A late television inventor’s missing heir is sought, and ends up being TV repairman Jerry Lewis. Unusual for Tashlin that the movie (from the writer of Pufnstuf and Lidsville) is TV obsessed but not in a negative way. Rich aunt Cecilia is Mae “Betty Boop” Questel, easily the highlight of the movie, meant to marry a thin-mustached man (Zachary Scott, sex criminal of Bunuel’s The Young One) who only wants the money. The hot house nurse is Joan O’Brien (Blake Edwards submarine movie Operation Petticoat), and Wait Until Dark baddie Jack Weston a hired killer. Also featuring robot lawnmowers, a classier-looking movie than necessary.

Kind of a bad comedy, but it had its good points: Ava Gardner seemed awfully sexy for a late-40’s movie, and she and Olga San Juan had distractingly prominent breasts. Mostly though, we’ve got Robert Walker (a regular joe with brief attacks of Jerry Lewis Eyes) and crew unable to sell the zaniness of the script.

Walker (The Clock, Strangers on a Train) is a department-store drone with flat-faced friend Joe (singer Dick Haymes) and jealous girlfriend Olga, who awakens the Venus statue (Ava, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman) beloved of Walker’s boss Tom Conway (psychologist of The Seventh Victim). Ava’s fine as Venus, and the other bright spot in the cast is sarcastic Eve Arden (Mildred Pierce, Anatomy of a Murder and Grease), who seems too smart for this movie. Features three or four of the kind of instantly-forgettable slow, dreamy songs that threatened to put me to sleep – or maybe they did, since I had to ask Katy after the romantic ending if Eve ended up with anybody (the boss, of course).

Written by Frank Tashlin (in the few years between his cartoon-directing career and his live-action-directing careers) and Harry Kurnitz (I Love You Again, Witness for the Prosecution). Seiter is a TCM regular (Roberta, You Were Never Lovelier, A Lady Takes a Chance) even though we can’t recall his name. Remade a couple times, most memorably as Mannequin with Kim Cattrall.

A pretty dire Tashlin movie. Sure you’ve got the color widescreen (ruined by the low-res letterboxed-SD presentation on our wide-HD monitor) and the humorous attacks on television, but the overall concept isn’t as shocking as it used to be, there aren’t enough actual jokes to keep things light and amusing, pacing is too slow and the lead actors didn’t have the skill or charisma to elevate it.

Who Were They, Anyway: Tom Ewell was actually the lead in The Girl Can’t Help It, but that movie had Jayne Mansfield and the music performances to distract from him. Sheree North (a Marilyn Monroe double, as I suspected and her IMDB trivia supports) was in Madigan and Charley Varrick, later mother-figure of the Maniac Cop. Special/sexy appearance by Rita Moreno of West Side Story, Tom’s agent/buddy is Les Tremayne (most often credited as a narrator, also in The Monolith Monsters and I Love Melvin) and the soldier who’s blantantly trying to steal Sheree is Rick Jason (in The Wayward Bus with Mansfield).

Based on lies and misunderstandings and gifts of the magi, as are most comedies. Sheree signs up for the air force after hearing her husband is being recalled to duty, but he’s dismissed for medical reasons and ends up following her to the base and living in the army-wife suites (see also: Cary Grant in the much better I Was a Male War Bride) to protect her from Rick. “Just get her pregnant,” said Katy repeatedly, advice the movie finally takes at the end, but too late, as Tom has spent the previous hour acting like a psychopath. At least the movie seemed edgy for the first few minutes, and at least it’s about a happily married couple who are still happily married at the end, a rare thing.

A belated entry for…

Initiated by Shadowplay

“This war’s gonna have a head on it”

Frank Tashlin’s final film as director is a Bob Hope picture, appropriate since Hope gave Tashlin his big break into live-action directing in the first place with Son of Paleface. Tashlin was only 59 when this came out, younger than Hope, but would only live a few more years. It’s a shame to have lost him so young, since his style kept changing with the times – would’ve been a trip to see a Tashlin picture in the 1980’s. From The Girl Can’t Help It to Caprice, Tash’s films have seemed very of-their-time – until this one, which feels stodgy and old-fashioned.

