Jack Benny is preparing his New Year's Eve radio broadcast but takes time out to take his valet Rochester to meet his girlfriend Josephine arriving on a steamer. Fred Allen and his sister ... See full summary »
Kay Murdock (Lynn Bari) strolls into the Dixie Bar in Shanghai on November 1, 1941 and asks the bartender for a letter addressed to Captain Larsen, and is referred to Roy Bonnell (Preston ... See full summary »
Compassionate small-town lawyer Richard Clarke moves to New York City to seek his fortune, but is unsuccessful until he takes a friend's advice and tries to convince the world he's a ... See full summary »
Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson
Falling asleep during the Paradise Coffee ("The Coffee that Makes You Sleep") Program, the band's third trumpeter dreams he's Athanael, an angel deputized to blow the Last Trumpet at ... See full summary »
Wealthy Frederick Trumble makes an eccentric new will, secretes much of his wealth in a chair, then, within seconds, is murdered. The new heir, Fred Floogle, runs a flea circus. Of course, the reputed $12 million inheritance goes to his family's heads...then proves to consist of five chairs, which the disgusted Floogle sells just before discovering their secret. Packed with wisecracks, strange cameos, and nothing-sacred, anything-goes digressions.Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
It's a pity that some of the one time classic works of popular culture are now dusty and distant to most of us. This is particularly true of that remarkable medium of radio. Radio had an impact from 1920 to 1960, when it was replaced by television. Television assaulted radio with it's versions of talk shows and game shows. It was one thing to hear that Mr. X won a new car, but quite more effective to see Mr. X looking at a new Buick or Rambler or Oldsmobile. It was more interesting watching Edward R. Murrow on Person to Person with a celebrity than just listening to them talk (in one case Murrow did one interview that was impossible on radio - he interviewed Harpo Marx).
There was just one area that radio beat out television. By relying on voices only, radio stimulated the imagination of the audience. It was very effective in comedy shows. Jack Benny would say he had to get some money, and the sound effects would create (in the listener's minds) the fabled Benny vault, which was further down than Fort Knox's and guarded by a Civil War veteran. Fred Allen would go outside down Allen's Ally, and interview a cross section of the American public every week, including a relic of New England, a voice of the deep south, and a Jewish lady who constantly mangled English and managed to make her family's triumphs and travails part of the issue.
Allen is sadly forgotten today - you can get recordings of his show on tape, but the references deal with the political/social world of the 1940s and 1950s. This is the fate of all topical humor. Just wait four decades and play that hysterical list joke by David Letterman or opening monologue by Jay Leno to some teenagers. See how quickly they get bored and ask you "Did you really find this funny?"
Allen was sharp in his comments - the most remembered is his reference to the size of a heart of a Hollywood agent (which was smaller than an olive pit). He would be able to skirt censors pretty well. In one sketch he talked of a new sponsor - a watch manufacturer named Fuller Bullova. With his normal group of second bananas Allen would satirize the politics of the period, or the social figures of the day (Dawson Bells, a prominent actor/producer,describing his latest movie says, "The street is a symbol, the music is a symbol, the drums are a symbol, the cymbal is a symbol!"). Allen wrote his own material, and wrote very well.
If he is remembered it is for the fake feud he had with his friend Jack Benny. Apparently it began when he pretended that Benny had not been funny at all. Benny laughed, called Allen up and asked if he could zing some back at him. Allen was smart enough to say yes - and the feud became famous in radio lore. It also got into their films, where Allen and Benny would confront each other (most notably in the whole film LOVE THY NEIGHBOR). In this film, there is only one scene of Benny with Allen and it is a different type of joke. Whereas the two are clashing in LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, in IT'S IN THE BAG it is a scene where a desperate Allen goes to try to re-buy a chair from Benny, who is all to happy to sell it back - he sells everything as either a souvenir of your visit or a refreshment (including water). Allen, to see Benny, has to pretend he's a fan, and asks him the secret of his success, and Benny explains that the basis is his timing - he is constantly delaying audience reaction (which should be hostile) by slowly reacting as he thinks about what he said and wonders what it means.
IT'S IN THE BAG shows Allen at his best, because it is not shared with Benny as LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, or shared with Jimmy Durante in SALLY, IRENE, AND MARY. He is in the center, trying to reclaim a stolen or missing fortune (hidden in a chair). To do this requires him dealing with his wife Binnie Barnes, with his daughter's potential father-in-law Robert Benchley, with crooked lawyers John Carridine and John Miljan, and with hostile police detective Sidney Toler (his second best comic performance after THE PHANTOM PRESIDENT). He also crosses paths with an insane (and insatiably hungry) psychiatrist (Jerry Colonna), and a gang boss who would like to go straight, but inherited his gang from his mother, Machine Gun Molly. The gang boss is William Bendix. Allen's humor is in his sharp reactions to everyone around him.
My favorite moment is when he and Binnie go out to a nightclub, to hear the doorman say, "Plenty of room folks! Always plenty of room!" There is no more room. Later that same night thy go to the movies only to find the same idiot using the same spiel to bring more people into the theater. They do find seats in something like the twelfth level of balconies. In disgust at his poor seats (they can barely see a screen), Allen goes out to find the manager (Emory Parnell). He complains about the witless idiot bringing people in when there are no decent seats. Parnell is upset, until he hears who was responsible. "Oh that's Joe," he says while he laughing, "Good old Joe, ever the optimist!" This is his sole explanation of what happened.
The film is resolved happily, with most of the people involved showing up at a party at the Floogles. As he watches them arriving, Allan shakes his head and says, "Everything but the kitchen sink." A moment later one of them lowers a kitchen sink. Perfect ending to a laugh fest.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this