Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 6, 2018


Danny Kaye meets Danny Kaye
WONDER MAN (1945). Director: H. Bruce Humberstone.

Witness to a gangland killing, club entertainer Buzzy Bellew (Danny Kaye) is bumped off at the direction of mobster Ten Grand Jackson (Steve Cochran).  Before you can say Topper, his ghost importunes his nerdier twin brother, Edwin (also Danny Kaye), to impersonate him until the murderers are found, which creates an obvious and dangerous disadvantage. Buzzy can not be seen by anyone, and can take over Edwin's body whenever he wants, but this often causes more problems than it solves. Added complications are that Buzzy was supposed to get married to long-time beau Midge (Vera-Ellen) while Edwin has fallen for beautiful librarian, Ellen (Virginia Mayo), who cares for him but comes to think he's demented. Will all of this ever get straightened out, and will anyone give a damn? Perhaps I'd seen too many Danny Kaye movies in a row, but Wonder Man didn't work for me at all. Kaye is a talented performer, but his shtick can be unfunny and wearisome at times. Meant to be whimsical, the plot of Wonder Man is actually rather depressing, as is Buzzy's jaunty attitude about being deceased (Since he's dead, Midge simply goes off and marries someone else, and seemingly forgets her fiance in a second without shedding a tear, but then Buzzy seems to forget about Midge as well! That's love for ya!) On the plus side, Vera-Ellen does a splendid dance routine and the performances in the picture are all good. Steve Cochran [The Big Operator], who, like Mayo, appeared with Kaye several times, gets a much smaller role this time, but we get appearances from Huntz Hall [Valentino] as a sailor, and "Cuddles" Sakall as a delicatessen owner who is very amusing, as is Gisela Werbisek as his wife. Otto Kruger [Beauty for Sale] is a district attorney, and Natalie Schafer shows up briefly as a patroness of the arts who finds Edwin fascinating if a little too strange. The worst thing about the movie is that it has the temerity to try to ape A Night at the Opera by including a climactic bit on the opera stage (they even use music from Verdi's Il trovatore, as in the Marx Brothers film). This seemingly endless scene not only isn't very funny, but it suffers mightily in comparison to that Marx brothers masterpiece.

Verdict: Not Kaye's finest hour and a half. *1/2. 


angelman66 said...

Oops, on your recommendation I will skip this one, as sometimes even one Danny Kaye is too much for me. Too bad, because I am a BIG fan of Cuddles Sakall!

William said...

Ha, Cuddles is adorable, isn't he? I definitely agree with you about Kaye in certain movies. Cuddles can sometimes curdle, too, but generally I like Sakall very much.