Why is this? My guess is old buddy Bob Hope. The credited writers are responsible for some TV episodes and the goofy crystalline sci-fi flick The Monolith Monsters but this has Hope written all over it. It wants to be a comedy, but it can’t make any jokes at the military’s expense – not in ’68 with Hope a political right-winger who probably spent more time than any other entertainer performing for U.S. troops. It’s more consistent a story than most Tashlin movies but it lacks all the good gags – the best jokes are the couple that Hope makes at the expense of his beloved partner Bing Crosby – and any comic momentum is killed at the end with a dry ten minutes of flag waving. So you could say it fails as a comedy since it pulls so many punches, or more generously, that it’s a light military drama with a bit of humor.

Hope’s buddy Calvin Coolidge Ishamura, played by Mako of Conan the Destroyer and Pacific Heights – the movie is very tolerant of Japanese-Americans, if not Japanese-Japanese.

Makeshift beer fridge:

The premise is simple: the Japs sunk a boat delivering beer to the army/navy base and Hope schemes to recover it, following the tides to find drifts of beer cars which he passes out to friends and hides from others. Not caring much about military matters, I didn’t realize until late that there’s a whole army vs. navy rivalry on the base (or is it two bases?) which would’ve cleared up some mysteries – like friendly, clean-looking (but with spooky eyes) lieutenant Jeffrey Hunter (below with Hope), don’t know if he’s a rival, a superior, or just a buddy. This turned out to be a late film for Jeffrey Hunter (also Jesus in King of Kings) as well – his career was cut short by a fatal stroke the following year.

The other allowable topic for comedy besides beer is girls. The group sends for nurses, imagining a team of sexy young girls arriving on the island, but all they get is a wild-haired Phyllis Diller, my favorite person in the movie. Hope gets a flashback-provoking love interest in the form of Gina Lollobrigida (of Dassin’s The Law), and I already can’t remember what Mylène Demongeot (of those 1960’s Fantomas movies) was doing there.

The new nurses: imagined

The new nurses: actual

Tashlin has to sneak in one line about television – something about reruns, I forget the context, and he manages to close the picture on a Tashlinesque piece of live-action cartoonery, Hope pulling a captured submarine with his rowboat. I assume there’s a metaphor there.

Weirdly slow, clunky and unfunny Marx brothers movie. It kinda stars Harpo, or at least he’s onscreen more than the others. No Zeppo at all. I’d think that would be a good thing, but he’s replaced by generic heroic-type Charles Drake (No Name on the Bullet, It Came From Outer Space) with bland girlfriend Lois Collier (Cobra Woman, Flying Disc Man from Mars).

Managers at a certain hotel keep turning up dead, so Groucho is hired to run the place as a last resort. But a disguised nazi count (silly-toupeed, funny-voiced Sig Ruman of A Night at the Opera, Ninotchka, To Be or Not To Be) has stashed stolen treasure in the hotel and has been scheming to escape with the goods while our gallant hero tries to stop him. Sig’s vamp nazi chick Lisette Verea and his overeager soldier Fred Giermann (who has a long, painful swordfight scene with Harpo) try not-so-hard to thwart the Marxes instead of focusing on the do-gooder and leaving the harmless clowns alone. Groucho gets to use his funny walk more than his funny dialogue, and the movie slows to a crawl a couple times establishing that Chico can play piano and Harpo can play the harp.

The Brothers’ second-to-last film, and also the second-to-last by Archie Mayo (who replaced Fritz Lang on Moontide and adapted Sam Fuller on Confirm or Deny). Two writers plus (allegedly) an uncredited Frank Tashlin, and the Marxes went on tour before the filming “hoping to sharpen the script’s comedy” – so why does it feel like the jokes were so few and inadequate? It was meant to be a spoof of Casablanca, but they chickened out under legal scrutiny, so maybe all the best material got jettisoned in a last-minute rewrite. I don’t mean to be so hard on the movie – it was lightly amusing, a nice waste of 80 minutes – I was just expecting something more.

Porky’s Romance (1937)
Porky has barely been introduced and he’s already attempting suicide. First Petunia Pig short – she’s stuck-up and candy-obsessed, with a fancy dog – rejects our man, changes her mind, then in a dream daze he predicts a miserable life with fat, lazy Petunia and flees. Some character introduction… no wonder Petunia didn’t take off. Song “I Wanna Woo” is featured. Don’t know much about 30’s music (despite once replaying the Singing Detective soundtrack for a whole month) but I suppose the Looney Tunes series would showcase popular songs onscreen, the Grey’s Anatomy of its time.

