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A pair of shady Nevada lawyers become involved in the uproarious
divorce proceedings of a strident PEACH-O-RENO.
Comics Bert Wheeler & Robert Woolsey, who starred in a string of popular comedies from 1929 to 1937, return with a funny look at the peculiar goings on--divorces & casinos--in the Nevada city of Reno. The Boys (Wheeler is the little fellow with curly hair; Woolsey is the skinny guy with cigar and glasses) toss out one wisecrack after another in this Pre-Code concoction. The film's hilarity reaches its zenith (or nadir, depending on the viewer's sensibilities) during Wheeler's extended drag sequence, which includes an uproarious dance number with Woolsey. Disguised as a very merry widow, Wheeler challenges Charles Ruggles in CHARLEY'S AUNT (1930) as the best female impersonator of the early talkies.
Young Dorothy Lee, Wheeler's very frequent cinematic love interest, is Kewpie Doll cute as always, but she's really given very little to do until quite late in the film when she perches on a grand piano for her requisite song with Bert. Getting better lines is Zelma O'Neal as Lee's blunt talking sister.
The girls' divorce-seeking parents are nicely played by Joseph Cawthorn & Cora Witherspoon. Other performances of note are given by Arthur Hoyt as the Boys' nervous Nellie secretary; Mitchell Harris as a gun-happy gambler intent on plugging Wheeler; and Sam Hardy as the conniving judge who presides over the chaotic courtroom scene which ends the film.
Movie mavens will recognize corpulent Harry Holman in an uncredited role as Witherspoon's outmaneuvered divorce lawyer.
Perhaps DIPLOMANIACS is their unsung classic, while COCKEYED CAVALIERS might be considered their most lushly produced. There is much to be found in HALF SHOT AT SUNRISE; KENTUCKY KERNELS; THE NITWITS; and HIPS! HIPS! HOORAY!, but for my money, PEACH O'RENO is my favorite Wheeler & Woolsey picture. I never knew about these two, but after my Dad mentioned that they had been his boyhood favorites, I took a close look at their stuff. The first thing that hooked me was the music, for in most of their work, there is at least one terrific song, usually performed by the unsung, underrated genius Bert Wheeler, and his very pretty, very unpretentious partner, Dorothy Lee. Wheeler was not just a good comic and good dancer, he was a clever, gifted dancer, and an inspired, original comedian. A notable 1920s "star of tomorrow," Bert Wheeler's singing was just a fabulous extra. When we are lucky, the songs in his pictures are extended by way of a comic verse for Bob Woolsey, a rather wacky character man who will confuse many until they realize that despite the glasses and the ever present cigar, he is not George Burns. The two were teamed by the legendary Flo Ziegfeld for RIO RITA, and they came along as part of the package when RKO filmed it, with Dorothy Lee selected by Wheeler himself (she appeared as part of the team 13 times). PEACH is that type of film you always hope you'll find along the way a picture you can recommend to anyone and you can depend on a positive reaction. PEACH can be compared, foot for foot, to any of the best Marx Brothers, I think it is that funny, that unexpected, and that entertaining. Just simply accept Wheeler & Woolsey as Divorce Attorneys, and you too can buy into this inspired satire on the divorce game in Reno, circa early Depression. Divorce? Well, you bet this is pre-code, and when these lawyers need to hire a correspondent, they just dress up Bert Wheeler, who will amaze you with this brilliant turn. Not content to merely parade or mimic, Bert's naughty, slightly debauched femme fatal should place him among America's comedic giants. There have been good drag acts on film, but very few have offered the detailed, inspired, finely-tuned portrayal served up here! In addition, Wheeler taps, the music is fun, the supporting cast is uniformly game and marvelous, the W & W schtick (trick settings, trick costumes, trick photography) is often a delight, the script is crackling, and although her best lines were cut by the censors way back when, we get a rare appearance by Broadway great Zelma O'Neal (GOOD NEWS; FOLLOW THRU!) as Woolsey's opposite.
Into the third year of the Wheeler-Woolsey partnership with RKO, this
gem, running at just over an hour, gives us Wattles and Swift, the divorce
lawyers (with a bus laid on to ferry likely divorces from the railway) who
just happen to run a casino by night (!).
To get himself out of a scrape with a vengeful gun totin' husband, Bert Wheeler dolls up as the silliest drag act you'll ever see (Mae West had nothing on this blonde broad!); little Dorothy Lee gets to join him in another great song n' tap routine; and Robert Woolsey chomps cigars and makes his usual line of lecherous wisecracks. Watch out for a wonderful number mid-way where the boys dance together with Bert still dragged up; and a useful way to store those casino chips! Really funny...
