Howard Hawks directs his stars and a brilliant cast of supporting players (Billy Gilbert, a real scene-stealing stand-out) at a breathless pace, using overlapping dialog to increase the feeling of frenzy. You'll want to watch this one again and again to catch all of the terrific dialog. Some of those witty lines (at least as legend has it) were improvised, such as when Grant describes Bruce Baldwin, saying that he "looks like that film actor, Ralph Bellamy." Later, during a rapid-fire telephone exchange, Grant responds to another actor's line with "The last person to say that to me was Archibald Leach just before he cut his throat!" (Archibald Leach of course, being Grant's real name.) Named to the National Film Registry in 1993.
In a rare Academy occurrence, both Davis and Baxter were Oscar nominated in the same category (Best Actress), which is generally believed to have canceled each other out. (Judy Holliday took home the award for BORN YESTERDAY.) The film garnered a record 14 nominations and seven wins including Best Picture in 1950. Look for ravishing Marilyn Monroe, typecast as an aspiring starlet in the party scene.
So folks, fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night!
Named to the National Film Registry in 1990.
A lonely woodcarver named Geppetto creates a marionette he names Pinocchio. That night he prays upon a star that puppet would become a real boy. The good Blue Fairy hears his wish and brings Pinocchio to life while Gepettto sleeps. She then tells the little wooden fellow that he can become a real boy if he is brave, truthful and unselfish and learns to tell right from wrong. She appoints Jimimy Cricket (the narrator of our story) as Pinocchio's conscience to help him along the way. The overjoyed Gepetto sends his new son to school the next day, but the newness of everything overwhelms the boy and he is soon led astray on a series of frightening adventures.
Attempting to duplicate the success of other radio programs that made the transition to the big screen (FIBBER MCGEE & MOLLY, THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE, HENRY ALDRICH, etc.), studio executives at both MGM and Paramount set their sites on Duffy's for their next radio crossover picture. Paramount's proposal of a "stars-go-all-out-for-the-war-effort" variety film in the vein of Hollywood CANTEEN and THANK YOUR LUCK STARS caught Gardner's fancy. And so it was that contract players Bing Crosby, Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken, Robert Benchley and more than two dozen others were signed up for cameos while the radio actors (save for Broadway actress Ann Thomas as a new Miss Duffy) reprised their familiar roles.
The story is a pretty basic "let's put on a show to save the __________." Unbeknownst to his boss Duffy, soft-hearted Archie has been providing out-of-work veterans with free meals and spirits. The servicemen had worked at a phonograph record company owned by Archie's pal Michael O'Malley (Victor Moore) before the war. The factory was forced to close because of a war time shortage of shellac and the bank turned down a loan to O'Malley to reopen the plant. O'Malley's daughter Peggy (Marjorie Reynolds) works as a switchboard operator at a hotel where a number of celebrities are staying. In due course the stars are persuaded to help raise funds to reopen the plant by performing at a block party hosted by our favorite barkeep. There are some yucks along the way, a little romance between Peggy and soldier Danny Murphy (Barry Nelson) and plenty of entertainment at the big show.
Betty Hutton is a tornado of energy performing "Doin' it the Hard Way" and Cass Daly, the gangly gal with the overbite, sings a rousing number, "You Can't Blame a Gal for Trying." Bing and Betty parody the Oscar winning song "Swinging on a Star" from Paramount's 1944 hit GOING MY WAY and Bing shares a scene with his four young sons Gary, Lin and twins Phillip and Dennis.
Variety posted a mixed review, finding the translation of weekly audio program to celluloid "stale," but they praised the vaudeville portion of the film. Eddie Bracken was singled out for " .playing the double role of a cowboy here, taking successively a beating by a bandit mob, a water dunking and some pies in his face, all constituting a nostalgic throwback to the good old Mack Sennett days and as hilarious a sequence as one will find in any film-comedy."
Admittedly, DUFFY'S TAVERN may not hold up well with most present-day viewers who haven't known the wonder of old-time radio and have little or no knowledge of Betty Hutton and Bing Crosby, let alone Cass Daley. Fans of movies from the 40's and Olt-Time radio buffs however, should find DUFFY'S TAVERN an elite place to meet many of their favorite old stars and have a great deal of fun along the way.