A kind-hearted young man is thrown out of his corrupt home town of West Rome, Oklahoma. He falls asleep and dreams that he is back in the days of olden Rome, where he gets mixed up with court intrigue and a murder plot against the Emperor.
The Goldwyn Girls,
This film has the look and feel of the 1930's Warner Brothers press room comedy/dramas even though it was made by Universal. Probably a lot of that "Warner's atmosphere" comes from Lee Tracy, here playing the same type of role he did over at Warner Brothers during the precode years - the hard-boiled wise-cracking newspaper guy who'll do anything to get a story but always manages to fall for the girl who's at the center of whatever headline he's after.
Here Tracy is Stanley Brown, a reporter who never seems to get a day off. One night he's all dressed up for a hot date when the boss sends him out to follow the 80 year-old Archduke Ferdinand, exiled prince of a small country, who keeps having narrow brushes with death that appear to be assassination attempts. After the Archduke's taxi blows up on the docks right after he boards a ship for Europe, Stanley is instructed by his boss to get on the ship too and find out who wants the Archduke dead and why.
Complicating matters is the fact that Stanley has quite a competition going with another newspaper's reporter, William S. Briggs (Roger Pryor). Briggs is on the trail of the same story. The two are constantly pulling tricks on one another in an attempt to get the big headline. Their dynamic reminds me of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, with Lee Tracy as Bugs Bunny, of course - he always gets the upper hand in the end. Gloria Stuart plays Tracy's love interest in this story as a fellow American he runs into (literally) while in Europe. However, Stuart's character has a big secret that figures prominently into the plot.
Look for a couple of future stars in extremely small roles. First, there is Ward Bond as a dirigible captain whose ship has made an emergency landing in the Arctic at the beginning of the film. Second there is Walter Brennan, almost unrecognizable with a gray beard and mustache - you can only recognize him by his trademark voice. Brennan has a humorous bit as a telephone repairman who just can't seem to fix the only phone in town fast enough to suit Briggs. Earlier in the film Stanley used the phone to call in his story to the newspapers and then ripped it out of the wall to keep Briggs from doing the same.
The story is interesting and well-paced, the jokes punchy, and the romance believable. In summary, I'd highly recommend this hard-to-find little film from the Universal vaults if it ever comes your way.
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