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The Day the Bookies Wept (1939)

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A group of taxi drivers pool their money and buy a beer-loving racehorse.



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Title: The Day the Bookies Wept (1939)

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Complete credited cast:
Joe Penner ...
Ernest 'Ernie' Ambrose
Ina Firpo
Richard Lane ...
Ramsey Firpo
Tom Kennedy ...
Pinky Brophy
Thurston Hall ...
Colonel March
Bernadene Hayes ...
Margie, Taxi Rider
Carol Hughes ...
Vinton Hayworth ...
Harry, Rider with Margie (as Jack Arnold)


The taxi drivers of the Colonel Cab Company are tired of losing money at the racetrack. When Ramsey Firpo sees the winnings taken home by one of the horse owners, he convinces the other drivers to chip in some money to buy a horse of their own. Firpo taps fellow driver Ernest Ambrose, his sister Ina's goofy boyfriend, to go to Kentucky to buy the horse and, based on Ambrose's success with pigeons, to become the horse's trainer. Despite Ina's warnings to stay away from horse racing, Ambrose goes to Kentucky and meets Colonel March (a con man) and Patsy (his accomplice, posing as his daughter "Gwendolyn"). Colonel March buys Hiccup, a broken-down nag with an alcohol problem, for twenty bucks and makes sure Ambrose pays five hundred dollars for him the next day at the auction. Firpo and the cab drivers are excited to see Hiccup in action (chasing a beer truck down the streets of New York), but Hiccup's performance on the racetrack is disappointing. That is, until Ina overhears Colonel ... Written by Jimmy L.

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Release Date:

15 September 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Na Reta de Chegada  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Ramsey Firpo: Life is like a glass of tea.
Pinky Brophy: Whaddya mean by that?
Ramsey Firpo: How do I know, am I a philosopher?
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User Reviews

Wanna buy a dead duck?
26 August 2003 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

Joe Penner was an extremely untalented and physically unappetising man who starred in a few low-budget comedies. Basically, Joe Penner was Lou Costello without the sex appeal. (Or Frankie Howerd with less effeminacy.) If Penner is now remembered at all, it's only because he was the source of a catchphrase that continues to resurface: 'Wanna buy a duck?' This was Joe Penner's most significant contribution to comedy, but even this was only down to a process of elimination.

The Hungarian-born Penner started out in American burlesque as a baggy-pants stooge, but he failed to get any laughs. He developed the gimmick of walking out on stage carrying a random prop, and interrupting the straight man to ask him: 'Wanna buy a (whatever object Penner was carrying)?' Time after time, this business got no laughs. Eventually, Penner came out onstage clutching a wooden hunting decoy, and he asked the straight man: 'Wanna buy a duck?' This got a huge laugh, and a star was born ... very briefly. Penner parlayed that one gag question into a brief career as a radio and film comedian. On the radio, Penner developed one other catchphrase that was briefly popular: 'You nassssssty man!' Penner merits a footnote in animation history, as his vocal schtick was the inspiration for Warner Brothers' early cartoon character Egghead, who eventually evolved into Elmer Fudd

Joe Penner's best film was 'The Boys from Syracuse', in which he played a dual role via trick photography. But the merits of that film are largely due to the Rodgers and Hart score and several other cast members, not Penner.

'The Day the Bookies Wept' (great title, lousy film) is more typical of Penner's output. This story is an attempt at imitating Damon Runyon's distinctive universe of gamblers and wise guys, but it's far below Runyon's standard. A fleet of cab drivers have decided to pool their savings and invest in a racehorse. But the nag they end up with is named Hiccough, out of Bourbon, by Distillery. (That's the funniest gag in the picture.) It turns out that Hiccough always runs dead last, at least when he's sober. Ah, but when Hiccough drinks beer ... he becomes the fastest thing on four legs!

Penner plays a pigeon-breeder who implausibly (and ineptly) gets hired as the horse's trainer. He decides to run Hiccough as a long shot and then get the horse drunk so he'll win at long odds. Movies about animal abuse are very seldom funny. (And I know for a fact that horses will strenuously refuse alcohol.) The best and funniest performance in this film is given by veteran comic actor Tom Kennedy. Thurston Hall is welcome, as a blowhard named Colonel March (no relation to Boris Karloff's one-eyed detective of that name). I'll rate this movie 3 points out of 10, mostly because I'm a sucker for 1930s movies full of character actors with Brooklyn accents.

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