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|Index||12 reviews in total|
Probably not intended as such in 1949, in retrospect this film shows an interesting juncture between old time show biz and the imminent influence of television, which changed everything. The film captures some fascinating relics of an earlier time, such as Bert Lahr reprising a famous burlesque-type routine of his from the early '20s. Milton Berle excels in acting out all sorts of comedic styles and formats then in vogue or already seen as passe. Despite its chirpy title song, the film has a surprising toughness and unsentimentality for its era (witness the happily cruel "Men's Club" scene). Recommended for those into show biz history, and also a great way to see some genuinely funny stuff.
My favorite comic will always be Uncle Miltie and he was a scream in this one. Hammy and corny beyond belief, this slapstick had me rolling on the floor. The story involved a up and coming third rate comic trying to break into big time show biz. He must first work second rate clubs and resorts, but finally gets his big shot when taking over a routine for a fellow actor. Lots of good hoofing, sight gags, and joking around in the famous Berle style.
This is not much of a story but it is a GREAT chance to see 2 Old-Timers, Berle & Lahr , do some classic routines , that were so familiar the audience, they could have followed along word for word. Inside info says they both couldn't stand each other but it doesn't show in the work ! I know Uncle Miltie has had his time in the spotlight but I hope someone says "Thanks " before he's gone !
What surprised me most about this movie were the few moments watching
Ruth Roman doing some fancy dancing. As my old girl friend used to say
-- "I didn't know you had it in you." Miss R usually plays it straight,
and always well. I have no idea why she was not used more often in
She looks good, acts good. And, the ever lovely Virginia Mayo was excellent as an opportunist. I'll watch her anytime so, don't hold the Mayo.
The star, obviously, was Uncle Milty who was admired by all the critics, with the exception of one sourpuss. As another reviewer pointed out many of the comedians excelled in straight roles. In this movie, the Unc alternated between very funny and very serious, but always convincing.
The Cowardly Lion was his usual self, and there's not a thing wrong with that.
I would have enjoyed more skits but this flick was not a review. There was a good story attached. The movie always left me laughing, except when it was not supposed to.
A small-time comic works his way up to the big time.
The two hours is mainly for fans of Uncle Miltie. Berle is in just about every scene, along with a number of his costumed skits. As expected, some skits are funnier than others; however, I wish this overlong movie had stayed on a light comedic level. Instead, it veers off near the end into heavy drama, which could have been easily lopped off.
Catch that bouncy openingas I recall, it plays much like Berle's hit TV show that helped put TV on the map in the early days. Anyway, if guys get tired looking at the star, there's the delectable Ruth Roman standing around in various stages of undress, and also a shapely Virginia Mayo doing some surprisingly good dance steps. Comic actor Bert Lahr gets his turn on the stage. But to me, his brand of humor is a matter of taste.
I suspect Warner Bros. was testing the waters to see if Berle's appeal carried over to movies as well as TV, in the way it did for Bob Hope over at Paramount. However that may be, I think the movie would be better if shorter and strictly light-hearted.
"Always Leave Them Laughing" is an interesting curio in many ways, but
isn't a particularly good movie. Let me explain. When this film was
made back in 1949, Milton Berle was the biggest name on television and
much of his show's success was based on Berle doing t the sort of
shtick he'd been doing for years in Vaudeville. So, here you get to see
a semi-autobiographical film where Berle does a lot of the corny and
over-the-top routines that made him famous. However, and this is VERY
important, a lot of it just isn't funny. The jokes are so old and
familiar that many viewers will recognize them and the rest fall pretty
flat. Worst of all is the cop routine by Bert Lahr--that REALLY aged
poorly. Yes, he was popular in the good old days but today this seemed
very tired and cringe-worthy at times. Another thing that will make you
cringe is seeing Berle do a third-rate Jolson routine--in black- face!
Plus, Berle's character was, at times, really difficult to like.