Porky’s Double Trouble (1937)
An escaped con looks just like Porky, kidnaps him and replaces him as bank teller for easy money. Two surprises: meek Porky kicks some criminal ass in the finale, and Petunia drops Porky to lust after the killer even as he’s being arrested.

The Case of the Stuttering Pig (1937)
The local lawyer takes Jekyll-and-Hyde Juice, calls the audience a bunch of softies and creampuffs, goes after Porky and Petunia’s family to steal their inheritance, defeated by having a chair thrown at him by a guy in the audience.

The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos (1937)
Hooray, more owls. Also, the word “esophogi.” The rest isn’t so amusing, all caricatures of 30’s personalities who I mostly don’t recognize.

Have You Got Any Castles? (1938)
Opens with a cuckoo – nice continuity. Another collection of caricatures, but this time it’s book titles and characters, something with which I’m more familiar. More excitedly animated and sung than Cuckoos as well. Named after the Johnny Mercer tune.

Porky’s Road Race (1937)
More celebrity caricatures, including a parody of the scene where Chaplin goes nuts with his wrenches in Modern Times. Hard to imagine, but that was a current film at the time. The plot is minimal, but among all the film references Porky manages to beat Borax Karloff in a car race. Future head writer Tedd Pierce voices W.C. Fields and Mel Blanc makes his debut.

Speaking of the Weather (1937)
Another musical caricature piece, this time with magazines come to life instead of books – even the exact same Thin Man gag. This one has more of a story – a criminal sentenced to Life (heh) escapes and a team of mag covers helps bring him in. Castles has guns firing from All Quiet on the Western Front and Weather has scout troops from Boy’s Life – same idea. Each seems to have been named after a song featured for only half a minute and having nothing to do with the rest of the picture. At least The Woods are Full of Cuckoos is set in the woods. Maybe it’s some contractual co-branding with the music companies, if they had such a thing in the 30’s.

Porky at the Crocadero (1938)
P.P., with a music degree from the Sucker Correspondence School becomes band leader at a jazz club, probably imitating other bandleaders of the time but the only one I recognize is Cab Calloway.

Porky the Fireman (1938)
Ooh, an animated (and multiplied) Keaton gag, circus tricks, smoke and ash turning frantic white people into lackadaisical black people, murder and mayhem. In the end, the fire wins.

Wholly Smoke (1938)
I can’t tell what nationality Porky’s mother is supposed to be: “nix on the mud-playing-in.” An anti-smoking ad with Porky as a stooge conned into trying a cigar by a tough kid. Cameos by the Three Stooges and I think Bing Crosby.

Porky Pig’s Feat (1943)
Porky and Daffy are broke, try unsuccessfully to escape from an absurdly high hotel bill. References to Dick Tracy and to other Looney Tunes, including a Bugs punchline at the end. Joe Dante commentary: “By the time he passed away, his career had falled on hard times with bad vehicles for actors of waning popularity.”

Swooner Crooner (1944)
Porky’s wartime egg factory is endandered when the hens’ attention is captured by a crooning rooster, leading to a Crosby/Sinatra showdown. Is it naughty that the crooners’ voices make the girls all lay eggs? Also the third Al Jolson caricature I’ve seen today. Oscar-nominated, beaten by a Tom & Jerry.

Hare Remover (1946)
I take it Tashlin didn’t do many Bugs cartoons. Elmer (looking a little primitive) is a wannabe mad scientist who recruits Bugs to test a formula which doesn’t seem to do more than taste awful (and explode when thrown).

Also watched a short doc on Tashlin’s career. Sounds like his comic strip Van Boring was the Dilbert of its time. Would’ve been great if they had clips from the live-action films instead of just a few stills.

“Let’s see ’em top this on television.”


Sequel to a flick where clueless Bob Hope goes west to make his fortune, kills some Indians and causes some chaos. Now Hope plays his own son, a Harvard-obsessed goofball out to claim his dead dad’s missing wealth and escape town without being scalped by vengeful Indians or the townsfolk, their hands full of I.O.U.s from Hope’s father. More importantly, Frank Tashlin is in charge of his first live-action pic, which he treats like one of his cartoons, paying no respect to laws of reality.



