Audiences always roared with delight when Red Skelton went one-on-one with post-war life in The Yellow Cab Man, The Fuller Brush Man and other films. In Half a Hero, the legendary comic ... See full summary »
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Audiences always roared with delight when Red Skelton went one-on-one with post-war life in The Yellow Cab Man, The Fuller Brush Man and other films. In Half a Hero, the legendary comic took on a slice of 20th-century Americana that still resonates today: the suburbs. Red plays Ben Dobson, a magazine writer whose boss approves of Ben because he lives in a cramped Manhattan apartment instead of "the slums of tomorrow": the 'burbs. So, of course, when Ben movies his family to a sprawling housing development, he struggles (hilariously_ to keep the fact a secret. Jean Hagen, a year after her iconic portrayal of the itsy-voiced screen siren in Singin' in the Rain, plays Ben's long-suffering wife, and singer Polly Bergen makes a guest appearance with a torrid nightclub-scene rendition of "Love." Written by
Those who are expecting some of Red Skelton's more outlandish comedy routines will be somewhat disappointed in Half A Hero. In this film Red essays a role that just post World War II would have been offered to James Stewart. Who's to say this script wasn't seen by Stewart.
Still he and Jean Hagen play a decent post war average couple with her doing the June Cleaver home making and Red working as a writer, or should I say rewriter at a magazine owned by Charles Dingle. One of my favorite character actors, Dingle is at his pompous tyrannical best as Skelton's boss who likes the fact that Skelton and Hagen live in a small New York City apartment and within their means. Listening to Dingle prattle on about that subject I could hear Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter talking about the merits of a thrifty working class.
Anyway Skelton and Hagen do move to the suburbs and face the same problems a lot of post World War II young marrieds face, like my parents for instance. Dingle however wants an expose of these people who don't save who will turn the nation into a mass of suburban slums. Skelton tries to give him what he wants, but he's got his own ideas as well.
The old and young Jimmy Stewart could have phoned in his performance if he had the lead in Half A Hero. Skelton does all right with the part even if it is offbeat casting. Outside of Dingle in the cast, the best performance is by Willard Waterman as a most unctuous real estate salesman.
It's not typical Red Skelton, but it's more than all right.
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