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One of Jimmy Stewart's most overlooked films. This picture is pure 1950's. Stewart is an overworked family man, (Similar to his role in Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation, but The Jackpot is a much better picture.) who wins a radio game show. Prizes range from the useful to the absurd. Everything is fine until he finds out he's got to pay taxes on all of his loot. Probably as much pure fun as any Jimmy Stewart picture.
"The Jackpot" is a story about Bill Lawrence, an ordinary man with a lovely wife, two growing kids, a regular job and a good group of friends. But this ordinary man thinks his life is too ordinary, too boring. Then one night he has an opportunity to answer a question on a radio quiz show. Once he gives the correct answer and begins to receive the prizes, his life is no longer boring or ordinary. Of course he soon wishes things were back to normal. Jimmy Stewart is such a pleasure to watch as he runs through a whole gamut of emotional upheavals. He goes from his routine life to the stress of trying to win the contest, to the euphoria of winning, to the turmoil when the prizes arrive, and then to the shocking discovery that he'll have to pay taxes on them. Barbara Hale is wonderful as his patient wife, who gets a little fed up with him as he laments his life decisions. James Gleason is also noteworthy as Bill's friend and adviser. While the story in itself isn't top notch, the acting more than makes up for it.
The Jackpot features James Stewart in another incarnation of his George
Bailey, Mr. Average Man persona. Like Bailey, Jimmy Stewart is the
average man with a wife and two kids. Only his Mr. Potter is his boss
Fred Clark at the department store where he's a Vice President. But
like Bailey he's feeling stuck in a rut in his small town.
That all changes when he gets a call from the Name the Mystery Husband quiz show and with a little help from James Gleason he gets the right answer. He wins $24,000.00+ in prizes, but no one tells him of the complications that go with it.
Barbara Hale steps nicely into Donna Reed's shoes and Natalie Wood and Tommy Rettig are the two children. Best in the supporting cast are Lyle Talbot, the department store's other vice president and one slobbering bootlicker and Alan Mowbray as an officious interior decorator.
Mowbray is playing a part and playing it well that another 20th Century Fox star, Clifton Webb would have eaten for breakfast. I wonder if the part in fact was offered to Webb. Maybe he turned it down because at that point he was a big name box office draw and the part of the obviously gay interior decorator might have been too close to home for those times.
The Jackpot is an enjoyable family comedy. Director Walter Lang got good performances out of his very talented cast.
Amusing little programmer that may be dated, but moves along nicely.
Department store exec Jimmy Stewart has a suburban home, two cute kids,
and a dutiful wife (Barbara Hale). He's a little bored but otherwise
okay. That is, until he wins a yard full of dubious prizes (fruit
trees, 1000 cans of soup, et. al.) from a radio show. That's sort of
okay too, until he finds out he's got to pay $7000 in taxes on loot
they really can't use. Now the happy home turns upside down and into a
sales bazaar as Stewart tries to raise the tax money and get his life
back to normal. However, the complications pile up almost as fast and
furiously as the chuckles.
Clever script from the Ephrons (Henry & Phoebe), along with a number of nice touches from ace comedy director Walter Lang. Note how he has a card-playing guest humorously peek at the cards while others are distracted by the radio show-- that had to be an inspiration of the moment. Stewart, of course, brings his usual brand of amiable befuddlement to the comedy mix, and who better to play his department store boss than that 50's curmudgeon of big business, baldy Fred Clark, (I hope there's a special place in Hollywood heaven for unsung performers like him).
I remember the mystery-guest quiz shows that the movie portrays. They were popular and fascinating for an audience trying to unravel the riddle of the celebrity guest (eg. Jack Benny as the "Walking Man"). I don't know, but I'll bet that those shows started paying the taxes on prizes after this movie was released. This is a good example of the kind of family comedy that soon migrated to 50's sit-com (Ozzie & Harriet; Leave it to Beaver). Probably it would not have been produced 5 years later, quiz-show premise or not. Nonetheless, there's enough human interest and clever comedy set-ups to overcome the period limitations and keep you entertained.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Directed by Walter Lang, "The Jackpot" is a fine showcase for James
Stewart's clumsy comic abilities, both physical and verbal. In this
film, Stewart plays Bill Lawrence, a department store manager who lives
a fairly comfortable life with his wife Amy (Barbara Hale) and their
two children (Natalie Wood and Tommy Rettig). But after Bill guesses
the correct answer to a radio jackpot question, his life steadily goes
downhill until it becomes a complete nightmare! The truckloads of
prizes that Bill wins (amounting to $24,000) are nothing but junk &
services that he and his family don't need. Aside from not having the
storage space for all these prizes, Bill is harassed by an interior
decorator (Alan Mowbray) who moves in, and he is also smitten by a
beautiful young woman (Patricia Medina) who has been sent to paint his
portrait, to the eventual fury of Amy. As if all that weren't bad
enough, Bill has to pay a $7,000 tax on all his winnings.
