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Edward F. Cline
A small country on the verge of bankruptcy is persuaded to enter the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics as a means of raising money. Either a masterpiece of absurdity or a triumph of satire, depending on your mood, but it's quite possibly the funniest movie ever made, and becomes even funnier with subsequent viewings. Written by
MILLION DOLLAR LEGS (Paramount, 1932), directed by Edward Cline, may have a a backstage musical sounding title to it revolving around sexy-legged chorus girls, but is actually a surreal comedy with all the elements of a slapstick silent Mack Sennett comedy, minus the Keystone Kops and bathing beauties. Consisting of several silent screen comedians of the past, namely Andy Clyde and Ben Turpin (hilarious as crossed-eyed spy), the real stars are Jack Oakie and Susan Fleming, though the movie itself is remembered for the performances of second billed W.C. Fields as the President (not of the United States), and fourth billed Lyda Roberti, as the sexy spy known all over as "the woman no man can resist." MILLION DOLLAR LEGS, pertaining to Andy Clyde's character with the ability to run miles within a few minutes, is mostly an ingredient type of oddball comedy Paramount produced in the 1930s, a plot less story where nothing makes sense though laughs are plentiful right down to the silliest situations. An easy blend of farce and satire predating "Monty Python's Flying Circus" of the 1970s, set in a fictional location, Klopstokia, a locale from the creative mind of Charlie Chaplin, though written by Joseph Mankiewicz, with plot and a "Migg Tweeny" sounding name more like something from of W.C. Fields himself. Even if Fields didn't contribute in the screenplay as he did in his later works, he does retain his familiar character throughout, from some of his classic routines down to a "hearty handclasp."
Forward: "Klopstokia - A Far Away Country; 'Chief Exports - goats and nuts; Chief Imports, goats and nuts; Chief inhabitants, goats and nuts." Klopstokia, population 81,006, a mythological country somewhere on this planet where all the girls are named "Angela" and the men called "George." Enter Mr. Baldwin (George Barbier), manufacturer of Baldwin Brushes, and Migg Tweeny (Jack Oakie), his top salesman whose specialty is selling brushes that brush. On his way to the shipping dock, Migg meets and immediately falls in love with a girl named Angela (Susan Fleming), whose little brother, Willie (Dickie Moore) enjoys shooting arrows at his intended victims, believing all Americans are Indians, and father (W.C. Fields), the the president of Klopstokia. Klopstokia is bankrupt and in desperate need of $8 million. Because every citizen is athletically superhuman, with the president weight lifting ton-heavy objects and using one of his staff members as a human weight lift, Tweeney saves the day by having Klopstokians participate in the Olympics in Los Angeles. All 's well until Mata Machree (Lyda Roberti), a seductress spy, is hired by the president's trusted Secretary of State (Hugh Herbert) wanting to take control of Klopstokia, in order to keep the the Klopstokian team from winning.
Often compared with the Marx Brothers 1933 comedy-satire, DUCK SOUP (Paramount), MILLION DOLLAR LEGS doesn't have any landmark songs as "Hail to Klopstokia" in place of "Hail to Freedonia," but it does consist of tunes as "When I Get Hot" (sung by Lyda Roberti); and "One Hour With You" lifted from a 1932 Maurice Chevalier musical retitled "Wolf-Boogle-Jig" subtitled a Klopstokian love song (sung by Jack Oakie); and "Good Night." Members of the President's cabinet include Billy Gilbert (the sneezing Secretary of the Interior); Teddy Hart (Secretary of War); Irving Bacon (Secretary of the Navy); and Vernon Dent (Secretary of Agriculture). Hugh Herbert, noted for his eccentric millionaire caricatures and catch phrase, "woo-woo" during his years at Warner Brothers, interestingly plays a serious character whose specialty here is overpowering his opponents with arm wrestling. Susan Fleming, Oakie's love interest, who at times resembles Ruby Keeler, tap dancing performer of 1930s musicals for Warner Brothers, never achieved major stardom, yet is known basically as the wife of comedian Harpo Marx.
In spite that MILLION DOLLAR LEGS is a very funny 62 minute movie, it's rarely revived these days. It's reputation and popularity grew, however, through frequent television revivals in the 1970s and early 1980s. The title can often be conflicted with another MILLION DOLLAR LEGS(Paramount, 1939) movie, a college drama starring non-other than future 20th-Century-Fox star, Betty Grable, whose trademark were her "million dollar legs," but not as noteworthy as this 1932 antique.
Distributed on video cassette in 1998 as part of the WC Fields collection, MILLION DOLLAR LEGS only known contribution on cable TV was on Turner Classic Movies in June 4, 2001, as part of it's "Star of the Month" tribute to W.C. Fields. A wild and crazy comedy, MILLION DOLLAR LEGS is something that needs to be seen to be believed. Wolf Boogle Jig. (***)
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