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Late in the Civil War, three Confederate soldiers escape from a Union prison camp in Missouri. They soon fall into the hands of pro-Confederate raiders, who force them to act as "outriders"... See full summary »
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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 »
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 »
Skelton the Spy...Civil War shenanigans in capable hands
St. Louis bellhop, anxious to get in on the action during the Civil War's final days, manages to nab himself a Southern spy nicknamed "The Grey Spider"; he switches places with the Spider and infiltrates the Confederate party, falling in love with a Belle along the way. Whether they were working with Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, or Red Skelton here, comedy masters Melvin Frank and Norman Panama (credited as the story writers, alongside screenwriter Harry Tugend) know how to pull off a great gag--whether it be verbal or visual--and manage to keep it going, in the manner of the great silent comedies. A double take can turn into a pratfall, which turns into a lot of pratfalls, which turns into slapstick chaos. No matter what your taste about physical shtick, Frank and Panama usually employ their prowess with bright efficiency, and "A Southern Yankee" has many laugh-out-loud sequences (the double-sided flag, the pine cone on the stump, and all the early business in the hotel). Director Edward Sedgwick maybe should have let Melvin Frank direct as well, as several of the nutty set-pieces (such as the dentist's office) look too much like staged gags. However, when the pacing grows cold there's always Skelton to rely on, and he's very funny and ingratiating throughout (particularly the way he says "Sallyann"). Amusing premise isn't just an excuse for the slapstick, but functions quite well on its own, and the costumes and battlefield sequences are rather impressive. **1/2 from ****
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