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Two bumbling plumbers are hired by a socialite to fix a leak. A case of mistaken identity gets the pair an invitation to a fancy party and an entree into high society. As expected, things don't go too smoothly. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Universal was so anxious to get a new Bud Abbott and Lou Costello film into theaters that they sped up the production by bringing in a second director, Erle C. Kenton (who directed at least two production numbers, uncredited) and created the climatic chase sequence using footage from Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941). The rushed production schedule made this the most expensive Abbott and Costello film up to that time. See more »
When Lou Costello appears on horseback for the fox hunt, a rope can be seen "tethering" the horse. A voice is also clearly heard saying, "Keep a hold on him, Lou." See more »
IN SOCIETY (Universal, 1944), directed by Jean Yarbrough, stars the popular comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in another one of their top comedies. Having been in movies since 1940, it would be a while before the team would tackle burlesque routines to certain background stories into such surefire comedy settings as in this case, high society. There's no Grace Kelly here to supply beauty and class but another blonde with the same mannerisms and singing style of Paramount's own, Betty Hutton, mainly because the down-to-earth style female co-star is played by Betty's real life sister, Marion, who's likable and pleasing personality, as with Betty, enlightens the film. With Bud and Lou crashing society, and how they do it results to a very funny story.
The narrative opens at a costume ball function hosted by Mrs. Van Cleave (Nella Walker). Her husband, Henry (Thurston Hall), returns home exhausted and would like nothing more than get a good night's sleep. After heading to his bedroom to retire for the night, there's a leak in the faucet that's keeping him awake. After going through the telephone directory, the butler (Charles Coleman) telephones for plumbers at the Ajax Plumbing Company, who, in turn happen to be non-other than Eddie Harrington (Bud Abbott) and his helper ("but no help") Albert Mansfield (Lou Costello). Accepting thejob at $4 an hour, the plumbers are driven to the lavish Long Island estate by Albert's love interest, Elsie Hammerdingle (Marion Hutton), a lady taxi driver working for the Baker Cab Company. Because the Van Cleave function happens to be a costume party, Elsie is mistaken for one of the guests, especially by Peter Evans (Kirby Grant), the richest bachelor who happens to arrive dressed as a taxi driver. In the meantime, the plumbers typically do more harm than good with the leak, causing Mrs. Van Cleave, the following morning, to write them a letter of complaint to them. However, she unwittingly places a weekend invitation to a charity function at the Briarwood estate in the envelope instead, where the hapless plumbers received and accept the invitation as good business relations for their company. Also attending the Briarwood function are Peter and Elsie, much to the dismay of Gloria (Anne Gillis), Peter's jealous debutante girlfriend. With the weekend function hosted by Mrs. Roger Winthrop (Margaret Irving), she collects donations for the upcoming unveiling of "The Plunger," a valuable painting worth $150,000. Also attending the function is Drezel (Thomas Gomez), a loan shark who earlier offered Eddie and Albert a $1,000 loan for their plumbing business, along with Marlowe (Murray Leonard), chauffeur for Mrs. Winthrop (and professional knife thrower), plotting to steal the valuable painting, and attempt to convince the plumbing stooges to assist them with their theft.
A fast-moving 75 minutes comedy loaded with worthwhile Abbott and Costello comedy material from start to finish. The most famous of their routines turns out to be "additional comedy material" credited to Sidney Fields (Landlord Mr. Fields from television's "The Abbott and Costello Show" (1952-1954)) for the one called "Bagle Street," where the plumbers try to deliver box full of hats for their friend at the Susquehanna Hat Company. There's also another routine borrowed from BUCK PRIVATES (1941), which changes Costello's situation from Army Sergeant to policeman (Edgar Dearing). Another classic routine involving Costello with Arthur Treacher (naturally playing the society butler named Biffs) is also priceless, as is Costello's take in the fox hunt. "Remarkable!" The scene involving Bud and Lou on a runaway sofa down the road is one that usually not included on New York City's WPIX, Channel 11, where IN SOCIETY and other Abbott and Costello comedies aired Sunday mornings from 1971 to 1990. Others in the cast include George Dolenz (Baron Sergel) and Steven Geray (Count Alexis), a couple of Briarwood guests whose suits and clothing get mixed with Bud and Lou's. Don Barclay is also amusing in his bit as the drowning drunk who gives Lou a hard time for saving him. If the climatic fire engine chase looks familiar, some of it was lifted from an earlier comedy classic starring WC Fields in NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK (Universal, 1941).
A reflection or movie comedies of the time, there's musical numbers to such tuneful melodies to help balance the story, including "No Doubt About It, I'm in Love With You" (sung by Marion Hutton); "Rehearsing" (sung by Anne Gillis, and the Three Sisters, Bea, Margie and Gerri by poolside, conducted by Will Osborne and his Orchestra); "My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time" (sung by Marion Hutton); and "What a Change in the Weather" (sung by Kirby Grant to Marion Hutton on boat ride). With the exception of Kirby Grant's interlude, which is slow in tempo, all the other songs are lively, pleasant and somewhat memorable.
Last seen on cable television's American Movie Classics in 2001 (AMC premiere January 1, 2001, as part of Abbott and Costello's "Who's on the First" movie marathon), IN SOCIETY, distributed on video cassette in the 1990s and later DVD format, is no disappointment for many. The team is not only in fine form here, but supporting players handle their roles in the manner as they are played. Though Margaret Irving is quite good as the society hostess, it's a wonder had another Margaret that of Margaret Dumont, the famous dowager type of serve Marx Brothers comedies, might have made the movie even funnier. Be sure not to miss the finish! (**1/2 plungers)
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