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"Earthworm Tractors" is a very good 30's-style comedy, with pleasantly silly
main characters and a story designed to set up some good comic sequences.
It's the kind of movie that can easily come out badly if not done with some
skill, but this one is done nicely and it works.
Joe E. Brown plays Alexander Botts, a self-described born salesman and master mechanic, whose real talent is for getting in over his head. His attempts to make a big sale of tractors to grumpy, old-fashioned lumberman Johnson (Guy Kibbee) lead him into one disaster after another. Much of it is stock humor, but it is pleasantly done, and there are some particularly funny sequences of the tractor rampaging out of control. Kibbee and Brown are both good, giving deliberately exaggerated performances that work well. It's mostly a two-man show, but the rest of the cast does well when called on.
Anyone who likes comedies of the era should enjoy this film. It's very pleasant, and at times is hilarious.
Takes a while to get moving but really gathers steam. Employs one of the
most sure-fire comedy recipes: take a gung-ho dimwit and pair him with a
grumpy old coot and you're just about guaranteed to get laughs. I wasn't
really familiar with Joe E. Brown's work before this movie and had generally
avoided films from the 30's (for no good reason) but consider me a fan. He's
a funny guy, though perhaps it's a brand of humor that works best in the
1930's. His "natural born salesman" Alexander Botts never loses confidence
in his abilities despite the fact that he is quite frankly, a total
screw-up. What is somewhat unique about his comic persona is that he
gleefully, recklessly puts himself in situations where he is in way over his
head and knows it, but doesn't seem to care. One way or another, he's sure
he will always land on his feet. This sort of attitude must have had
enormous appeal in the Depression era.
Maybe a little too broad and "cute" at times, it is also quite inspired at others. It has a carefree loopiness that's very endearing and some rather elaborate stunts and sight gags. The whole thing is really just a fun loving excuse to get Brown and Guy Kibbee (who is a master at the art of bloated befuddlement) together and watch the sparks fly.
Joe E. Brown was the star of some of these short films produced by
Warner Bros. Mr. Brown was an excellent comedy actor, as can be
appreciated in "Earthworm Tractors". The film relies on its star to be
the center of the action in this funny movie that shows Mr. Brown's
talents under the direction of Ray Enright.
The film has some amazing sequences that makes the viewer wonder how were they executed because in those days the special effects technology wasn't that much developed. The first one involves Alexander Botts (Joe E. Brown) give the prospective client, Sam Johnson (Guy Kibbee) a demonstration and we watch the tractor practically destroy everything in sight! The second one is at the end of the film and again, Alexander takes the scared Mr. Johnson to a place where dynamite is being used to clear the area and we watch in disbelief how Botts make it through a suspended bridge that keeps shedding its base as he goes up, an amazing feat for 1936.
Joe E. Brown gives an incredible performance. The supporting cast, June Travis, Guy Kibbee, Charles Wilson, Carol Hughes and Dick Foran, among others, are also good.
Catch it whenever is shown on cable. It's always a pleasure to see Joe E. Brown on the screen.
Alexander C. Botts - a natural born salesman - tries to
EARTHWORM TRACTORS to a most unwilling businessman.
Based on William Hazlett Upson's short stories for the Saturday Evening Post, this very funny, fast-paced film is an excellent vehicle for Joe E. Brown. His great rubbery face registering amusement, determination or frustration, Brown propels himself from one slapstick situation to another. His goofy antics - moving his girlfriend's house without her permission is just one of them - are genuinely hilarious.
Human pepper pot Guy Kibbee is Brown's perfect foil. Eyes bulging & voice booming, he inevitably finds himself involved in Brown's more dangerous schemes. At one point, words utterly failing him, he discovers his only possible response to Brown's incredible behavior is a quick sock on the jaw.
Mention should be made of laconic Olin Howlin, shoe polish guzzling Gene Lockhart & telephone operator Rosalind Marquis, each of whom add bright moments to the film.
