Aboard the freighter Glencairn, the lives of the crew are lived out in fear, loneliness, suspicion and cameraderie. The men smuggle drink and women aboard, fight with each other, spy on ... See full summary »
Dr. John Pearly is an affable, turn-of-the-century con man who sells a patent medicine whose primary ingredient is whiskey. He resurrects a broken down steamboat with a makeshift crew and challenges the respectable but arrogant Captain Eli to a winner-take-all river race. Pearly hopes his nephew Duke will serve as pilot, but the young man stands accused of murdering a 'swamp rat' who threatened the honor of 'swamp girl' Fleety Belle. After Duke is arrested, Pearly tries to raise money for a lawyer by charging admission to a wax museum aboard his ship. Ultimately he gambles it all in the river race to Baton Rouge, where he hopes to find a witness whose testimony will free Duke. Written by
It's funny to think that when this film was made, it was about a time in the early 1890's, only 35 years earlier than it's production. Now we are looking back almost 75 years at the film itself. I expected a light wacky comedy, but there is definitely a well-rounded plot here revolving around murder in self-defense. Will Rogers gives a very skilled and sympathetic performance, but some of the more hilarious gags in this are gifts from the writers.
The sheriff/preacher's wedding speech goes right up there with Donald Sutherland's in "Little Murders" for sheer comic value.
A great throwaway gag involves the search for the New Moses, when they accidentally run into the New Elijah instead!
Steppin Fetchit, while no great symbol for African Americans, actually plays against his lazy type in this, and his hard work and quick thinking actually save the day on a couple occasions.
A great (and uncommon) saw-playing musical interlude!
To me, the only major weakness was Ms. Shirley as the ingenue. She was quite likable, but did not seem to have lived as hard as her character was supposed to have.
All told, a winner of a film for fans of the 1930's view of the 1890's.
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