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Jim "Lucky" Moore (Allan Jones), an insurance salesman, comes up with a novel policy for his friend, Steve (Robert Cummings): a 'love insurance policy', that will pay out $1-million if Steve does not marry his fiancée, Cynthia (Nancy Kelly). The upcoming marriage is jeopardized by Steve's ex-girlfriend, Mickey (Peggy Moran), and Cynthia's disapproving Aunt Kitty. The policy is underwritten by a nightclub owner, Roscoe (William Frawley), who sends two enforcers - Abbott and Costello - to ensure that the wedding occurs as planned. Everyone involved in the situation winds up sailing or flying to San Marcos (a fictional South American country), where another complication arises, when Lucky falls for Cynthia. Lucky winds up marrying Cynthia, but Roscoe does not have to pay the $1-million because Steve ends up marrying Mickey. Written by
ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS (Universal, 1940), directed by A. Edward Sutherland, which began production under the title of "Caribbean Holiday," is a lively, but at times silly musical comedy starring Allan Jones as Jim "Lucky" Moore, an insurance salesman who comes up with the idea of selling his friend, Steve (Robert Cummings) a love insurance policy, because if his fiancée, Cynthia (Nancy Kelly) won't marry Steve, he stands to collect. Jim has Roscoe (William Frawley), a night club owner, finance the policy. However, complications occur when Lucky finds himself falling in love with Cynthia. Not wanting to pay off the policy, Roscoe hires his stooges, Abbott and Costello, to make sure Steve does marry Cynthia. Complications soon follow after boarding an ocean liner to San Marcos, South America.
In spite the fact that the story is centered mostly on Jones and Cummings, with Kelly and Peggy Moran as the girls in the picture, ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS is remembered, if at all, as the feature debut of comedy team Bud Abbott and Lou ("I'm a baaad boy!") Costello, in a rare case in which they act in the story using their own names. Bud and Lou introduce to the screen some of their most famous vaudeville routines, including the abbreviated version of "Who's on First." While Abbott and Costello are known for repeating many of their routines in other films and later TV shows, one in particular, the "Dollar a Day" routine, is presented here for the only time, and it's really funny. It focuses on the fired Costello demanding from Abbott his dollar a day pay of 365 days work, and Abbott making his deductions one at a time, thus, giving his partner the amount pay he's entitled to, which turns out to be only a buck. Aside from the merry mix-up plot and Abbott and Costello, there are songs composed by Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields and Oscar Hammerstein including "Remind Me," "Simple Philosophy," "Only You and Your Kiss," "I'm Crawling Back in My Shell," "Your Dream" and "The Parandola."
For years, ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS was presented on local TV which eliminated some 20 minutes worth of footage. In the shorter print, it would begin with its opening credits, then cutting immediately into a hotel room in which Robert Cummings is dictating a letter of apology. Apology for what I never knew. Now in the restored copy, available on video cassette (and DVD with slightly different opening and closing titles used from reissue prints), finds Cummings getting into an elevator and innocently encountering trouble with a woman (Mary Boland) who turns out to be the aunt of his fiancée. After meeting again, aunt insists niece not marry this man. Also in the missing footage was Jones' encounter with a man on the street followed by a fight and facing Judge McCracken (played by the uncredited Kathleen Howard) in hight court. With these scenes now restored, the story now makes sense.
Labeled a "B" musical, ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS resembles that of a 20th Century-Fox musical, minus Technicolor and Carmen Miranda. On and all, it's entertaining musically and comically. It made its American Movie Classics debut January 1, 2001, as part of the "WHO'S ON THE FIRST" Abbott and Costello New Year's Day marathon. For Abbott and Costello fans, this is worth viewing because they not only bring life to the story, but this is where the legend of Abbott and Costello began. A final bit of trivia. ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS is taken from the story, "Love Insurance," by Earl Derr Biggers, creator of the "Charlie Chan" mysteries. (***)
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