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Professor Wong has invented a television machine and invites everyone to see it at China's International House Hotel. Every time Tommy Nash attempts to wed his fiancée Carol Fortescue he comes down with an illness, and when he breaks out in a rash the hotel is quarantined. Into this hotel flies Professor Quail in his auto-gyro. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
W. C. Fields and an all-star cast triumph (albeit barely) over a dated attempt at kitchen-sink comedy that might be described as "Grand Hotel" meets "Saturday Night Live" if the latter went to air in the early days of the Roosevelt Administration.
I enjoyed it, anyway.
In Wuhu, China, an inventor of something called radioscope, not exactly television but rather a video medium that "needs no broadcast station, and no carrier waves" puts his device up for auction. His desired buyer is something called the American Electric Company, but alas, the American agent for same, Tommy Nash (nominal lead actor Stuart Erwin) struggles to get his would-be wife to accept the fact he's not really there to win the hand of celebrated man-killer Peggy Hopkins Joyce, playing herself.
All this of course falls by the boards when Professor Quail (W. C. Fields) arrives via an autogyro dubbed "The Spirit Of Brooklyn."
"What is Wuhu doing where Kansas City ought to be?" Quail demands.
"Maybe you're lost," somebody suggests.
"Kansas City is lost!" the professor replies. "I am here!"
And so he is. Fields' arrival kick-starts the anarchic film into a more enjoyable gear.
Not a great film. But at times a good one, funny if dated. The cast includes Franklin Pangborn as the frustrated hotel manager, George Burns as the hotel doctor, and Gracie Allen as his dopey nurse, whose brother fell off an ironing board because he forgot to take his pants off before pressing them.
"I've got a good mind to get a different nurse," Burns exclaims.
"Oh, no, no," Pangborn replies. "This one is different enough."
Joyce, a real-life gossip-page celebrity starring here in her only movie, is often mentioned as the big detraction in this movie. But she's actually pretty good, whether flirting with Erwin or discovering herself accidentally in bed with a bumptious Fields. She shows more comedy chops in her reaction shots then you expect from a novice.
Also fun in an unconventional role is the one and only Bela Lugosi, here Joyce's ex-husband who wants both the woman and the invention, and pledges vengeance against "that loose-living American jackal" she seems to fancy. Lugosi knows how to deliver menace, but here he does with some surprisingly enjoyable comedic turns, like struggling to open a window so he can shoot Fields with his mangled revolver.
The radioscope is used here as a device to introduce some musical variety bits that bkoganbing says in another review here was based on the Big Broadcast films that Paramount Studios was producing at the time. I think it was also inspired by "Elstree Calling," a British film for which Alfred Hitchcock directed interstitial segments that also used the invention of television as an excuse for serving up a variety- show type film.
Director A. Edmund Sutherland and his team of writers find room for songs by Rudy Vallee, Cab Calloway, and kiddie singer Rose Marie (later of "The Dick Van Dyke Show"), all of which add something to the general merriment even as they also water down the weak plot. Nothing in this film lasts more than a few minutes, because nothing can sustain our interest longer.
Ultimately, what you get here, after a half-hour intro, is one of Fields' better comedy showcases before he got too drunk for Paramount and moved on to Universal to make his finest comedies. If the test of a great comic is getting solid laughs with second-rate material, Fields nails it here.
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