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Max and his son Asher are invited to a party, where Max meets a rich widow, but Asher keeps annoying all of the guests, so Max refuses to speak to him. 10 days later he has married the widow, but hasn't told her about Asher. Asher doesn't like the situation either, and enters the home disguised as the new maid, that leeds to a growing suspicion of his step mother, who has her own little secret. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
I can usually laugh at drag humour, but the extended drag sequence in "Don't Tell Everything" makes me uneasy. Still, there are some good laughs in this Max Davidson comedy. Max plays a widowed tailor named Ginsberg, who has a son named Asher (played by the very ugly Spec O'Donnell). Asher is apparently a teenager, but he acts like he's about eight years old: he carries a toy catapult and keeps using it to annoy various adults ... including James Finlayson, who plays a lawyer named Goldblum! (Funny, he doesn't look Jewish.) Finlayson is wasted in the first half of the film, but he justifies his presence later.
Max meets the wealthy widow Finkelheimer. (As he shakes her hand, he feels the quality of her fur coat to gauge her wealth.) When Asher annoys her with his juvenile pranks, Mrs Finkelheimer asks Max 'Who is that brat?'. Max is already planning to marry the rich widow, so he denies all knowledge of Asher. Max and Mrs Finkelheimer get married with amazing rapidity, and Max moves into her house ... but Asher is left out in the cold, because Max dares not acknowledge that this 'brat' is his son.
Now comes the drag part that I disliked. Asher decides to dress up as a girl and get Max to hire him as the 'maid' so that he can live under the same roof as his father. We find out about his scheme before we actually see the results onscreen, via an insert shot of a handwritten note announcing Asher's intentions to become a girl. O'Donnell was a very unpleasant-looking young man, so I wasn't looking forward to seeing him in drag. But when he made his entrance as the 'maid', I was amazed. O'Donnell is actually believable as a girl ... a very UGLY girl, mind you, but he actually manages to look and move like a biological female. When he takes off his dress, he reveals that he's wearing a girl's undergarments, which suggests a deep commitment to his role. (Or maybe something else.) There are some continuity errors involving O'Donnell's stockings and his lipstick, which comes and goes during one scene. Late in the film, we find out that Asher keeps his catapult tucked into his girly undergarments ... which raises some questions about what he's planning to do.
The part that distresses me occurs when the 'maid' reveals his true identity, and Max eagerly embraces his son ... who is still dressed in a wig and girls' underwear. There's something very distasteful about a man embracing a teenage boy who's dressed as a girl (and only in undergarments, yet), and matters are not improved by the fact that the man and boy are meant to be father and son. I stopped laughing at this point.
There's a funny gag a bit later when O'Donnell runs out into the street, still wearing a blonde wig and girls' undergarments but no dress. When a policeman accosts him, O'Donnell explains (in a title card) that it's O.K. because he's not really a girl: he's a boy! Then he walks away, mincing like a girl. This grotesque scene is actually quite funny because O'Donnell well and truly does look like a (very ugly) girl, not a boy in girls' clothes. The scene is made even funnier by the fact that it was obviously filmed on a real Los Angeles street (not a backlot set), and all the baffled bystanders are (apparently) genuine pedestrians who weren't aware of the joke ... not extras playing a scene.
I stopped laughing in the next scene. After O'Donnell ends up in some paint, he goes to Mrs Finkelheimer's house, strips out of his girl-clothes and decides to take a bath ... still wearing his girl's wig. Loving father Max scrubs his naked teenage son. This is meant to set up a gag in which Mrs Finkelheimer glimpses Max scrubbing the naked 'maid', but I found it too tasteless to be funny. Why is a man bathing his naked teenage son (who is old enough to bath himself), and why is the son still wearing a girl's wig in the bathtub? This sequence implies that Asher actually wants to be a girl (instead of adopting female disguise only as an expedient), and it also implies that Max prefers his son as a girl. I couldn't laugh at this scene.
James Finlayson was famous for his 'double-take and fadeaway', to which playwright Alan Ayckbourn paid tribute in 'Comic Potential'. Late in this film, "Fin" does one of his funniest double-takes ever, but it relies on a mechanical gag. While Finlayson stares at Max bathing the naked maid, the bowler on Finlayson's head starts to wibble-wobble all by itself. This is funny, but we know there's a physical gimmick involved. "Fin" didn't need that sort of help.
SPOILER COMING. The first half of this film has a funny routine involving Max and a garage mechanic ... which seems to be irrelevant to the rest of the film, but it all comes together for the final gag. I'll rate 'Don't Tell Everything' 6 out of 10. It's funny, but it's not one of Max Davidson's best. Unless you want to see a teenage boy walking down the street disguised as a half-naked teenage girl, in which case this is definitely the movie to watch.
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