Is it all bad? No. When Berle isn't trying to be funny he's pretty good. And, it's surprising to see how limber and graceful he is when he dances--and several of the dance numbers (particularly with Lahr) were nice. But this just isn't enough. The film is a window into a bygone era...one that just doesn't work or entertain in the 21st century.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It seems to me Milton Berle is an acquired taste. Having seen him in
countless variety shows in the Fifties and Sixties including his own,
it's pretty safe to say that many of the bits shown in this film were
available to TV fans back in the day. He was probably one of the first
comedians to do it up in drag and his Carmen Miranda bit in this flick
was almost expected. Still, I can't help but feel that most of this
picture was unsatisfying and not very funny, in fact, some of it was
The story line manages to name drop some of the celebrity headliners of the day, folks like Hope, Benny and Skelton, Burns and Allen and even Jimmy Durante a couple of times. It would have been cool to see a few of them show up in cameo roles but that wasn't the case. Seeing Bert Lahr was kind of neat, as he put the Cowardly Lion into his first bit on screen and proceeded to demonstrate some of his own vaudeville style. His dancing bit with Berle in the 'Silvery Moon' number was entertaining, and as I sit here now thinking about it, I can't say who might have done it first, the two of them or Hope and Crosby. Very nice footwork in any event.
It's probably safe to say that Milton Berle's own rise in show business probably paralleled that of his character Kip Cooper in the film. There's no denying the man earned his oft stated title of Mr. Television for his contribution to the new format during TV's Golden Age, often making it up as he went from week to week. Still, there are times in this movie when the going gets tedious and the title of the picture just doesn't seem to fit.
The reviews for this film seem to be split between those who don't
think much of it and those who adore it. I can understand the enjoyment
in reliving some old comedy bits, but that is not enough--for me--to
make this film a success.
Unfortunately, the writing is terrible. In parts, the script is so melodramatic that it pulls you right out of the scene. And even worse, the writers often have Milton Berle performing for the film's audience when he should be performing for the theater audience in the film. I guess they just couldn't help themselves. But it takes the viewer out of the story, more than once. If they had done that consistently throughout the film, then we might be able to forgive them and consider it a stylistic choice. But when Bert Lahr is on screen, he stays in character the entire time and does not play to the viewer. His performance is the best part of this film and the main reason I give it three stars.
I wanted to give it two stars just for the luminous beauty of Virginia Mayo (Zsa Zsa like in her perfection) and Ruth Roman, but Ms. Mayo's "serious scenes" are excellent examples in how to chew scenery; she can blame part of it on the dialogue they gave her. Ms. Roman, on the other hand, has the chops to shine right through words.
It IS fun to hear some of the tried and true (repackaged and reused) bits from Vaudeville and lesser locales. But that is about all this film has to offer.
The life of a comic is, no doubt, full of unpredictability, self-doubt and wearisome travel. It's too bad the script of Always Leave Them Laughing couldn't stop laughing long enough to be taken seriously.
For a better example of the comic as serious actor, see Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
We are faced with a lot of slapstick comedy here as Milton Berle traces
his rise in an average film. One must take note of the bit musical
routines done by none other than Ruth Roman. Kudos to her for being
able to pull this off.
The picture gets very good when it turns dramatic. Berle, going on stage to substitute for an ailing Bert Lahr, becomes a hit only to find out that Lahr will return to the show. Of course, when Lahr dies suddenly on stage, Berle is bereft with guilt for asking him to come on stage. We then learn that Lahr's much younger wife, Virginia Mayo, wasn't really the nice person she was supposed to be. In fact, she shows elements of her character as the wife of Dana Andrews in "The Best Years of Our Lives."
The picture succeeds because it deals with the discovery that success isn't necessarily everything, especially if it comes from imitating someone else. In other words, it's the old story of having to work hard to achieve success by yourself.
I happened upon this film by accident whilst I was channel surfing.
Having never seen "Uncle Milty" in an acting role before I just had to
stop and watch.
While this films story is one of those behind the scenes show biz stories of a comic trying to get into the big time, what I found to be absolutely fascinating was the character of Rene played by Iphigenie Castiglioni in what can only be read as a very, very lesbian night club owner for whom Berle auditions doing a comedic routine playing the piano and singing Miss Otis Regrets, a song written by the very gay Cole Porter.
The nightclub owner Rene with her mannish hairstyle, tuxedo (worn during the day!) and long, long cigarette holder with her aperitif is the quintessential gay stereotype for the era. How the combination of Rene in her garb and the suggestive Cole Porter song got past the censors is beyond me, but I am sure it was quite appreciated by gay audience members as an acknowledgment of their presence in show business.
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