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Killer Diller (1948)

 -  Comedy | Drama
5.9
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Ratings: 5.9/10 from 66 users  
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An all-Black comedy and dance revue with stars of stage and screen.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Dusty Fletcher ...
Dusty (as Dusty 'Open the Door Richard' Fletcher)
George Wiltshire ...
Dumdone, the Manager
...
Butterfly
Nellie Hill ...
Lola, His Fianée
Freddie Robinson ...
Sarge
William Campbell ...
Policeman
Edgar Martin ...
Policeman
Sidney Easton ...
Policeman (as Sid Easton)
Augustus Smith ...
Stage Hand (as Gus Smith)
...
Herself (as Jackie Mabley)
Ken Renard ...
The Great Voodoo
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Andy Kirk and His Orchestra ...
Themselves
The Clark Brothers ...
Themselves
...
Himself (as King Cole Trio)
The Four Congaroos ...
Themselves
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Storyline

An all-Black comedy and dance revue with stars of stage and screen.

Add Full Plot | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

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Details

Country:

Language:


Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Connections

Featured in That's Black Entertainment (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

Now He Tells Me
Music and Lyrics by Don Wolf and Alan Brandt
Performed by The King Cole Trio
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Some great entertainers...and take the time to read about the history of these Hollywood all-black movie
2 February 2008 | by (San Antonio, Texas) – See all my reviews

Killer Diller is one of the hundreds of films Hollywood churned out in the Thirties and Forties with minimal budgets, usually limited skills with the behind-the-camera personnel and with all-black casts. As soon as the pictures were in the can they were sent out to play in the movie equivalent of the old vaudeville chitlin' circuit...movie theaters in the South that played to segregated black audiences and movie theaters in the north that played to almost exclusively black audiences. The movies might have been second rate but the artists seldom were. Hollywood might now be incessantly patting its back about how liberal and open- minded it is toward black actors (we won't get into the situation with Latinos), but a generation ago just about the only opportunity for talented and skilled black entertainers were in these unofficially segregated movies. If we want a better understanding of Hollywood movie-making, we need to see some of these films. For many of the entertainers featured, these films are the only record we have of what they could do. On the one hand, these movies make a sad and discouraging story. On the other, what wonders these artists could perform.

Killer Diller has the slightest of story lines, something about Mortimer Dumdone (George Wiltshire), the impresario of a theater who is presenting a variety show, somehow seeing his fiancé, Lola (Nellie Hill) disappear in a magic trick with a string of expensive pearls around her neck. A fake magician (Dusty "Open the Door, Richard" Fletcher), pretending to be Voodoo Man, is responsible. Dumdone's secretary, Butterfly McQueen, calls in the cops, who turn out to be a quartet of bumbling, falling, sprawling incompetents. Now forget all that. The point of the movie is the variety show, and it's a lot of fun. Basically, the director set up his camera facing the stage and then took a long lunch break. Let's see...there's Andy Kirk and His Orchestra doing some great, driving swing numbers featuring jazz saxophones...vocalist Beverley White, a cross between Pearl Bailey and Ethel Waters, singing...

"I don't want to get married / for when you're single you have so much fun.

I don't want to get married / 'cause two don't live as happily as one.

Now I might want to stay out late some times all the way next day

And I don't want to be worried about what my husband's going' to say."

There's Patterson and Jackson, two large and very round singers, one a first-rate tap dancer, who manage among their other bits to do a wonderful impression of the four Ink Spots...Moms Mabley, that rough-voiced, dry-witted comedienne, serves up laughs and a song...The Clark Brothers, two young men who are all fast taps and smooth moves, never let up in a long tap routine...The King Cole Trio performs three numbers. Nat Cole already is as stylish and distinctive a vocalist as he was a great jazz pianist. There's also a dancing chorus and a blow-'em-away finale that brings the Trio and the Andy Kirk Orchestra together in a big, flashy swing number.

Every now and then we check back to see how the plot line is going.

Dusty Fletcher, the fake magician, is a comic actor with great timing. He also, like so many black comedians way back when, uses all the black exaggerations in the book to get laughs, just as so many Jewish comedians have used all the stereotyped "Jewish" characteristics. It seems that when an ethnic comedian uses stereotypes to get laughs from his or her own ethnic group, it's accepted, even if uneasily at least by those not of the group. But a comedian not of the ethnic group using those same comedy lines and voice inflections just seems odious. It's an uncomfortable and understandable situation. We might make a joke about our Aunt Bertha, but we don't want to hear a joke about her coming from the neighbor down the block. Yet I still felt awkward seeing Fletcher saying and doing the kind of eye- rolling exaggerations that made Amos and Andy popular back then and which seem extraordinarily condescending now. The saving grace, I suppose, is that Fletcher may be playing an unschooled charlatan, but the man's as sly as a fox, as shrewd as a Washington lawyer and a heck of a lot funnier than either Amos or Andy.


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