11 user 4 critic

The Duke Is Tops (1938)

Approved | | Musical | 1 September 1938 (USA)
A theatrical producer puts aside his own success to boost the career of a talented singer.


(as William Nolte), (uncredited)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ralph Cooper ...
Ethel Andrews
Laurence Criner ...
Doc Dorando (as Lawrence Criner)
Monte Hawley ...
George Marshall
Willie Covan ...
Specialty Tap Dancer
Neva Peoples ...
Vernon McCalla ...
Mason (as Vernon McCallum)
Edward Thompson ...
Ferdie Fenton
Johnny Taylor ...
Dippy, 'Prince Alakazoo'
Ray Martin ...
Guernsey Morrow ...
Ed. Lake (as Guersney Morrow)
Charles Hawkins ...
Sam, the Stage Manager (as Charlie Hawkins)
Basin Street Boys ...
Rubberneck Holmes ...
Specialty (as Rubber Neck Holmes)
Cats and the Fiddle ...


Duke Davis has invested all his savings to back his sweetheart, Ethel, in a road show over the old T.O.B.A. circuit, on which they have both been performers since childhood. Marshall, a New York talent scout, makes an offer to Ethel as a single and, to induce her to take it, Duke writes a fake check, made out to him, for $5000 pretending he has sold his contract with Ethel to Marshall. Resentful and heartbroken, she accepts and becomes a big hit in New York. Marshall then books her at the swanky Century Club, plans her show himself, and it flops miserably. Meanwhile, Duke has used his last resources to start a new show, but without Ethel it also fails. He joins the Doc Dorando medicine show, and with him as the speiler for the quack elixir sold by Dorando, it is successful. He becomes Doc's partner with an elaborate trailer and a company of entertainers, including Willie Covans, the Basin Street Boys, The Cats and the Fiddle, "Rubberneck" Holmes and Joe Stevenson. Money is rolling in ... Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

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Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1 September 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Bronze Venus  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Shot in ten days. See more »


Killing Jive
Performed by Cats and the Fiddle
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User Reviews

Lena Horne Debut
12 June 2010 | by (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

Duke Is Tops, The (1938)

** (out of 4)

Decent race movie has producer Duke Davis (Ralph Cooper) breaking it off with partner Ethel Andrews (Lena Horne) so that her career will have a chance to take off. He hits the hard times before eventually getting what might be a break by bringing Andrews back to form. If you're familiar with race films then you know they don't feature the style, budgets or talents of those films being released in Hollywood. You also shouldn't go into a Musical like this expecting something like you'd see from MGM. With that out of the way, this is pretty much what you'd expect as we get a straight-forward story without any twists or turns and a predictable ending that you'll see coming from a mile away. There's really nothing overly special here but people will want to check out Horne who made her film debut here. I don't think anyone could watch this and see the talent that would come in future films but at the same time this was her first stab at acting. The screenplay really doesn't do her any justice but she does have that wonderful voice that she gets to show off several times. The songs themselves aren't going to be found on Horne's greatest hits package but they aren't too bad. I thought Cooper was pretty good as well, although, again, the screenplay does his character no justice. While the part wasn't the best written I thought Cooper kept things moving and made his character fun to watch. There's not too much imagination in terms of direction but I'm sure a lot of this could be blamed on the screenplay and the fact that there wouldn't have been much time to shoot this thing. The low budget is very apparent with several dance/musical sequences, which just come off looking very cheap. The numbers aren't overly bad, it's just that they aren't impressive either. Fans of race movies or those wanting to see the 21-year-old Horne might want to check this out but others should stay clear.

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