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A Southern Yankee (1948)

A hapless bellboy in a St. Louis hotel near the end of the Civil War is recruited by the Union secret service to impersonate a notorious Confederate spy.

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
...
...
...
Maj. Jack Drumman aka The Grey Spider
Lloyd Gough ...
Capt. Steve Lorford
...
Capt. Jed Calbern
Minor Watson ...
Gen. Watkins
Charles Dingle ...
Col. Weatherby
Art Baker ...
Col. Clifford M. Baker
...
Fred Munsey
...
Mark Haskins
...
Hortense Dobson
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
...
Mr. Duncan (scenes deleted)
Edward Gargan ...
Male Nurse (scenes deleted)
Bert Moorhouse ...
Capt. Jeffreys (scenes deleted)
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Storyline

Aubrey Filmore (Red Skelton) is a bumbling bellboy in a Missouri town who pesters the Union officers there; he desperately wants to be a spy for the North in the American Civil War. When Filmore accidentally waylays an infamous Confederate spy known as "The Grey Spider" and is mistaken for him by the Rebels, the Union brass see it as an opportunity for real espionage - and though Filmore is a coward as well as a fool, his real motivation for derring-do is a sweet Southern girl named Sallyann, whom he will see again behind Southern lines. Written by Gary Dickerson <slug@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

HE'S A SPY FOR BOTH SIDES! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | History | War | Western

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

5 August 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Superspion  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

No one could figure out a simple, yet funny way to get Aubrey out of the house when he was being held captive by the angry dog. Buster Keaton, employed by MGM as a roving gag man, was called to the set, looked at the set up, and came up with the idea of removing the door hinges and letting the dog in as Aubrey got out. The most famous gag in the movie took Keaton all of five minutes to devise. Buster also contributed other gags some of which he'd done himself years earlier. See more »

Goofs

Mention of prisoner exchange is mentioned by the colonel. Prison exchanges were stopped by Grant in 1864, the first union commander who realized the road to victory lay through attrition. See more »

Quotes

Gen. Watkins: Who are you?
Maj. Jack Drumman aka The Grey Spider: Major Drumman.
Aubrey Filmore: "Major Drumman"? Why, he's not even a drum major!
See more »

Connections

References Mourning Becomes Electra (1947) See more »

Soundtracks

Oh! Susanna
(uncredited)
Composed by Stephen Foster (1848)
Instrumental version used as leitmotif under titles ad sung briefly by Skelton and Dahl.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The South Shall Laugh Again
13 April 2011 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Although with Buster Keaton working as gag man on this film and while he did have a lot of influence on this film, A Southern Yankee had other influences besides Keaton's famous general. For myself I caught a bit of Duck Soup in the mix and also the plot premise is the same one as two very serious previous films.

The idea of two spies falling in love with each other was done as serious drama in the British film Dark Journey with Vivien Leigh and Conrad Veidt. Later on it was used by MGM in their musical The Firefly that starred Jeanette MacDonald and Allan Jones. But I think someone at MGM must have thought this could be the basis of a comedy, it may have been Buster Keaton who thought it would be a good film idea for Red Skelton.

A Southern Yankee finds Red Skelton as a bellboy in St. Louis who is a northern sympathizer and wants to do something for the Union cause. Given that he's a klutz, Red's dismissed by all the parties involved.

But when he accidentally captures a notorious Confederate agent, the army sees a chance to use him and sends him south with some fake plans for a southern general and a message for one of the Union undercover men.

Red's willing, but the spirit is weak especially around Arlene Dahl who is the daughter of Confederate general Charles Dingle. And he's got some other double agents and triple agents to deal with like Brian Donlevy, John Ireland, and George Coulouris.

It's hard to describe A Southern Yankee from here on because the gags come fast and furious. Red's two trips to the dentist was one long sustained gag and very good. Of course the gag remembered best is the one where Red is trapped with both the Blue and Gray firing at him from opposite directions. He manages to escape that predicament in a truly interesting manner I won't reveal.

And if you don't think that A Southern Yankee might have had a bit of inspiration from the serious films I cited, if you've seen both Dark Journey and The Firefly, you'll know exactly A Southern Yankee ends.


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