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 ...
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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
Less a comedy and more social commentary about the post-war era.
Ben Dobson (Red Skelton) is a newly wed who just got a job working for a very old fashioned and frugal boss. The boss values thrift and expects Ben to do the same. Unfortunately, Ben's wife, Martha (Jean Hagen) is NOT so inclined. She is like many folks in the post-war era...she wants it all. She wants a big house in the country, a car, a television and all the stuff that comes with it. As for Ben, you don't really know how he stands on any of this as he's henpecked and Martha makes all the decisions for them. Eventually, he finally let's it out....they can barely afford this life she's chosen and he thinks they need to move back to the city. Of courses, Martha ignores him and insists they continue living outside their means.
As for the frugal boss, he doesn't know that Ben's moved to the suburbs and thinks he still lives in the small New York City apartment he was in at the beginning of the film. This leads to a hilarious scene where he takes the boss 'home'....sneaking into his old apartment and pretending the little girl there is his kid...yet, she inexplicably only speaks French!!
Soon the boss commissions Ben to write an article about life in suburbia...and he wants the article to talk about how folks are over- extending themselves and cannot afford this extravagant lifestyle. Ben decides to do it, after all it IS his job, but doesn't tell his wife about it....and when she learns, she is furious with him. What's next? See the film.
This is a comedy but I found myself only laughing a bit. Mostly, I found myself wanting to throttle Martha...and fortunately my wife also was watching the movie and agreed with me. She didn't seem to love Ben during most of the movie...just what he could buy for her. Because of this, the film has a very dark undertone and is quite the morality tale about the post-war acquisitiveness that infected many in the States. Now this is NOT a complaint...I actually like that the film was less comedy and more morality tale. It gave the film some depth you rarely see in a Skelton picture.
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