The Bumsteads are heading to the mountains for a summer vacation. Departing the train they learn that the gent they had trouble with on the trip, and they seek out another hotel. The one they find is owned by an elderly couple and is on the verge of bankruptcy. The Bumsteads decide to help save the old Mom-and-Pop homestead for Mom and Pop. It doesn't take long for them to begin wondering whether Dagwood is for them or against them. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
BLONDIE TAKES A VACATION (Columbia, 1939), the third installment to Chic Young's comic strip characters of the Bumstead family, is a continuation from BLONDIE MEETS THE BOSS which concluded with Mr. Dithers (Jonathan Hale), Dagwood's boss, granting the Bumstead family their long awaited vacation.
In this venture, as usual, nothing seems to go right. As they prepare themselves to leave on their vacation, Blondie (Penny Singleton) becomes upset over Dagwood's (Arthur Lake) frightened reaction towards her new hat. Then, on the train bound for Lake Kanoby, Blondie is reading "Old Mother Hubbard" to her son, Baby Dumpling (Larry Simms),while their dog Daisy, hidden away between the luggage, barks whenever she hears the word "Bone." This starts to annoy an irritable passenger (Donald MacBride) sitting close by, to the point of reporting the situation to the conductor, who places Daisy in the baggage car, causing Baby Dumpling to address this mean man as "The Big Bad Wolf." Also on board the train is Jonathan N. Gillis (Donald Meek) a kindly old gentleman who takes an immediate liking to the Bumsteads. Upon their arrival at the Lake Hotel, Blondie and Dagwood are refused accommodations from the manager, who turns out to be Harvey Morton, the "big bad wolf" on the train. They then head on over to the Westview Inn, located on the other side of the lake, owned by Matthew and Emily Dickerson (Thomas W. Ross and Elizabeth Dunne), an elderly couple in financial straits, thanks to Morton's scheme in phasing them out and taking over their establishment. Instead of enjoying their time away from home, the Bumsteads find themselves helping the Dickersons, with Dagwood acting as manager; Blondie the host-es; Baby Dumpling doing what he does at home, the dishes; and Daisy dreaming of being back home.
Funny and sentimental with a touch of suspense, particularly towards the end as the abandoned Lake Inn catches fire, with Baby Dumpling and Daisy trapped inside one of the rooms, making this one hot item in the series. BLONDIE TAKES A VACATION leaves a good feeling in having a young married couple taking the time to help an elderly couple in need. While Donald MacBride is the villain here, his initial encounter with the Bumsteads isn't properly developed. First seen on the train with his foot resting on Dagwood's hat on the floor, and apologizing for his error, Blondie becomes the instigator, stirring up the passenger by insulting him, leading to rivalry between the two. Had his Harvey Morton character shown no remorse instead of apologizing, Blondie's anger towards this man would have been understandable. Morton may have no right in turning away paying guests like the Bumsteads, however, if this didn't happen, the Dickersons wouldn't have had the help they needed to survive. Donald Meek plays a likable character who turns out to be an arsonist, a secret known only by his nephew, John Larkin (Robert Wilcox), who later suspects his uncle for starting the Lake Inn blaze, while Morton accuses Dagwood and having the sheriff (Arthur Aylesworth) placing him under arrest. However, unknown to everyone, there happens to be a sole witness who knows how the fire started.
Series regulars as Danny Mummert as Alvin Fuddow and Irving Bacon as the neighborhood postman (who gets knocked down by the entire family as they rush from the house to the taxi), are seen briefly during the film's opening. (It's funny that the Bumsteads didn't bother to close their front door after departing). The story then breaks away from routine domestic affairs after shifting to the train and hotel.
Another quieter entry in the series with some amusing moments worth mentioning: Dagwood's attempt in fixing a vacuum cleaner, to put on the switch and having it float into the air as the dust bag fills up like a balloon; Daisy wiping the dishes dry with a dish rag towel attached to her tail; and Baby Dumpling's encounter with a skunk as it runs into the air conditioning system of "the big bad wolf's" hotel, with the smell causing peddles to drop from the flowers and the vocalist (Christine McIntyre) of the dining room getting all choked up while attempting to sing "Love in Bloom," followed by the hotel guests making an immediate exit in droves. Pew!
Distributed on commercial television in the 1970s, and years later on video cassette and DVDs, with sing-along introduction and King Features trademark conclusion, the original theatrical introduction, featuring Columbia logo and drawings of comic strip characters superimposed to the actors portraying them, has been restored as presented on American Movie Classics from 1996 to 2001. What's more in store with the Bumsteads? Find out with its next installment, "Blondie Brings Up Baby." (**1/2)
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