Thursday, January 28, 2010

Three of a Kind

Here Comes Cookie/Love in Bloom/Six of a Kind is quite a triple bill. Three old comedies featuring George Burns and Gracie Allen on one DVD. I'll review in order of goodness:

Six of a Kind: Mild-mannered bank clerk Charlie Ruggles and his overbearing wife Mary Boland are going to drive to California for on a long-awaited vacation. Unbeknownst to Charlie, an embezzler sneaked $50,000 into his luggage. Also, his wife has advertised for another couple to come along to share expenses - and it turns out to be George Burns and Gracie Allen, and her great Dane.

Things are crazy enough, but when they reach Nuggetsville NV, they stay in a hotel run by Alison Skipworth and Sherrif W.C. Fields.

This is directed by Leo McCarey, who later directed Ruggles and Boland in Ruggles of Red Gap. I love Charlie Ruggles, from Charlie's Aunt on. He has great chemistry with the imposing Mary Boland.

Alison Skipworth worked with W.C. Fields twice before, in Tillie and Gus and Alice in Wonderland - big pictures, not a B movie like this one. She plays a Marie Dressler type, and very well. Fields does his pool table routine, made famous on stage (and including in some other films I'm not bothering to look up).

All these and Gracie Allen too. This is still a B movie, but well worth watching if you like this kind of thing.

Here Comes Cookie: Gracie Allen and Betty Furness are daughters of a millionaire. To keep a gigolo from marrying Furness, Papa gives all his money to daughter Gracie. When she finds out that actors are starving in the Depression, she fills the Park Avenue mansion with out-of-work vaudeville actors.

Gracie's form of insanity is strong here - nothing she says makes sense, except in her world, where it all makes sense. The supporting cast is good as well, particularly Andrew Tombes, as Botts the butler.

My major problem is - not enough vaudeville. We see a trained seal (in a bathtub), a guy on a unicycle and some dancing trumpeters. But we only get one full act: a guy who plays everything with drumsticks: drums, chairs, the set. I would have liked to see more juggling, acrobats, knife throwers and maybe a Zouave act. So? I like vaudeville.

Love in Bloom: This one is a little different. Dixie Lee (Mrs. Bing Crosby?) has run away from her abusive father's carnival to go starve in the Big City. She meets tenor Joe Morrison and they fall in love. Meanwhile, her sister, Gracie Allen, who does a hootchy-cootchy dance in the carnival and George Burns, who plays the Kally-Ope, are sent to look for her.

Really, this is 2 movies jammed together: a Depression love story about two starving kids, one from a good family, the other one carny. This movie is a melodrama with a few songs and no comedy at all. The other movie is a Burns and Allen act, with Gracie talking crazy and George getting exasperated.

They intersect when Papa shows up to get his daughter back to dance in the carnival. This guy is a real piece of work - he isn't a charming scoundrel, he's a true shitheel. It appears that he was prostituting Lee since she was 14, as well as teaching her to steal and cheat at cards. Usually, when a character has a disreputable history in burlesque or the carnival, it seems kind of quaint. In this movie, you can see how it would make a girl unfit for clean society.

The ending, while technically a happy one, is so egregious that it may put you off movies forever. I'm going to recommend this DVD, and recommend that you skip Love in Bloom.

In conclusion, just to confuse things, Gracie sings Lookie Lookie Lookie, Here Comes Cookie in Love in Bloom.

1 comment:

KJ said...

Had I known about this movie in advance, I couldn't have found a 10-foot pole fast enough to not touch the thing with.
It's a creepy glorification of extremely dysfunctional families, with the subtext that healthy people shouldn't try to leave such families because it's "disloyal" (what's really happening is that these families can't let the healthy people go because they need them to keep rescuing them from their self-imposed problems). Even George Burns, whose film persona is normally gentle, comes off as devious, unscrupulous, and scary. And this was supposed to be a heart-warming comedy.