Alert movie mavens will spot two humorous goofs early in the film: 1) In the first scene, when rival Dick Foran parks his car in front of pretty Carol Hughes' home, the cameraman & camera are perfectly reflected in the convertible's driver side window; 2) A little later on, Joe E. Brown's white suit is mad-splattered when he tries to extricate lovely June Travis' auto from a puddle - but when he jumps in with her moments later the fabric has miraculously laundered itself.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before comedian Jim Carrey came along with to tickle us with his
elastic-faced antics, there was Joe E. Brown. This hilarious 1936
vehicle "Earthworm Tractors" shows Brown in top comic form as Alexander
Botts, a boastful character in the stories of author William Hazlett
Upson, who touts himself as 'a natural born salesman and master
mechanic.' Born in 1891, William Hazlett Upson worked as a service
mechanic and trouble-shooter for Holt Caterpillar Tractor Company. In
1923, Upson started writing short stories. In 1927, the nationally
published general interest magazine "Saturday Evening Post" published
his first yarn about caterpillar tractor salesman Alexander Botts.
Upson wrote his stories in the form of letters and memos between Botts
and his boss. Alexander Botts wants to marry pretty Sally Blair (Carol
Hughes of "D.O.A."), but he faces stiff competition from
broad-shouldered Emmet McManus (brawny Dick Foran of "The Petrified
Desert") who drives a nice car. Botts demonstrates the latest product
that he sells. This gadget is a pipe that you blow into that sends a
little cork up a string and attaches itself to a hook. Grandiosely, he
describes this contraption as "a little novelty that opens the pores,
clears the eyes, takes the mind off business worries, and last but not
least brings laughter back into the life of the working man."
Predictably, Sally's father (Olin Howland of "The Paleface") is appalled and contemptuously calls him a 'peddler.' Emmet laughs uproariously, too. Sally refuses to wed a salesman who sells frivolous items. Together, they scan the pages of a magazine to find something 'big, important, and worthwhile' for him to push, and Botts settles eventually on selling bulldozers for the Earthworm Caterpillar Company. He hopes that Sally will delay any trips to the altar until he can prove that he can sell these bulldozers.
Back in his hotel room, equipped with a phone, Botts types out a letter to the Earthworm Tractor Company and the boss, H.J. Russell (Charles Wilson of "The Mayor of Hell") likes the letter. "It shows the kind of nerve it takes to make sales," proclaims Russell and he sends George Healey (Gene Lockhart of "Northern Pursuit") t0 meet him in Cypress City, Mississippi, to demonstrate the Earthworm Tractor. When Healey meets Botts, he suspects that Botts isn't everything that he has stacked himself up to be as a mechanic. Healey only wants him to demonstrate the Earthworm to a Mr. Jackson, but he guzzles a bottle of what appears to be whiskey but turns out to be shoe polish and winds up sick. Cheerfully, Botts takes his place to make the sale. Healey has told him to look up a Mr. Jackson, but of course, Botts gets Jackson mixed up with Johnson and heads off to sell Johnson. In town, Botts helps a damsel-in-distress, Mabel Johnson (June Travis of "Circus Girl"), who has gotten her convertible sedan stuck in the mud. Botts wraps a rope around her bumper, around a nearby light pole and ties it off to a taxi. The results are hysterical. The back end of the cab is pulled off. The light pole crashes through the glass doors at the bank, but Mabel's car is freed from the mud. Botts tells one and all that the Earthworm Tractor Company will pay for all the damages.
Mabel gives Botts a lift to see her father, cantankerous Sam Johnson (the irrepressible Guy Kibbee of "Babbitt"), who suffers from a hearing loss problem and constantly reprimands his one employee for watching the clock. Johnson hates all things automotive, because he brought a truck and got it stuck in a swamp where it's still sets. Botts comes up with a stratagem to entice Johnson to buy his tractor when he offers to pull Johnson's truck out of the bog with an Earthworm tractor. Johnson and Botts ride to the railway depot in Johnson's horse and wagon. Botts and he climb aboard the Earthworm and Bottswho has never driven a bulldozerpromptly demolishes everything in sight at the depot and then takes the Earthworm down to the swamp. Again, he destroys Johnson's truck. However, in the process of all the mayhem, Botts convinces Mr. Jacksonthe man that he was supposed to seeinto buying six Earthworms. Before news of the sale reaches Russell, Russell has fired Healey and Botts, but he rehires Botts.
This is only the first half of this wonderfully funny movie. Ray Enright never wastes a moment. When Joe E. Brown doesn't have you in stitches, then Guy Kibbee has you laughing until you want to burst.
