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The Duke Is Tops (1938)

Approved | | Musical | 1 September 1938 (USA)
A theatrical producer puts aside his own success to boost the career of a talented singer.

Directors:

William L. Nolte (as William Nolte), Ralph Cooper (uncredited)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ralph Cooper Ralph Cooper ... Duke Davis
Lena Horne ... Ethel Andrews
Laurence Criner Laurence Criner ... Doc Dorando (as Lawrence Criner)
Monte Hawley Monte Hawley ... George Marshall
Willie Covan Willie Covan ... Specialty Tap Dancer
Neva Peoples Neva Peoples ... Ella
Vernon McCalla Vernon McCalla ... Mason (as Vernon McCallum)
Edward Thompson Edward Thompson ... Ferdie Fenton
Johnny Taylor Johnny Taylor ... Dippy - 'Prince Alakazoo'
Ray Martin Ray Martin ... Joe
Guernsey Morrow Guernsey Morrow ... Ed. Lake (as Guersney Morrow)
Charles Hawkins Charles Hawkins ... Sam - Stage Manager (as Charlie Hawkins)
Basin Street Boys Basin Street Boys ... Specialty Act
Rubberneck Holmes Rubberneck Holmes ... Specialty Act (as Rubber Neck Holmes)
Cats and the Fiddle Cats and the Fiddle ... Specialty Act
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Storyline

Duke Davis has invested all his savings to back his sweetheart, Ethel, in a road show over the old T.O.B.A. circuit, on which they have both been performers since childhood. Marshall, a New York talent scout, makes an offer to Ethel as a single and, to induce her to take it, Duke writes a fake check, made out to him, for $5000 pretending he has sold his contract with Ethel to Marshall. Resentful and heartbroken, she accepts and becomes a big hit in New York. Marshall then books her at the swanky Century Club, plans her show himself, and it flops miserably. Meanwhile, Duke has used his last resources to start a new show, but without Ethel it also fails. He joins the Doc Dorando medicine show, and with him as the speiler for the quack elixir sold by Dorando, it is successful. He becomes Doc's partner with an elaborate trailer and a company of entertainers, including Willie Covans, the Basin Street Boys, The Cats and the Fiddle, "Rubberneck" Holmes and Joe Stevenson. Money is rolling in ... Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Musical

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

1 September 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Bronze Venus See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Film debut of Lena Horne. See more »

Quotes

Duke Davis: Sufferin' catfish, Doc, the place is on fire!
See more »

Connections

Edited into Strange Frame: Love & Sax (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

Killing Jive
(uncredited)
Performed by Cats and the Fiddle
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Lena Horne's screen debut
14 February 2004 | by zetesSee all my reviews

This all black film was Lena Horne's screen debut. Made for black audiences, it was re-released after the cross-over success of her two great 1943 films, Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather. The Duke Is Tops is a typical film about stage performers, and it is certainly a B movie. Duke Davis (Ralph Cooper) and Ethel Andrews (Horne) are a songwriter/singer team. When Ethel gets bigger offers, Duke can't come with, so he breaks it off hard with her so she'll have no regrets. He travels to the South with an old friend who is selling cure-all elixirs from his wagon; meanwhile, without Duke's behind-the-scenes work, Ethel is a flop in New York. It's all fairly mediocre. Horne would become a much better actress in her later films. Fans of the singer will probably be disappointed anyways, as she is only in the film for about 15 minutes. Cooper is the star. But there are several wonderful musical performances that make the film much more worth watching than it otherwise would have been. For a much better film of the same time, definitely check out Stormy Weather, which is probably the pinnacle of the all-black films of this era. 6/10.


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