Sad sack Dustin Willoughby is a true believer in the power of astrology. His adherence to the forecasts of his horoscope has alienated his fiancée and cost him his job at the bank. While working as a lowly bus boy in a nightclub, he catches the attention of some high-stakes gamblers with his ability to forecast race results and establishes himself as an astrologer to high society clients.The high rollers mistakenly confuse his horoscope with that of professional boxer "The Salvador Slayer", and bet the ranch on the unknown Central-American pugilist. After they realize their error, they force Dustin into the ring to try and help save the day. Written by
Because I have read the other reviews and know that this film has recently been shown on Turner Classic Movies, I am more likely to recommend you watch it. That's because the DVD version I saw was absolutely dreadful--thanks to yet another craptastic DVD transfer from Alpha Video. Alpha specializes in public domain and other cheap productions that you sometimes just can't find from other sources--so I am glad the company exists. However, far more often than not, the quality of the prints are absolutely dreadful--with terrible sound and picture...and never any captioning in case you need it because of the sound issues. As usual, this particular film is practically unwatchable because of an annoying whistling sound that persists throughout the film. It's watchable--but just barely.
This film was made after Joe E. Brown made a very fateful decision about his career--one of the worst career moves in film history. After several extremely successful years with Warner Brothers where he was a top movie draw, he decided to sign with Loew Productions--a tiny company with paltry funds--and in some cases, no money to hire writers! Tonight I watched two of these films--mostly out of morbid curiosity to see just how bad these films really are--their reputations are pretty bad.
As for the first one on the DVD, "Riding on Air", it was truly dreadful--unfunny and about as much fun to watch as a migraine. Plus, the print was of even worse quality than "What's Your Birthday?". So, I had very low expectations for the next. Surprisingly, however, "What's Your Birthday" is actually pretty good--better than some of the Warner Brothers films even--but not up to the quality of Brown's best films, like "Alibi Ike". It is certainly enjoyable and worth seeing.
The film begins with an odd little animated sequence. In it, you see the symbols of the zodiac come to life and they dance about and are quite charming. Then, suddenly, this all disappears--it was all a hallucination by Brown---as he'd been knocked out in the boxing ring and imagined all this! While he apparently is a terrible boxer, Brown isn't too upset, as his career goal is to be an astrologer. So, after getting a degree in astrology from some fly-by-night college, he decides to try his hand at it. To his surprise, he finds he has 'the gift'. To the audience's surprise, they learn that he really can predict the future and he becomes a very popular man--especially with mobsters who want to use his talents for their bookmaking operation.
Unfortunately, when it comes time for the big fight, the gamblers misunderstand Brown's reading and bet heavily. When they learn the truth (that their new prospect stinks), they force Brown to fight in the guy's place---against the middle-weight champion! Overall, while this is not packed with laughs, the film is very solid--with much better writing than I expected. While it certainly isn't a great film (and, I dare say, none of Brown's are), it is pleasant and worth seeing. Just be sure to wait for it to come on TCM or see if someone else--ANYONE else makes the DVD!
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