Brien is Maxwell's girlfriend, who arranges a double-date wth Skelton. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson also appears briefly. Good supporting cast and a typically winning performance by Skelton makes this a pleasant, amusing, if somewhat minor comedy-drama.

Verdict: Fast-moving and entertaining. **1/2.

Friday, January 18, 2008

WHISTLING IN THE DARK


WHISTLING IN THE DARK (1941). Director: S. Sylvan Simon.

It's easy to see why this comedy-thriller starring the likable Red Skelton was so popular, engendering a couple of sequels. Skelton plays a radio detective called The Fox, who is kidnapped by the head of a cult (Conrad Veidt) who wants him to help him and his gang come up with a way to bump off a certain individual without the crime being traced back to them. The victim is the nephew of a wealthy woman who left money to the cult, only they can't collect it until the nephew is deceased. Skelton's colleague and fiancee Ann Rutherford (pictured), as well as his boss's daughter (Virginia Grey) – who has a yen for him -- are also kidnapped to put pressure on Skelton. Skelton comes up with a murder plot but tries to outwit his captors and save the life of the nephew, who is due to be poisoned while traveling on an airplane. While the movie is certainly never as nail-biting or cinematic as a Hitchcock picture, it does manage a good mixture of genuine suspense and laughs. The performances are all top-notch – Rutherford is particularly effective – and Mariska Aldridge is a riot as the hatchet-faced Hilda.
Verdict: Lots of fun. ***.