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Attention Spike Jones fans: this film is essential viewing if you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity! Quite unlike the previous reviewer, I was nearly giddy upon seeing the lowbrow slapstick sequence of Gil Lamb playing clarinet in Milt Britton's band. Milt and Frank Britton, along with other comedy/novelty/"corn" outfits (The Kidoodlers; Freddie Fisher and his Schnickelfritz Band), have been cited as major "musical" influences on the young maestro Jones. According to Spike Jones biographer Jordan R. Young, "By all accounts the Brittons had far and away the zaniest act of its day - they were the only "jazz band" whose members routinely fell into the orchestra pit, squirted water at one another, fired pistols in the air or broke violins over each other's heads." Unfortunately, apart from a Soundie musical short of "The Poet and Peasant Overture" not much Milt Britton footage is readily available. So when I came across a black and white print of this Technicolor flick on eBay, well, I had to have it. I was not disappointed: here we are able to see what helped inspire Jones's "Musical Depreciation Revue". Any Three Stooges fan will love this completely over-the-top, violent routine that climaxes with the entire orchestra reducing the stage, along with a breakaway grand piano, to smithereens. (Remember the protracted destruction of Jonathan Winters leveling a gas station in Stanley Kramer's "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World"?) Sure, most moviegoers will find this film's plot threadbare, but what do you expect from a low budget musical? In fact, fans of "B" movies and "turkeys" shouldn't miss a couple of its outlandish "production" numbers, including one with a painfully politically incorrect American Indian theme. Now if only I can find a Technicolor print!
Not one of the great musicals.Good lyrics by Johnny Mercer but forgettable melodies. Whether you enjoy it or not depends on your taste.Victor Moore does his Victor Moore act and Cass Daley gives a Cass Daley performance. Some will be amused by her grimaces as she belts out "He loved me till the all clear came"(the film was made during WW2) and "Willie the wolf of the west".Others will think that she is like a female Jim Carrey. The dresses by Edith Head for Dorothy Lamour and the chorus are excellent but the dance routines are weak apart from a solo eccentric dance by Cy Landry.There are two band routines.The first involves Cass Daley and two others as non-playing fiddlers.The second is longer. It features Gil Lamb and the band in expertly timed knock-about comedy. Warning - - The average shot length in these routines is high, there are very few close-ups, there are no audience reaction shots, a static camera is used and a clear view of the perfomers is given at all times. Watch it and decide for yourself - Some like oysters - some don't.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This western musical about a burlesque queen (Dorothy Lamour) coming back home to help out on her family ranch is overloaded with dated comedy and unremarkable songs. The silly plot concerns a seemingly milquetoast forger (the adorable Victor Moore) passing out fake thousand dollar bills (and getting real money as change back) while Dick Powell, as the gold prospector, falls in love with Lamour. The film really seems like a "Road" movie tat didn't sell. Big-toothed Cass Daley is equally big voiced, but her material defeats her. A second rate Martha Raye, she was about to be replaced in these type of roles by Betty Hutton. Moore is lovable as always, getting the best material, especially when he fleeces a bunch of card-sharks with one of his counterfeit K-notes. Lamour manages to survive some mediocre production numbers and her burlesque outfits resemble sarongs in some of them. The film also lacks a cast of familiar character performers which takes away much of the amusement found in other 1940's musicals.
A train arrives in the west and deposits a showgirl (Dorothy Lamour),
an eligible bachelor (Dick Powell), and a swindler (Victor Moore). The
bachelor is in search of investors for his mine but can't seem to get
anyone interested enough. The swindler makes his own thousand dollar
bills and convinces the bachelor to flash them around; money attracts
money. The scheme works, but the swindler's reputation catches up to
him and soon the law is after those fake thousands.
