You Never Can Tell (1951)
"You Never Can Tell" is a real sleeper: a comedy and fantasy that has no business being a very good film, but is anyway. The silly premise belies the quality of the script and direction, and the cast is likable.
A wealthy patriarch has died, and left his fortune to his German Shephard, King. King's master is Peggy Dow, next in line to inherit the estate. Charles Drake is Dow's fiance, who poisons the dog. King goes to Animal Heaven, and petitions the Animal King to return to earth for vengeance.
King returns as detective Dick Powell, with sidekick (and former horse) Joyce Holden. Powell played many private eyes during his acting career, but this character has to be his silliest. Powell often growls, howls, scratches himself, eats doggie snacks, etc. His eccentricities and confrontations with Drake get Powell in trouble with the police.
Most of the humor is subtle, but there is one sidesplitting scene. The police bug Powell's office, and huddle together to eavesdrop. Powell and Holden discuss their former lives as animals, to the astonishment of the policemen.
Of course, "You Never Can Tell" has some flaws. Dow's grandfather (Albert Sharpe) is too ridiculous a character for even this film. Drake is competent, but too much of a straight man. The certainty of a happy ending robs the film of any real suspense. Still, whodathunkit, this is a minor Hollywood project that is much better than expected.
1951 would prove to be the final year of Peggy Dow's film career. That year, she married and retired from show business.
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