Two highlights: Bill tries to sell a diamond ring to racketeer Flick Morgan (Philip Van Zandt) at a Chicago fence, but before Bill knows what happened, Flick makes a fast getaway with the ring as the police raid the fence and arrest everyone there, including Bill! After believing Bill to be having an affair with the portrait painter, Amy banishes him to a bed in the toolshed, but little does he know that his son Tommy (Rettig) plans to show the bed to an elderly couple who plan to buy it; Bill escapes the shed and runs into the house in his underwear, to the amusement of some housepainters and a woman (Minerva Urecal) who tries on some of Amy's prized hats.
"The Jackpot" is unfortunately not one of James Stewart's most memorable films, but it's a darn good one! As one might expect, Bill Lawrence's topsy-turvy life does return to normal by the end of the film, but he sure pays a huge price for it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Another IMDb review commented that if Jimmy Stewart hadn't starred in
this it would not have been worth watching and that's probably true.
Its certainly the only reason I decided to watch it in my quest to
watch all Jimmy Stewart films. The thing that strikes me about The
Jackpot is that it is a comedy and even has some genuine slapstick
moments and some terrific physical comedy (which I adore when done
properly.) However, the film also often has this sad tone to it making
it far more of a dark comedy then you might initially think. At times
you feel so much empathy for Stewart's character that it is more sad
than funny. Still I laughed and chuckled quite a bit but felt it was
almost morbid laughing at this poor guy's pain. The film holds up very
well to modern day standards and you really do feel a sense of how much
this guy has won and how you could relate to it in modern day given his
prize winnings total $24,000 dollars which would probably be closer to
$100,000 nowadays if not more. The movie is fun, a little intense at
times and you definitely wonder what direction it is going in. It is
probably one of the more unique comedies I have ever seen. I'm not sure
it would translate nearly as well in a modern remake but this one holds
I feel silly writing about James Stewart again. I have seen so many of his films in the last two years and the guy is practically a Hollywood god so how can you even talk about his performances any more or less than one has already done. Stewart is charismatic and in every movie (including/especially this one) he makes you feel every single emotion that he goes through. It is exactly why It's A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington etc are such powerful classics because he makes you become his character and understand them intricately. Barbara Hale is Stewart's frustrated wife desperately trying to understand and help her husband and is overjoyed with the gifts from The Jackpot. Their relationship deteriorates as they get deeper into their problems caused by the winnings. Hale is quite good and their chemistry is excellent. They are completely believable as the average suburban couple. The supporting cast are all very good including especially good performances from Fred Clark as Stewart's disgruntled boss, Alan Mowbray as the vibrant decorator Leslie (playing very gay before that would have ever been considered), Patricia Medina and James Gleason. Also worth mentioning Stewart and Hale's two children are played by Natalie Wood and Tommy Rettig and despite very small roles they are both quite good.
Director Walter Lang had his hand in many slapstick comedies and the best praise I can give to The Jackpot is that it isn't your average "comedy." It is different and fun and a little emotional and just a really well written script. Certainly having Stewart as your star automatically ups the ante but the script is good regardless. It is simple enough but effective and you won't be bored for a single moment. The pacing of the movie is good and it absolutely sends you on an emotional roller coaster of a ride along with our star. Towards the climax of the film we watch their marriage hit this rocky spot and you are on the edge of your seat waiting to find out how things work out. In the end if a message about family and life in the same vein as Its A Wonderful Life but not quite as memorable. Still if you love Stewart, Hale, or classic comedies then please check this one out!! 7.5/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Those radio programs of yesterday had call in features about guessing
on the air a question of different topics. If the person called
answered it correctly, he, or she, would stand to win fabulous prizes
which were always quoted in dollars. Most of the unsuspecting
participants had no clue of what really was in store for them if they
That is exactly what happens to Bill Lawrence. He is happily married to Amy, a wonderful woman. They have two children and they are the picture of happiness American style. It was the boom years after WWII, so Bill had a nice job in his town's biggest department store. When he receives a call during the day to stay tuned to a radio station, he thought it was a big joke. After he realizes it is not, he frets when he has no clue as to what the right answer identifying a celebrity. With a little help of his friend, Harry Summers, he gets it right. The mystery man is none other than Harry James.
