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The post - Marx Brothers films of Groucho are somewhat astounding
because of their mediocrity or worse. Groucho appeared in the late
1940s in four films: COPACABANA, DOUBLE DYNAMITE, A GIRL IN EVERY PORT,
MR. MUSIC. He would subsequently appear alone in WILL SUCCESS SPOIL
ROCK HUNTER, and finally made SKIDOO. None of these have the values of
the best Marx Brother films, and yet they had pretty good casts in most
of them: Carmen Miranda, Frank Sinatra and Jane Russell, William
Bendix, Bing Crosby, Tony Randall and Jayne Mansfield, Jackie Gleason
and Carol Channing. Some of the directors were interesting: Frank
Tashlin in ROCK HUNTER and Otto Preminger in SKIDOO (even Richard Haydn
in MR. MUSIC). But the films rarely have much going for them. Not that
the two Marx Brother films of this period (LOVE HAPPY and THE STORY OF
MANKIND) were anything to write home about.
I tend to think that Groucho, wealthy and middle aged, was no longer really interested in proving anything in movies. His energies concentrated wonderfully on the radio and then television quiz show YOU BET YOUR LIFE. And he was right - his stardom remained high as a result. For that matter neither Harpo or Chico really needed to prove anything about their talents either. LOVE HAPPY was shot because (like A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA) Chico had some money troubles tied to his gambling. But Harpo and Groucho forced Chico to curtail some of his spending habits. From the point of making movies to impress none of them needed it.
So I suspect Groucho was less than really choosy in picking his films. He definitely lucked out in DOUBLE DYNAMITE by having a film with Frank Sinatra and Jane Russell. Both had followings (Sinatra's first following peaking in 1948; Russell being notorious for THE OUTLAW). But the story is a rather weak one. Sinatra is a clerk in a business owned by Howard Freeman. He manages to save Nestor Paiva's life, and the grateful bookie puts money down for Sinatra on a sure-thing horse that wins big. Now Sinatra has money to burn, but just then there is an audit of the books, and Freeman discovers a huge discrepancy. So Sinatra becomes his chief suspect for embezzlement.
Sinatra's problems are that he can't prove Paiva has repaid like this, and even if he could Freeman tends not to believe him. His only allies are his girlfriend and fellow worker Russell, and his closest friend Groucho (as Emil J. Ketch, a philosophical waiter with some biting wit). In the plot of the film, Groucho tries to help Sinatra by trying to get information from Freeman that may lead to the actual embezzler. This leads to the best portions of the film.
I have commented on Howard Freeman elsewhere on this board. A gifted character actor, he is unjustly forgotten today. He was capable of dramatic performances (he was a memorable Himmler in HITLER'S MADMAN, and he was the crooked landlord of the fleabag hotel that Alan Ladd used in THE BLUE DAHLIA), and he was equally good in comedy (he is the wealthy sausage manufacturer who is convinced by an intruding Stewart Grainger not to marry the devious Eleanor Parker in SCARAMOUCHE). He was also one of the few character actors who ever had a chance to reverse a dramatic performance into a comic gem, when he took his self-centered, fatuous Himmler and used it as a nice guy mistaken for a Himmler in a CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU? episode. With his abilities he was a first rate foil for Groucho.
Freeman's Mr. Pulsifer is not fully prepared to prosecute Sinatra, but he certainly makes Sinatra aware of his peril. So Emil decides that he has to get to know Pulsifer and pry out of him various information about other potential suspects (such as Pulsifer's son). How to do this? Well Pulsifer has not met Emil as a waiter, so Emil dresses up as a wealthy potential business investor. Sinatra is footing the bill for Emil's luxury rooms at a hotel, and his wining and dining Freeman. Of course, the fatuous Freeman does fall for it. Here's the type of man he wants to associate with: a real man of the world. While Groucho spins the most outlandish lies, Freeman readily, greedily swallows them. The scenes between them are quite good.
Groucho does recite "Gather ye rosebuds" at one point, and he has a nice duet with Sinatra. So there are positive points in the film. Ms Russell does the best she can but her lines are not memorable (the title's double entendre is the limit of wit regarding her role). It is a pleasant film, at times almost rising with Groucho and Freeman, but it is not up to the best work Groucho ever did.
Frank Sinatra's last role under his contract with RKO was this slight
comedy Double Dynamite. It was also the last time he played a
Double Dynamite was started in 1948 but Howard Hughes in his infinite wisdom kept under under wraps for three years, not releasing it until Christmas of 1951. In a backhanded way he may have helped Sinatra because in 1951 the film offers were not coming and at least his name was kept before the public eye.