There is a reason why this title is so hard to find. It isn't that great. Although the story is fun enough and it boasts a decent cast, Riding High is utterly forgettable. It is one of those wartime movies that is packed with music to entertain the troops "over there," but none of the tunes are memorable and the music takes over the story. Lamour handles her songs well enough, after all, she was a radio star, but Powell has too few songs himself.
Riding High marked the end Dick Powell's association with Paramount
Pictures. He never went back on the Paramount lot after finishing
Seeing it now, Riding High has the look of a Bob Hope film and I have a feeling that's who the original male lead was supposed to be. My guess is that Rapid Robert was entertaining the troops on some far distant shore and Powell was shoved into this film to appear opposite Dorothy Lamour. Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer wrote some forgettable songs for this film.
Funny thing is that Paramount seemed to spend a pretty penny on Riding High. It was shot on location in Arizona, not on the studio back lot and it did actually get an Academy Award nomination for sound.
Poor Dick Powell just walked through this film and supporting players like Cass Daley and Victor Moore and Gil Lamb stole the film right out from under him. Powell plays a salesman who has sold mining stock to Dorothy Lamour's father George Carleton who has no operating capital though and relies on Powell to get some.
In trying to raise the capital Powell gets himself involved with Victor Moore, a mild mannered counterfeiter who's carrying a nice wad of the bogus cabbage. Moore passes it when he has to, but he's evolved his own system based on the old Mark Twain story that was later made into a Gregory Peck film, Man With A Million. The premise is that if people know you are well heeled, doors of credit automatically open for you and you need not necessarily pass the stuff and thereby endanger your freedom.
A lot of the comedy here is based on Victor Moore constantly trying to fend off one lug-nut of a sheriff in Gil Lamb who is trying to catch him with the goods. Moore also is at the same time fending off the amorous intentions of amazon Cass Daley. These three totally steal the film from Powell and Lamour. There's a chuck wagon race at the end where rich rancher Russell Simpson bets against Cass Daley's rig with Moore and that gets pretty wild. It's Powell and what he does in that race that makes me think this was intended for Bob Hope.
While shooting this film, Powell who had been promised by Paramount executives that he would be getting some serious dramatic roles, learned that a part he wanted very badly in Double Indemnity was given to Fred MacMurray. According to the films of Dick Powell, he got a release from his contract and refused to ever work there again in the same way he never worked for Warner Brothers again either after leaving them in the Thirties for the same reason.
Riding High is a mildly amusing film today with the supporting cast just taking over from the uninterested leads. Not a film Dick Powell had pleasant memories of.
George Marshall made many fine comedies during his long career, but this is not one of them. I have seen over 15,000 films and this is one of the worst major studio US films I have ever seen. The music and "comedy" is unendurable and nothing works - truly a disaster on every level (OK, the technicolor is adequate). Dick Powell and Victor Moore seem to be doing it for the paycheck, and Dorothy Lamour seems to be waiting for Hope or Crosby to show up. Cass Dailey is screechingly bad. I got this rare title from UK TV (Channel 5), and it makes bad UK comedies like the Old Mother Riley series seem like Lubitsch comedies. Truly, this is only for masochists.
There have been five films released with the title RIDING HIGH. This 1943 effort is a very slight attempt at a musical. It has seven numbers (Whistling in the Light of Day, Secretary of the Sultan, Injun Gal, Till the All Clear Came, You're The Rainbow, Get Your Man, Willie, the Wolf of the West) - all completely forgettable, as is the dull plot re a young man (Powell) trying to raise money to work a mine, the daughter of the man he has hoodwinked (Lamour) and a counterfeiter (Moore) who proposes not to pass bad currency but to simply flourish it in the belief that those who believe someone has money will be willing to invest in projects. Cass Daley's broad and tiresome humor nearly sinks the enterprise and there is an excruciatingly long and very unfunny sequence involving Gil Lamb and an orchestra run amok. The Academy did give it a nom for Sound, which was deserved (crisp and resonant and sound effects included in a climactic wagon chase sequence), but for the general public this piece of fluff is not worth bothering to see.
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