A classic comedy!
The world premier of this movie was held in Peoria Illinois in 1936. Peoria is the home of Caterpillar tractor company on which the Earthworm tractor was loosely based. The movie referred to Peoria being the base for Earthworm Tractor Co. Joe E. Brown attended the premier and the street in front of the Madison theater was packed. It was also one of the hottest nights of the season.
This is a very pleasant and enjoyable comedy, with a lot of clever
laughs. Perfect for one of those Saturday or Sunday afternoons when you
just want to disconnect, and indulge in a little pointless old-time
Joe E. Brown is a self-proclaimed Natural Born Salesman (it even says so on his business card), whose confidence greatly outweighs his actual sales abilities. He's the type of salesman who bumbles into jam after jam, says and does exactly the wrong things, and yet somehow stumbles into making a sale in the end.
And Guy Kibbee is his perfect foil, as the blustery, old fashioned owner of a company that needs the new-fangled Earthworm Tractors that Brown sells, in order to survive. But the irritable Kibbee loudly rejects Brown's wild sales pitches throughout the film, which just drives the stubborn and determined Brown to make even wilder pitches, in an effort to sell him the tractors. Blustery windbags were Kibbee's sweet spot as an actor,and he and Brown make a great comedy team in this film. If they had stuck together through a series of movies, they might have achieved Laurel-and-Hardy legendary status. The one small criticism that I have of this film is that the two of them don't get enough screen time together.
This is a movie made with directors and writers who knew what they were doing, and stars who were hitting their stride. I watched this film alone one afternoon, and laughed out loud at several points, which is truly the mark of a great comedy.
Or perhaps a crazy person.
No. Great comedy. Try it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Alexander Botts thinks he can sell anything, even the awful title of
this movie. But don't let that fool you. This is actually an enjoyable
"B" comedy with Joe E. Brown playing an overly bombastic young man,
determined to make good as a tractor salesman. Earthworm Tractors is
actually the name of the company, its rival company named Elephant
Desperate to sell a tractor to cantankerous lumber field owner Guy Kibbee and win the love of his pretty daughter (June Travis), Brown demonstrates it, causing nothing but trouble, at one point moving Kibbee and Travis cross town in their house, attached to the one of the tractors, while Kibbee believes they are going through an earthquake. The film ends with a dangerous comedy sequence of the tractor moving across a rickety bridge as explosions rock the mountains around him and Kibbee.
Character actor Gene Lockhart plays a salesman who keeps accidentally drinking shoe polish, thinking its scotch, while Carol Hughes plays another one of Brown's love interests with Olin Howland as her father who thinks Brown is a total wastrel.
This fast moving programmer is filled with lots of sight gags galore. Brown is endearing and sweet in spite of his character's excessive enthusiasm and braggart persona. Seemingly a set-up for a potential for a potential series for Brown (it was based upon a series of magazine short stories), it came at the end of his Warner Brothers contract and did not continue.
This exceptionally noisy comedy is an absolute must for all Joe E.
Brown and mechanical tractor fans. Others may find Mr Brown's
determined camera-hogging heavy going, though it must be admitted that
all the other major male players (with the notable exception of Dick
Foran) try to steal scenes too by constantly shouting at the top of
Although June Travis is pretty enough, the girls get hardly a look-in.
Of course there are also several spectacularly staged accidents to keep our eyes riveted on Mr Brown. And it must be admitted, director Enright keeps the plot moving along at a commendably rapid pace.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Joe E. Brown, best remembered as the guy who gets the last laugh in
"Some Like it Hot" had a whole slew of movies where he was the star.
This is the first I've seen, and while he is likable enough, this movie
ain't that good.
He and just about everyone else in the film talks very loud all the time, and because it involves tractors, there is often the loud roar of tractors with people shouting over them. Add to this that one of the movie's recurring gags revolves around a guy who cannot hear very well, and you can see why you may end up with a headache after this.
Strong points: Crazy tractor chase through explosives at the end. Why do the people keep blasting at them with dynamite? God knows, but the scene of the tractor on the rickety bridge is quite hair-raising.
Funny bit of detail (spoiler) that the guy who beats our hero for the hand of one girl turns out to be a freeloader.
When our hero calls every person named Johnson in Chicago in an effort to find his love.
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