Hughes could read the trade papers though and the Sinatra who had box office clout in 1948 had little in 1951. Probably Frank was going to be billed below Jane Russell in a Hughes production in any event, but he was third billed below Groucho Marx in this one.
If this had been done at Paramount you would have seen Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton in the roles Sinatra and Russell have. They're both bank tellers at Howard Freeman's bank, but Freeman's in retirement and it's run by his playboy son Don McGuire and manager Harry Hayden.
Frank and Jane make $42.50 a week, not a princely sum even back in 1951 and poor Frank goes and asks for a raise from Hayden. Personally I thought it was his best moment in the film. The way Hayden just jawbones him out of the raise reminded me of Branch Rickey negotiating salaries with baseball players. Right around the time this film was being made, there was a campaign against Rickey being orchestrated by New York Daily News sports columnist Jimmy Powers. One of the tags Powers hung on Rickey was El Cheapo. Based on the stories that Powers and others told about Rickey beating down every dollar a player might ask for, I have no doubt Rickey was the model for Hayden's character.
Anyway Frank lucks into a windfall when he saves a notorious bookmaker, Nestor Paiva, from a beating being dished out by a rival mob. In gratitude Paiva 'lends' Frankie a thousand dollars and he bets on several 'sure things' with Paiva and he walks away with $60,000.00.
But as Frank returns triumphantly from Paiva's betting parlor, he discovers Hayden making a speech to the staff about someone embezzling a lot of money. Not even Russell believes him. His only ally is their good friend, a waiter at a one arm spaghetti joint, Groucho Marx.
At this point Groucho really takes over the film. He gives Sinatra and Russell all kinds of advice, romantic and financial, about how to deal with this perplexing situation. One of them being put all the money in his name. They do that and Groucho does live it up in grand style.
Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn wrote two of their most forgettable songs. With the release held up for three years, Sinatra never even bothered to record them for Columbia Records where he was at the time. Kisses and Tears is a duet with Jane Russell and there's a comedy patter number, It's Only Money for Groucho and Frank. Sinatra was usually given some great songs by Styne and Cahn in the forties, but they definitely failed him here.
If it wasn't for Groucho Marx, Double Dynamite might very well be several notches lower in my estimation. When he's not on the screen you just wait for him to come back. I have a funny feeling that Groucho stole the film from Jane Russell who Hughes was trying to build up and that that was the reason it was held up for three years.
I marvel that Jane Russell had any career at all considering Howard Hughes's obsession with her two weapons of mass destruction. Double Dynamite is the third film that I know of that he held for years before releasing that starred her, The Outlaw and the noir classic His Kind of Woman were the other two. Good thing she did The Paleface with Bob Hope over at Paramount and out of his reach.
Besides those mentioned look for a nice performance by William Edmunds as Groucho's suffering employer, Mr. Baganucci. And Don McGuire is really quite the wolf in wolf's clothing as he keeps sexually harassing Jane.
It's not a great film, it might have been better had it been in the hands of someone like Preston Sturges at Paramount.
There is a scene somewhere in the middle of "Double Dynamite" where Frank Sinatra and Jane Russel are lying on their beds in two rooms separated only by a thin wall and start singing to each other; the camera lingers on Jane's face and smile, and it's a delightful moment. The rest of the movie is not quite on that level, but the three stars make it worth watching anyway: Sinatra is likable, Russell is dazzling, and Groucho Marx has some laugh-out-loud zingers ("You're getting married? Where is the ceremony taking place, Alkatraz?"), and does some of his trademarked eyebrow-raising as well. In fact, I would say that this is a better showcase for him than the Marx Brothers' last film "Love Happy", in which he was essentially just a guest star. "Double Dynamite" is a minor film, but it passes the time very easily. (**1/2)
I don't know why this kooky little film hasn't received better notices. As a huge fan of both Groucho Marx and The Voice, "Double Dynamite" was a dream come true. Groucho hasn't been this funny since "Duck Soup," and Ol' Blue Eyes plays off him beautifully. If there's a complaint here, it's that there aren't enough musical numbers. "It's Only Money" (a duet between Frank and Groucho) is a show-stopper.
This move is set some time in the 1940s, so plug that in and go along
for the ride. Sinatra stars as an honest man, eking out a living as a
bank teller but not enough for marriage. By chance, he's captured by
the underworld and makes a mint. He can marry Jane Russell, something
the wisecracking waiter, Groucho Marx, seems to want. But there has
been an apparent embezzlement at the bank where Sinatra works, and its
discovery is timed exactly with Sinatra's underworld winnings. He did
not embezzle the money, but he can't rightly say he did come by it. But
Groucho is there to help him, and we all know what that means.
