"Rusty" Cammeron tries to get out of debt by doing some free-lance newsreel photography, but his efforts fall woefully short and end in some kind of mishap. Lucia Corlaine rescues him from drowning and he falls madly in love with her. Lucia, a wealthy young lady, is trying to build a real estate project but a group of crooks and swindlers are out to stop her. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Only Red's many fans will enjoy "Watch the Birdie," one of Red Skelton's weaker movie comedies. "The Yellow Cab Man," released the same year (1950) is much better. To see classic Skelton, check out "A Southern Yankee," his most critically acclaimed feature, containing the famous scene of Red carrying a flag with bars and stars on one side and stars and stripes on the other so neither the Yankees or the Rebels will fire at him. Any of the "Whistling" pictures Red made during World War II are worth a look, in particular "Whistling in Brooklyn." All three have the added attraction of featuring one of the funniest men in the movies, Rags Ragland, who left us much too soon.
"Watch the Birdie" does contain some funny routines and several humorous situations, such as the wild chase at the end with Red and Arlene Dahl atop one of the craziest contraptions imaginable--a huge lumber lift vehicle. But much of the comedy is forced and some of it falls flat, especially the scene at the doctor's that takes place in a crowded dressing room. There are some hilarious lines delivered by Red with his usual skill, yet many are shopworn and stale.
Though Red was a master of mimicry and impersonation, his portrayal of his own father and grandfather fails to gel with the story being told. The father character is just not funny. The grandfather ploy works much better, being presented as an octogenarian playboy with a young thing wrapped around him.
Believe it or not, the funniest part of the movie is the opening credits. Red reads the names, making clever comments, such as: "These two girls fought over me. Ann Miller wanted me to marry Arlene Dahl and Arlene Dahl wanted me to marry Ann Miller." "We had four writers on this picture. Three could write. The other one was my wife's brother."
The story has Red an unsuccessful operator of a camera shop owned by his father. While trying to make money to pay his bills and save his business by doing freelance filming on a boat, he is accidentally knocked overboard by heiress Lucia Corlane (Arlene Dahl). In attempting to make amends, she and Red fall for each other. Miss Corlane is determined to save Red's little shop providing him enough business to pay his debts. In the process, Red uncovers a plot by Miss Corlane's business manager, Grantland D. Farns (Leon Ames), and his unscrupulous accomplices to steal Corlane's money through manipulating a housing project of hers that is under construction. To aid Red, Corlane assigns him the task of taking pictures to promote the housing venture. Red unknowingly shoots film that contains incriminating evidence against Farns. Farns and his partners in crime are determined to snatch the film before it reaches the district attorney's office.
Though not one of his best films, "Watch the Birdie" has enough humor and slapstick to keep fans entertained. It is always a delight to watch a truly funny man on the big screen. Red was adept at both physical and oral humor. If Red can't make you laugh, it's doubtful that anybody can.
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