One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
For fans of Old Time Radio and Hollywood in the 40's
"Hello - Duffy's Tavern where the elite meet to eat, Archie the manager speakin', Duffy ain't here. Oh, hello Duffy." This greeting, preceded by "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" played on a tinny piano, announced to millions of radio listeners that it was time for DUFFY'S TAVERN. Fans of this popular program knew they were in store for laughs, big-name guest stars, sometimes a little music and always their favorite characters holding forth at the New York dive headed by Archie himself. Ed Gardner, a former piano player, salesman, talent agent and radio director (in that order) created the program and cast himself in the lead when he couldn't find an actor that spoke "New York bartender" as well as he did. The series ran from 1941-1952, premiering on the CBS Radio Network and later moving to NBC. Each episode opened with the proprietor Duffy, who never appeared, phoning his manager and setting up the action that would follow in the next half hour. Archie was known for insulting his guest stars and his Damon Runyanesque speech. (In fact Abe Burrows, co-writer with Runyon of GUYS AND DOLLS, got his start on DUFFY'S TAVERN.) Regulars included Eddie Green as the wise-cracking Eddie the waiter and Charles Cantor as the intellectually-challenged Finnegan. Gardner's wife Shirley Booth originated the role of Miss Duffy, the ditzy, man-hungry daughter of the owner. At least a dozen other actresses played the role during the series 11 year run. Though DUFFY'S TAVERN made the transition to television in 1954, it only lasted for one season. The program inspired future TV shows with a friendly neighborhood bar as the setting, most notably Jackie Gleason's "Joe the Bartender" sketches with Crazy Googenheim (Frank Fontaine) filling in for Finnegan, ARCHIE BUNKER'S PLACE, and the 1980's sitcom CHEERS. Lucky for us, at least 100 episodes of the radio series survive and are available on cassette and MP3.
Attempting to duplicate the success of other radio programs that made the transition to the big screen (FIBBER MCGEE & MOLLY, THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE, HENRY ALDRICH, etc.), studio executives at both MGM and Paramount set their sites on Duffy's for their next radio crossover picture. Paramount's proposal of a "stars-go-all-out-for-the-war-effort" variety film in the vein of Hollywood CANTEEN and THANK YOUR LUCK STARS caught Gardner's fancy. And so it was that contract players Bing Crosby, Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken, Robert Benchley and more than two dozen others were signed up for cameos while the radio actors (save for Broadway actress Ann Thomas as a new Miss Duffy) reprised their familiar roles.
The story is a pretty basic "let's put on a show to save the __________." Unbeknownst to his boss Duffy, soft-hearted Archie has been providing out-of-work veterans with free meals and spirits. The servicemen had worked at a phonograph record company owned by Archie's pal Michael O'Malley (Victor Moore) before the war. The factory was forced to close because of a war time shortage of shellac and the bank turned down a loan to O'Malley to reopen the plant. O'Malley's daughter Peggy (Marjorie Reynolds) works as a switchboard operator at a hotel where a number of celebrities are staying. In due course the stars are persuaded to help raise funds to reopen the plant by performing at a block party hosted by our favorite barkeep. There are some yucks along the way, a little romance between Peggy and soldier Danny Murphy (Barry Nelson) and plenty of entertainment at the big show.
Betty Hutton is a tornado of energy performing "Doin' it the Hard Way" and Cass Daly, the gangly gal with the overbite, sings a rousing number, "You Can't Blame a Gal for Trying." Bing and Betty parody the Oscar winning song "Swinging on a Star" from Paramount's 1944 hit GOING MY WAY and Bing shares a scene with his four young sons Gary, Lin and twins Phillip and Dennis.
Variety posted a mixed review, finding the translation of weekly audio program to celluloid "stale," but they praised the vaudeville portion of the film. Eddie Bracken was singled out for " .playing the double role of a cowboy here, taking successively a beating by a bandit mob, a water dunking and some pies in his face, all constituting a nostalgic throwback to the good old Mack Sennett days and as hilarious a sequence as one will find in any film-comedy."
Admittedly, DUFFY'S TAVERN may not hold up well with most present-day viewers who haven't known the wonder of old-time radio and have little or no knowledge of Betty Hutton and Bing Crosby, let alone Cass Daley. Fans of movies from the 40's and Olt-Time radio buffs however, should find DUFFY'S TAVERN an elite place to meet many of their favorite old stars and have a great deal of fun along the way.
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