This is a nifty film with a few good twists and its share of laughs.
There is a scene where "Johnny Dalton" is lying in his bed in his apartment and Mibs Goodhue in her bed in hers, separated by wall. Dalton starts to sing.
"You know," I teased to my wife, "that guy sounds a lot like Sinatra." "It is," she deadpanned in reply.
"Looks too young to be Sinatra." Yeah, 't was 1951. If you want to go back for a spell, this one will take you there.
then you should check this movie out. First, it might be the best movie
Groucho did without his brothers. I know that's not saying much, but he
really does a good job without Chico or Harpo. I thought he would be
able to get off more double entendres with Jane Russell. I mean the
movie is named Double Dynamite because of her.
Sinatra seems out of place playing a meek bank cashier that can't make a commitment to Russell. He's not a guy that would ever be invited to join the Rat Pack. Heck, Jerry Lewis could take on this Sinatra. And Russell probably would want to marry Lewis instead of Frank. How could he have taken this role? Russell does a pretty good job of playing off Sinatra and Groucho. She had a nice comic side that she didn't get to show often enough.
This was the last movie directed by Irving Cummings. Cummings, who started out as an actor in the silent era, doe a good job of keeping the story moving along. He's no Hitchcock or Ford, but he does a pretty good job with a pretty thin story.
I give it 7 out of 10 stars - a passing grade but not enough to make the honor roll.
Think about it. Sinatra, Groucho, and Jane Russell starring in a movie written by Harry Crane and with songs by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. Sound great. Well, it's not. Sinatra is a bank clerk who is wrongly accused of stealing money from his bank. His singing is great; it's probably never been better. However, instead of the flip Sinatra character of the 1950s, director Cummings asks Sinatra to play a timid young man, a role that never really suited him well. (Think about "The Kissing Bandit"! Compare that to "Meet Danny Wilson", Sinatra's next film where he gets to play that cocky guy!) Groucho is as funny as usual, but the script is contrived, there are too few sight gags, and the direction is slow. We are even cheated on the musical numbers. The two songs, "It's Only Money" (sung by Frank and Groucho) and "Kisses and Tears" (sung by Frank and Jane, accompanied by the jazzy Phil Moore Four) are good, but I wish there were more. Groucho did better with his brothers and Sinatra did better with Nelson Riddle!
Just watched this on a Netflix disc. It's the only teaming of Frank Sinatra, Jane Russell, and Groucho Marx. It's largely because of the last name that I had in interest in seeing this and I wasn't disappointed as he's as funny as you expect him to be with all those wisecracks that cracks me up the way he does them. Sinatra shows his vocal chops to good effect when he duets with both Marx and Ms. Russell on their numbers. The supporting cast is also good of which one of them, William Edmonds, is one of the players from my favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life-he played Mr. Martini there. Here, he has a much bigger role of a restaurateur who's Groucho's boss as Groucho is a waiter here. The plot-about an embezzlement-gambling mixup-gets partially confusing but the way it's performed here, at least it wasn't boring, that's for sure! So on that note, I say Double Dynamite is worth a look.
Groucho Marx and Jane Russell (and Frank Sinatra)... ah what a movie
this could've been. But it wasn't. I'm a huge Groucho fan and I thought
Jane Russell sassed as good as Barbara Stanwyck could in Gentlemen
Prefer Blondes, so I had high hopes for a comedy with the two, but no,
it wasn't to be. Instead, the two are featured tag-alongs in what
appears to be a Frank Sinatra B-vehicle that he was probably contracted
to do while still at the nadir of his career (right before his
reinvigoration with his Oscar win for From Here to Eternity).
So, harpooned by a poor script, the stars never really got a chance to shine, though Groucho managed a couple of good one-liners and as always, it's a joy to watch him on screen.
Ms. Russell, contradicting expectations from this leering title, plays
a prim young woman given to high necklines. (OK, she does take a shower
that looks identical to the one she takes in "The Las Vegas Story.")
The dynamite? That seems to have nothing to do with the plot.
Like Russell, Frank Sinatra is cast against type as meek bank teller -- who pretty much stays meek. He is likable.
The only possible reason to watch this is Groucho Marx. He is a waiter in an Italian restaurant who masquerades as a millionaire. (Oi, don't ask.) My favorite of his jokes is this: Russell says to him, "You would choose the bridal suite. What are you going to do with three bedrooms?" "I don't know, Groucho replies. "What would a bride do with them?"
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