Paramount was supposed to make a movie version. It was discussed as a vehicle for the Marx Brothers. Would Groucho have played Wintergreen or Fulton? Harpo would have been hysterical as a silent Throttlebottom. Chico would have added to the hilarity as an immigrant committee member. Maybe Zeppo would have been Wintergreen! In the 1940s,Bob Hope was to star in a movie version. Hope would have been perfect as Wintergreen, but looking at Paramount 40s musicals, it wouldn't have been great. Musically, we probably would have ended up with only "Wintergreen for President", "Love Is Sweeping the Country" and the title song. Paramount used Hope instead of William Gaxton for its production of "Louisiana Purchase"; Victor Moore repeated his Broadway role. However, most of Irving Berlin's score was unused and Hope did not get one single musical number. What a shame! Paramount also made messes of Broadway hits "Let's Face It" and "Lady in the Dark".
As for the CBS production, the libretto was truncated to fit into a 90 minute slot and the southern senator became the villain, replacing the French Ambassador, which would not make much sense in the 1970s. Peter Matz's musical arrangements are crisp and swinging. They are far superior to the Don Walker arrangements from the 1952 Broadway version. Jack Gilford was so perfect as Throttlebottom that he was used again for the Brooklyn Accademy of Music production in the 1980s. With the Gershwin music still vital at the time, CBS was able to update the story and place it in the 1970s. However, if this show was revived on Broadway today, unfortunately it would have to be treated as a period piece.
It's not a bad film, but the plot may be a bit much for a two reel short and characters are undeveloped. It's all rather melodramatic. The film is also devoid of humor. The songs, with lyrics by Jack Scholl and music by M. K. Jerome, are serviceable, but are not in the class with Friml melodies. Don't get me wrong. Scholl and Jerome wrote tons of music and lyrics mostly for Warners shorts and "B" pictures. Occasionally, one of their songs found its way into an "A" production, like "Knock on Wood" in "Casablanca" or "Some Sunday Morning" from "San Antonio". They are definitely unsung musical heroes of Hollywood and their work should be re-evaluated.
In this depression era piece, Thelma and Zasu are late in paying their rent and haven't much to eat. However, their neighbor is about to be evicted from her room if she cannot pay $20. Softhearted Thelma and Zasu become dance hall girls to help her. Anita Garvin is hysterical as a veteran taxi dancer. Also funny are the attempts to make Zasu more appealing. Of course, Thelma is naturally appealing. Billy Gilbert is funny as always as the dance hall manager. But why did he need the accent? The closing gag could have gone in many directions. All I will say is that Meins chose a very good one. It tops off a charming short.
The film is funny and charming, but is missing a background musical score. In fact, there is no music at the start of the film during the Crane sisters spoken titles or at the ending credit. The lack of music makes the film a little dry and calls attention to the film hiss. This short could be as funny as "The Pip from Pittsburg", but that film has LeRoy Shield's background music helping it move along. Maybe Hallmark should add recordings of the Shield music by the Beau Hunks to cover up the hiss. Hal Roach did this himself, adding a musical score to some of the early Laurel and Hardy efforts. Roach's adding of Shield stock music to "Blotto" makes it one of Laurel and Hardy's best films.
"Clap Hands, Here Comes Charley", a pop song from the 1920s is used as the opening theme music. The rest of the background music is canned Vitaphone scoring. This is the same music Roach used for his late silent with synchronized music and sound effects films. It is bland and unobtrusive. The music which LeRoy Shield wrote in the coming months for subsequent comedies is much richer and memorable.
Even though the film is loaded with standard Stooges-style Columbia slapstick, Harry does subtle little bits throughout the film to make it funnier. He was never an athletic comic like Keaton or Lloyd; he relied on quirky little body movements and facial reactions. He still portrays innocence, even though he was approaching his 60s. I only wish he didn't talk so much. Sometimes he comes off like a babbling idiot. Keaton only spoke when absolutely necessary. However, watching Langdon silents, you can see he is always talking, even though we cannot hear him.
This is a first rate comedy, only marred by Harry's babbling and a weak finish.
The film itself is only mediocre, with typical military gags which have been used many times before. The rivalry between Buster and Vernon for the girl is weak. Buster was inebriated during the filming, but it doesn't have much effect on his performance. This film is worth seeing for all Keaton fans and fans of slapstick comedy.
By the time they became the Bowery Boys, the comedy was beginning to overshadow the melodrama. "Hard Boiled Mahoney" is still an over-plotted crime melodrama, but the comedy of Gorcey and Hall was beginning to take center stage. Hall now refers to Gorcey as "Chief" more often than not, and Gorcey hits Hall with his hat constantly. The story still centers as Gorcey, as most of the previous efforts had, but Hall is almost his equal. Unfortunately, the other boys suffer because of this. Jordan was terrific as the leading man in the early East Side films, but he has been relegated to background boy. What a shame! Billy Benedict had some good moments in the past and will have some good moments in future films, but he is definitely subordinate to Leo and Huntz. David Gorcey was always a background boy. Surprisingly, Gabe Dell is just one of the gang in this picture. He had had that role in the Warners and Universal series, but even in the early Monogram films he had varied roles. After this point, Dell would play the mature member of the gang, sometimes on the right side of the law and sometimes on the wrong side of the law. The character he plays here is reminiscent of the one he played in the East Side film "Come Out Fighting". He is a bi-speckled stooge.
This is not a bad Bowery Boys film, but Ed Bernds was really needed to later turn Gorcey and Hall into comedy stars.
Jerry's theme music, "Smile", has been replaced by some synth 80s theme music and the hour long variety shows have been cut down to 24 minutes. All that remains are edited comedy sketches. Most of these sketches are flat and unfunny. Some are re-workings of sketches Jerry performed with Dean Martin on the "Colgate Comedy Hour". The sketches usually feature Jerry either as "Sidney Portnoy" or the "Nutty Professor". The best sketches are those which feature Nanette Fabray as Jerry's co-star.
Almost all of the musical numbers have been removed. (For some reason, a short dance number for Joey Heatherton and the song "Step to the Rear" from the "classic" musical "How Now Dow Jones" and sung by Laurence Harvey !!! are left alone.) I guess Infinity either did not want to pay musical royalties or felt that the musical numbers were "gay" (corny, non-rock musical presentations that could only be of interest to the fruitiest, theater-loving homosexuals).
On their own, the comedy sketches are extremely weak. Maybe within the context of the variety show, they were acceptable. Jerry tries hard, and the guest stars are first rate, but nothing seems to work. One of the sketches, "Sidney Rents an Apartment" is available on Youtube in its entirety. Of course, Infinity, or the original syndicators, removed the musical number which makes this sketch charming.
Even for the staunchest Jerry fans, this show and this collection are a big let down.
The strangest aspect of the film is its time and music. It should be using early Rock 'n Roll, but luckily for us, we get a Broadway style score with big band style pop interpolations. The setting of the film seems more like 1948 than 1958. However, it is a pleasant way to spend 85 minutes.