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A timid man (Ed Wynn) is thrust into the spotlight when his father is honored as a hero. He blunders into a series of adventures because of a woman (Dorothy Mackaill) and becomes a hero himself. Although two political parties try to use him for their benefit, he unwittingly foils all their plans. This is based on Wynn's famous radio character, and the film ends with Wynn on his own radio show. Written by
Ed Wynn basically recreated his popular radio character "The Fire Chief" in this movie. The original opening of the movie had Wynn describing a three-act opera on his radio show, but that sequence was cut from the final release print. But the ending, in which he describes on his radio show the fate of the characters in the opera, is in the movie. See more »
The frantic energy of Ed Wynn which went over so well on radio and in vaudeville for some reason did not come over well on the big screen. His son Keenan Wynn would achieve film success as a character actor before his old man did. It would be over 20 years more Ed Wynn would be seen live on film.
What he needed most was decent direction by a director who was versed in comedy who could have dialed down his perfect fool character to make it work. He did not get that in The Chief, his fire engine was going pedal to the metal.
For those who do not know the reason Ed Wynn was cast as the fire chief or in this case son of the fire chief was his well known radio persona. Wynn was for decades on radio sponsored by Texaco and he was known as the Texaco fire chief on the air. Like here on film, for his studio audiences Wynn would come out in a fire chief's hat and tell a lot of awful jokes in rapid succession like he was running to a fire. The jokes were bad, but the delivery was hilarious.
In this film Wynn is the son of a late fire chief on the Bowery back at the turn of the last century. A pair of political rivals try to use him for political purposes when they run and/or oppose his candidacy for alderman. God has a special providence for fools and the perfect fool comes out on top.
Walt Disney utilized him best. He was the voice of The Mad Hatter in his animated Alice In Wonderland film in 1950 and that was perfect casting. Later on if you want to see him with good direction in a live film, try watching his last film, The Gnomemobile. And he was quite the good dramatic actor in his last years, see him in Marjorie Morningstar and his Oscar nominated performance in The Diary Of Anne Frank.
But The Chief is strictly for Wynn's legion of fans and nostalgia lovers.
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