Ray (short for Rachael) Dooley was an extremely talented Scots-born comedienne who was a Broadway star of the 1920s. Like Christine Baranski, Ray Dooley was (by contemporary accounts) that rare female combination of funny and sexy in the same woman. With her angular features and acrobatic agility, Dooley performed on stage alongside W.C. Fields, Bob Hope and other major comedians of her day. Regrettably, 'Honeymoon Lane' was her only-ever film role. She retired from showbiz several years into her lifelong marriage to Eddie Dowling, an all-purpose Broadway talent who had some respectable success as an actor, scriptwriter, director and producer but who was not especially notable in any of those roles. After Dowling's death left her wealthy, Ray Dooley became increasingly inactive in her home in Long Island, New York. My American wife's family lived nearby and knew her well. When I was introduced to Ray Dooley in the early 1980s, I was intrigued to learn that she had a print of 'Honeymoon Lane', in which she and her husband had co-starred (although not as a couple).
'Honeymoon Lane' is allegedly based on Dowling's Broadway hit of the same title. I've read the script of that show (also thanks to Ray Dooley), and the only thing they have in common is that both starred Dowling as a brash Irish-American named Tim. Even his surname was different in the two shows: in the Broadway production, he was cried Tim Murphy. That surname shows up in this movie too, but here Dowling's character is named Tim Dugan.
The Murphy clan here are Gerty (Dooley) and her mother. Mrs Murphy is the proprietress of a seaside hotel. Her latest guest is none other than the King of Belgravia, who apparently doesn't realise that his kingdom is actually a neighbourhood in south London. It seems that the king has come to this American spa for the healthful waters, and for Mrs Murphy's cherry pies. French actor Armand Kaliz plays the King of Belgravia with one of the more impenetrable accents I've ever had to listen to. Ray Dooley told me she couldn't recall whether it was his real accent or not; I suspect it wasn't.
Into the same hostelry come a bunch of bootleggers with accents that are definitely phony, led by Arnold Bookstein (clearly based on real-life hoodlum Arnold Rothstein). One of the gangsters is played by the spectacularly ugly George Kotsonaros, who looks like a refugee from a horror movie.
Oh, yeah: the star of the movie is Eddie Dowling as Tim Dugan, who loves Mary Baggott but is afraid to marry her because her layabout father Tom will move in with them.
This movie could have been a lot funnier with the same cast and budget, if it had used a diifferent script (and a more talented director). Since Eddie Dowling wrote the material as well as starring, I suspect that there was an ego problem here: he probably refused to have his script scrapped. I didn't ask Ray Dooley to confirm this.
Most annoying of all, the supporting cast of characters actually features a snooty rich dame named Mrs Gotrocks. Where did this stupid name come from? I've encountered at least ten alleged comedies (most of them cartoons) featuring a rich character named Gotrocks. Was that name *ever* funny? I doubt it.
When I met Ray Dooley, she was well into her eighties ... yet her humour, warmth, vivacity and considerable presence were unimpaired. Several of her former co-stars -- including W.C. Fields and Bob Hope -- had praised her publicly, speaking very highly of her comedic talents. She showed me her photo album, full of photographs of herself in various stage routines which appeared to be very funny indeed. Her performance in 'Honeymoon Lane' -- energetic, with a hint of slapstick -- is the movie's high point, and yet she isn't very funny with this weak material. Perhaps if Ray Dooley had been determined to sustain her showbiz career, she could have been another Joan Davis, or a combination of Imogene Coca and Carol Burnett. As things stand, I'll rate this weak comedy 5 out of 10 ... more out of sentiment for several of the players, rather than for its actual hilarity.
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