Little did Bill know what his life would turn out to be. The next day all his gifts start arriving. They go from the sublime to the ridiculous. The problem is the Lawrences do not have a house big enough to store all the goodies courtesy of the different sponsors of the radio program. Not only that, but an internal revenue agent appears to explain to them they owe seven thousand dollars because of all the gifts they received, money they do not have. The Lawrences are the victims of their own fortune! Bill must come with a solution to get them out of debt using whatever methods in his power.
This 1950 Twenty Century Fox comedy is hardly seen on television these days. It is a forgotten gem that will delight everyone. It is a story about innocence when a bonanza befalls a person who is not prepared what to do with his good fortune. Directed by Walter Lang, with a screenplay by Henry and Phoebe Ephron, a distinguished comedy writers with a long career in the movies. The idea for the film came out of an article that appeared in The New Yorker by John McNulty.
The film was obviously a vehicle for James Stewart who makes his Bill a delightful character. The film works because Mr. Stewart, a wonderful film actor, was an asset in anything he played. Barbara Hale appears as Amy Lawrence. The veteran James Gleason is on hand to give life to Harry Summers, the newspaper man who realizes what Bill is going through. Natalie Wood, Alan Mowbray, the wonderful Fred Clark, and Patricia Medina are seen in supporting roles.
Hadn't heard of this Stewart title before catching it during a recent
run on the Fox movie channel. It's well worth a watch. It does a nice
job of capturing the post WWII atmosphere in America as families turned
their attention away from the war and the pre-war depression and
forward to new economic prosperity and growth. It is in this atmosphere
that an average family living a simple life in small town Indiana
answers a radio contest question and wins a $24,000 prize, which today
probably amounts to 10 times as much. The resulting humorous
complications that arise both at home and at work for Stewart and his
family after he becomes a prize winner are hilarious.
From the movie description, you would think this is the kind of plot line that the writers would give cursory treatment, but I was surprised at the quality of the writing. I should have known better since James Stewart is not likely to agree to take a lead role in a poorly written work. Stewart has a solid surrounding cast who also all deliver ably - Barbara Hale, Fred Clark, James Gleason, Bob Gist and others, including young Natalie Wood. This is a nice romp and worth viewing.
Where did this movie come from and who has been hiding it for all these
years? Was it you, Ruppert Murdoch? This was on Fox Movie Channel today
and what a surprise it is! When you view a film which has been up until
"the moment" unheard of, it's like viewing a New Jimmy Stewart starring
THERE is also a distinction between a "Movie" and a "Film". Sure, the two terms are interchangeable and virtually synonymous; yet there seems to be a definite distinction in usage. To us regular old fun, adventure, action and strictly escapist entertainment type of Motion Pictures are "Movies"; whereas any production which is of a Grand Scale, represents an Accurate Historical Portrayal, is highly Cinematic in Style or is otherwise considered to be a "Major Motion Picture" is considered a "Film". (This includes most Biopics and Musical Adaptations from the Legitimate Broadway Stage.)
OUR fondest recollections of Mr. James Stewart's work is mainly (if not totally) made up of celluloid works that would have to be most certainly Film. Starting with a pair of Frank Capra's gems as in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (Columbia, 1939) and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (Liberty Pictures/RKO Radio, 1946). First rate productions of Film Biographies were his strong suit, also; with examples aplenty. Jimmy starred as tragic Chicago White Sox Pitcher, Monty Stratton in THE STRATTON STORY (MGM, 1949), the title role in THE GLENN MILLER STORY (Universal, 1953) and as 'Lucky Lindy'(Himself), Charles Lindbergh in THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS (Leland-Wilder Productions/Warner Brothers, 1957).
FURTHERMORE, other typical roles for Mr. Stewart (other than the occasional Comedy or Farce) were usually very strong, heroic types; such as: Chicago Newspaper Man, P.J. McNeal in CALLING NORTHSIDE 777 (20th Century-Fox, 1948), THE STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND (Paramount Pictures Corporation. 1955) and as Tenderfoot 'Pilgrim' Attorney, Ransom Stoddard in John Ford's THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (John Ford Productions/Paramount, 1962).
