Hot on the trail of a missing heiress, ace New York reporter Duke Lester outwits his rival, Christine Nelson, and causes her to lose her job. Christine strikes back by butting in on his "Pulse of the Public" radio broadcast and, inspired by the program, persuades a competing newspaper to sponsor a "Newsreel of the Air" with herself as the star reporter and commentator. She is an instant hit, and gets the idea of presenting the world-famous "Wyatt" quintuplets and takes off for Moosetown, Canada, where she finds Duke has plotted to have her arrest on a false charge so he can sign up the quints himself. She convinces Sherigg Ogden and the girls' father of her sincerity just in time to prevent Duke from getting the contract. Her radio broadcast is a triumph, with the quints singing, dancing and making music. Later, she takes to five girls to New York City to make a personal appearance for the benefit of a orphan's home. But Duke pulls another ruse which puts the citizens of Moosetown up ... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Contrary to popular belief, and despite obvious similarities, the Dionne Quintuplets do not play "themselves" in this film, but the fictional "Wyatt Quintuplets;" Jean Hersholt does not play Dr. Dafoe, but the fictional Dr. John Luke. See more »
Today's movie fans used to media exploitation of any topical curiosity may find "Five of a Kind" boring, but audiences of 1938 eagerly devoured any current sensation such as the first recorded birth of quintuplets who survived infancy. I recall a calendar on the wall at my grandmother's house that featured the Dionne quintuplets posing after they had reached adulthood. Much has been written about the inhuman exhibition of the quintuplets as if they were freaks or circus animals. Even their own mother had to stand in line and pay to see them, although after lengthy court battles she eventually received custody of them. The Ontarian government reached a settlement with the surviving quintuplets in 1998. The 1994 TV movie, "Million Dollar Babies," is recommended for those interested in learning more about the Dionne quintuplets. Two of the quintuplets, Annette and Cecile, are still alive.
"Five of a Kind" is one of four Hollywood movies released to capitalize on the Dionne quintuplets frenzy. The film is done in a light manner which helps when the oh-too-cute Dionne Quintuplets are before the camera performing as if they were spoiled and well adjusted to the media blitz.
The story centers on the rivalry between roving reporter Christine Nelson (Claire Trevor) and radio reporter Duke Lester (Cesar Romero). In typical Hollywood fashion the two reporters find themselves attracted to each other romantically but their competitiveness interferes with their libidos.
"Five of a Kind" is not unlike hundreds of such movies churned out in the 1930's, many of them starring the likes of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Yet the two leads, Claire Trevor and Cesar Romero, purport themselves well and prove to be a good match in comedic sparring. A bevy of character actors including Jane Darwell, Slim Summerville, and John Qualen add to the enjoyment with Jean Hersholt giving a believable performance as Dr. Dafoe, the man in charge of the Quintuplets and accused now by many as being the chief instigator of the exploitation of the girls.
Following another story, Christine Nelson, stumbles on to the Dionne quintuplets by accident. Unfortunately for her, rival reporter Duke Lester is also on the scene. This leads to a cat and mouse game between the two with Lester sabotaging the efforts of Nelson to become a famous on-the-spot radio personality, an idea that she actually steals from him fueling his determination to undermine her fledgling career. Toward the end, the film takes a remarkably satirical turn spotlighting the travesty of the entire quintuplet game when Lester concocts a sextuplet scam to topple Nelson from her popularity peak.
An added treat is the watching of a newsreel presented by Fox Movietone News, with legendary broadcaster Lowell Thomas narrating, by an audience coming to see the Dionne quintuplets at the movies. A later take of the Dionne quintuplets being viewed on the big screen via television makes it even more apparent that TV would have been with us much sooner had World War II not intervened.
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