Leonard Maltin writes that this film is horrible. I only agree because the plot is SO politically incorrect. Now I know that we should not apply our political mores to the climate of 1936, but the treatment of Native Americans in this opus is shabby under any circumstance.
Silly Billies is a precursor to Bob Hope's "Paleface" with Woolsey as a "painless" dentist going west and Bert Wheeler as his assistant. This is also Dorothy Lee's last appearance with the boys. Now some say that Wheeler and Whoolsey are dated and that their personas no longer hold up. Wheeler is the ultimate man-child; he plays it well, but people just don't act like that! Woolsey is a bus-and-truck version of Groucho Marx. He's pleasantly funny, but he's not Groucho. Their characters also have a staginess about them which never disappeared. This is surprising because they had a great deal of experience in films. Their pairing was by chance in the stage musical "Rio Rita" and Radio Pictures (RKO) thought it would be a good idea to keep them together as a team. Their individual personas are unique, but they don't really blend as a team. RKO had a habit of creating comedy teams. In the 1940s, they tried the combination of Wally Brown and Alan Carney. Like Bert and Bob, the chemistry is fleeting at best. Dorothy Lee is their best leading lady. She's not much of a singer, her dancing is modest, and she's not convincing as an actress. However, she is just so cute and she does cute things on the screen. She has an intangible charisma that just cannot be described in words. However with all this said, I enjoy Bert and Bob and cherish them as examples of 1920s musical comedy stars.
The comedy moves fast and there is an ersatz Western style musical number which is performed by almost everyone in the cast. There's some good action towards the end of the film. "Silly Billies" is not "Diplomaniacs" or "Hips Hips Hooray", but it is pleasant.
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