Lots of clever jokes, chuckles, men in drag. Sight gags and the usual fare for Wheeler and Woolsey, even some filthy one liners in here if you pay attention. A couple of those jokes would have been snipped right out when the film code started being enforced just a couple years later. This one is all about going to Reno for a quick divorce, with the two men cast as Wattles and Swift, divorce lawyers, with some surprises thrown in. At one point, the two "attorneys" represent opposing sides in one divorce case, but it's really all about getting their jokes out as fast as they can. Watch for Cora Witherspoon, who was in Bank Dick with W.C. Fields. I thought this was a riot, even if it's extra short at just 63 minutes. The jokes and timing in this one hold up better than some of their other oldies. Directed by William Seiter, who had made tons of comedies with ALL the Hollywood greats. I recommend it - its a fun one!
Just as sure as you can tell your left sock from the right after you wear them for a week, I'm sure you will like this movie, which is filled with laughs and song and dance numbers. The court room scene is a blast and the high light of the film is the song Niagara Falls To Reno performed by Bert Wheeler and Dorothy Lee.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You'll get twice the bang for your buck with the law firm of Wattles and Swift (Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey) who not only will make sure you get a great alimony settlement, but some unforgettable entertainment as well. It doesn't matter that the husband of the woman they are representing is after them with a gun (Wheeler disguises himself in drag for that issue) or that the daughter is interested in him romantically as well. Wise-cracking Woolsey gets the dance of his life when he is whirled around by Wheeler in a fury and at one point seems to be a saw-dust dummy. The law office they work in closes for business and re-opens with the push of a button by book cases turning into liquor shelves, desks turning into roulette wheels and a whole bar coming out of the wall, already stocked with drinkers. The ultimate pre-code comedy with lots of sexual innuendo, "Peach O'Reno" may not be an accurate depiction of divorce, and with Wheeler and Woolsey, you may have a hangover afterwards, but it will certainly be fun filing for it.
I guess humor, like beauty, is in the eye (ear) of the beholder.
Wheeler and Woolsey are two of my favorite funnymen but Peach-O-Reno
contains some of the oldest and stalest jokes ever put on film. I'll
bet they were funnier in 1932, but here it is 2011 and some of the
material fell flatter than a pancake despite their best efforts and
that of the supporting cast.
Joseph Cawthorn and Cora Witherspoon are the old married couple trying to get a divorce, after a hilarious scene at their 25th wedding anniversary party which turns into an argument and a trip to Reno. They are excellent and very funny when on screen - maybe they should have given these two old pros more screen time. Bert Wheeler and Dorothy Lee have a good song and dance number and Wheeler himself is quite good impersonating a floozy to aid Cawthorn's cause for divorce.
There is some good fun here and there and I have a hard time knocking Wheeler and Woolsey in any case, but maybe "Peach-O-Reno" should have been seen in 1932 and then stored in a vault somewhere. It came as a two-fer with "Girl Crazy" - maybe I'll have better luck with that one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an odd outing for Wheeler and Woolsey. The first half of the
movie is excellent--very funny, well-paced and clever. However, towards
the end, the film falters very badly. The plot just disappears and it's
a rather goofy free for all that just seemed rushed--like the film was
taking too long to complete so they just hastily tossed together a not
especially enjoyable but very goofy finale.
The film begins with the boys actually a success. In most of their films they are out of work and without a penny to their names. Here, they are both lawyers(!) and making a killing in Reno handling divorces. The problems are that their ethics are a tad suspect and the other divorce lawyers are mad because the boys are stealing all their business--and they want revenge.
During this first half of the film, there are two major plots. First, an older man and woman have decided to divorce--much to the consternation of their grown daughters. The couple really do love each other and the daughters are working to reunite them--while Wheeler represents the father and Woolsey represents the mother and the boys both have a vested interest in keeping them apart. The other plot is far from cerebral but is also very, very funny. A crazy guy (Mr. Crosby) has vowed to kill Wheeler because of the divorce that took away the man's wife (Wheeler was the attorney for the wife). So, Wheeler goes in drag to avoid being killed (and for other reasons which aren't worth exploring here) for a very long but well played scene. I've seen him play women in other films but he was amazingly good at playing a woman--even singing like one. It got really funny when Crosby himself fell for her/him!! The way this all ended was also pretty funny--with a great punchline. Sure, it ain't sophisticated but it is pretty good--one of the best drag sequences in comedy history.
So far, so good. But when the feuding couple go to court the plot just falls apart. The judge is one of the very same lawyers who hates Wheeler and Woolsey and he has vowed throughout the film that IF he becomes a judge, he'll never grant any of their clients a divorce and will make their lives miserable. However, when the case comes up, the new judge seems to have completely forgotten this. Then, the trial becomes even crazier and more nonsensical than if the Marx Brothers had done it. While this MIGHT have worked, it did not fit in with the first half of the film and this team just could not pull it off--it just was way outside their range. Plus, the writing really, really sucked (a term I don't often use--but it is appropriate here). It was like the boys were just winging it.
Despite this bad ending, the film still has a lot to recommend it. Funny and different, had the film not crumbled apart late, it would have clearly been one of the team's best.
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