SMALL wonder then that a lot of moviegoers & film buffs tend to dismiss a Comedy/Farce such as THE JACKPOT (20th Century-Fox, 1950) as being a production that was below Jimmy's talents and stature as a true, Box Office stuffing, Red Blooded, All-American type and Movie Star to boot! JACKPOT is, after all, not really much of a story; being suggested by a story published in The New Yorker Magazine about the Radio Industry and some of the idiosyncrasies of the Game Shows & Giveaways of the period.
With it's simple and straight forward scenario, THE JACKPOT may well have been an old 2 Reel Comedy of the Late Silent or Early Talkie Eras. It could easily be built on starring a young Harold Lloyd, 'Baby-Faced' Harry Langdon or Stan Laurel (in his pre-Laurel & Hardy teaming). The story, as thin as it is, exists for our laughter and enjoyment.
OUR STORY .....In the proverbial Nut Shell, regular old average working American, Bill Lawrence (Mr. Stewart) answers a Radio Quiz Show' Jackpot Question (Hence the title; get it, Schultz?) and wins $24,000.00+ as the prize; well, not exactly! The prize is worth that (retail?), but it comes in the form of Goods and Services, rather than in Cold Ca$h Dollar$, in the Currency of the U$A, it is made up of a Crazy Quilt of disconnected items such as a Quarter Ton of Beef, Hundreds of Cases of Canned Soups, a real Pony, a House Trailer and many items of Jewelry such as multiple wristwatches and a Diamond Ring.
OTHER prize items include a Home Remake by famous Interior Decorator, 'Leslie' (Alan Mowbry) and a Portrait Painting by equally famous Painter, Hilda Jones (Patricia Medina).
THE story unfolds with the Story of Mr. Bill Lawrence's win making Front Page News, especially in this small, Indiana Town. All of the complications and unintended consequences that follow make up the action on the screen. Plain and simple, straightforward occurrences that upset the heretofore happy lives of Bill & Amy Lawrence (Barbara Hale-Woo,woo,woo,woo! Della Street never looked so good!), their kids, Phyllis (a young Natalie Wood-Woo,woo,woo,woo, too!) and an even younger and shorter Tommy (Tommy Rettig, "LASS-IEEE!").
A fine supporting cast is present and includes James Gleason, Fred Clark, Lyle Talbot, Billy Nelson, Phillip Van Zandt, John Qualen, Robert Gist, Frances Budd, Dulcie Day, Fritz Feld, Ann Doran, Estelle Etterre, June Evans, Walter Baldwin and many more faces we know. ( . But the names?) THE JACKPOT is meant to let us sit back, let our hair down and enjoy the laughter; even if some of them are kinda obvious and we can see 'um a comin'.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jimmy Stewart made so many memorable dramatic movies -- "Vertigo," "The
Naked Spur" -- that it's easy to overlook what a splendid comedic actor
he was. Not just heartwarmers like "It's a Wonderful Life" but flat-out
comedies like "Bell, Book, and Candle" and "No Highway In The Sky."
Well, I guess those two aren't thoroughbred comedies but they're
amusing, and if the roles are more complex than, say, Jerry Lewis', why
Stewart is the man to handle them.
Stewart is a middle-class husband and father who loves his wife, Barbara Hale, and his two kids, Natalie Wood and Tommy Rettig. He has a job as manager (or something) in a department store in an Indiana City. Everything is rolling along smoothly for Stewart, maybe a little boring, and then he has to go and give the correct answer on a radio quiz program, netting him some forty thousand 1950 dollars worth of merchandise, including hundreds of cans of soup and a side of beef.
His life is disrupted, his home invaded and turned upside down, he owes more in income taxes than he makes in a year, his wife throws him out, and he loses his job. But, yes, it's a comedy.
There must have been many men in Stewart's position in 1950. Like Stewart, many of them had spent the war years in uniform, leading lives of desperate excitement. Now they're home four or five years later with their loved ones and their tract houses and -- it's hard to put you finger on -- it's a routine that never changes. Tomorrow will be just like today.
All the performances are good, with Stewart at the top of his form, except that some people can play a drunk and others can't -- and he can't. But the most stunning performance comes during the brief appearance of Fritz Feld, the psychiatrist in "Bringing Up Baby," who is a long-haired piano player pounding out the Hungarian dances while Stewart is trying to hold an important conversation. Told to stop, Feld spins around, his eyes goggling, and his hands beside his ears, fingers opened like claws.
Pretty funny, all of it.
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