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Criminal Ace Connors agrees to return to New York and stand trial for stealing $500,000 worth of bonds so he can serve a light five-year sentence and enjoy his loot (safely stowed away in the cover of a cook book) when he gets out. Detective Bob Simms is tasked with escorting Connors back to New York. With five days for the cross-country trip, Connors plans for stops in Texas and New Orleans to have a few final days of fun before he goes to prison. Ricki Woodner, a con artist who met Connors at his hotel, is persuaded by Fly Feletti (a bitter colleague of Connors) to get close to Connors and take the bonds. She joins Connors and Simms on the train and Ricki and Ace start falling for each other. Feletti wants the bonds and keeps an eye on Ricki to make sure she doesn't double-cross him. After a romantic detour into Mexico, Ace, Ricki, and Simms head to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras celebration, with Feletti close behind. Written by
Willing Suspension of Disbelief? How about MANDATORY?
In order to enjoy this movie, you have to start out with the understanding that the plot makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE! A convicted con man (John Hodiak) convinces a stupid police officer who is accompanying him to prison (Lloyd Nolan) to make it a leisurely first class trip together -- by way of New Orleans, Mexico, and some top notch night clubs and restaurants. Apparently this is the idiot cop's brilliant way of trying to loosen up the con man and trick him into revealing where he has hidden some valuable bonds. Add a beautiful con woman (Lucille Ball) who finds out about the bonds from the idiot cop, complete changes in personality on the part of the key characters near end of the film, and a particularly ridiculous non-explanation for how the bonds were recovered at the finale. It's a lot for a reasonably intelligent mind to discard.
But if you can, there are some notable performances. Lucille Ball is very believable in a non-comic, romantic role. She was quite a hot-cha-cha back in the day, if you can get Lucy Ricardo out of your head (another one of the mental challenges this movie presents). Lloyd Nolan plays his usual straight arrow, trustworthy role so convincingly that it's hard to believe that he makes so many dumb decisions and gets into so many stupid jams during the trip. It's almost like he's the world's most unfunny member of the Three Stooges. I never understood why the con man didn't just escape with the bonds during one of the many moments when Nolan was distracted, then come back and get Lucille Ball later if he was so in love with her.
I was impressed with the solid acting job that John Hodiak did as the con man, so I looked him up on the internet to find out why he didn't become a bigger star, and sadly discovered that he died fairly young. He did a good job of being just rogue-ish enough to be a convincing con man, but just soft enough to fall in love with a glamorous woman.
Anyway, this isn't the only movie ever made that requires you you check your brain at the door. And if you can, there are worse ways to pass a couple of hours.
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