Jane Russell is gold-robbing outlaw Torch by day, nightclub owner and star Mike (?) by night. Straight-arrow do-gooder undercover-lawman Roy Rogers either knows or does not know that they’re the same person. Hope wants nothing to do with Roy, but plots to marry Jane (once he realizes his inheritance amounts to an empty chest) in order to be rich enough to pay his debtors and leave town alive. Torch kidnaps him to get at his loot, his dad’s ol’ prospector friend finds where the actual Paleface loot is hidden (then gets hisself killed by Torch’s badman sidekick), Roy and Trigger do some stunts and sing a song, Jane agrees to marry Bob, and it ends with plenty of unashamed injun-killin’. Who would ask for more?


“That cowboy has no eyelashes”

Just as much cartoon-anarchy as I was promised from the Tashlin book, so I was pleased. Katy found out she doesn’t much care for Bob Hope, and we agreed the story was full of holes, but to please me she said she also liked the cartoony bits and she thinks Roy Rogers is neat but wishes he had eyelashes.


Joke cameo by Cecil DeMille, who was making The Greatest Show on Earth at the time. Looks like the cast of each movie played extras in the other. Jane Russell, returning from the original Paleface, starred in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes the next year. Hawks must’ve seen her in this – she was awesome. This was one of the few times Roy didn’t play “Roy Rogers.” He’d been starring in films for fifteen years, and this was his last (along with horse Trigger, who deservedly won an award for his performance) before moving on to television. Paul Burns (the ol’ prospector) had been in movies since the tender age of 58, appearing in Renoir’s Swamp Water along the way, living just long enough to portray “bum in park (uncredited) in Barefoot in the Park. And handsome baddy Lloyd Corrigan would appear in Tashlin’s followup Marry Me Again before following Roy to TV Land.



These were the waning years of Doris Day (her third to last film before retirement) and Frank Tashlin (his second to last before death). Doesn’t play like anybody’s final film, just a trying-too-hard jumble of ideas. Doris still has cute comic reactions, but she’s got lump-o-nuthin Richard “Dumbledore” Harris (hope he’s better in This Sporting Life) and a young (relatively) Ray Walston to play off – so, not much.

Doris works for a beauty products company, trying to be a corporate spy and steal another company’s formula. She’s fake-caught trading her boss’s secrets and fake-fired so she’ll be hired by the competitor and steal their product for making hair waterproof. This sounds awfully familiar, and someone needs to investigate that this became available on DVD exactly two years before Duplicity opened.

The movie has a meta-theme-song… they’re in a movie theater watching a film with the theme song Caprice. There’s a Tashlinesque bit of trickery for ya. Also featured: a scene where kids are watching cartoons on television and not noticing the real chase scene happening around them.

At the end Richard Harris turns out to be a secret interpol agent, Ray Walston is dressed like a cleaning lady and I’m not sure who is the bad guy anymore. Tried to check out the commentary, but a few minutes in, Kent Jones said that the city of Paris is the third character in the film so I had to turn it off.

Bunch of Chuck Jones movies on TCM accompanied their new documentary Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood by Peggy Stern, partially animated by John Canemaker, the duo who made The Moon and the Son. I’m not a huge fan of the TM&TS approach, and they take a similar animated-documentary-reminiscence approach here, but it’s lovely to hear Mr. Jones talk about his youth and how different events and memories shaped his life and the characters in his cartoons.

Haredevil Hare (1948), already a decade into CJ’s directing career, sent Bugs to the moon and introduced Marvin the Martian. A silly episode, ends with them blowing up the moon and me unavoidably obsessing over that Mr. Show episode. Marvin has a different, less distinctive voice, but his character was supposed to be a one-off, so I guess Mel didn’t worry about coming up with a brand new one until Marvin became a recurring thing.

Duck Amuck (1953), supposedly one of the most groundbreaking, original WB shorts with Bugs as Daffy’s animator, tormenting him with pen and eraser, and lines like “It may come as a complete surprise to you to find that this… is an animated cartoon.” It is an outrageous conceit, and there’s nothing more fun than pushing Daffy until he flies into a rage, but maybe I’ve seen this too many times because I find it kinda unsatisfying these days. Would rather see all those wild effects going into something with a story. I’m sure I’m just being a negative nelly… it’d probably still rank in my top ten CJ shorts, but whatever… I was anxious to get through it tonight. Most outstanding Daffy line: “Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin.”

One Froggy Evening (1955) – one of my all-time fave shorts, and from Robert Osbourne’s loving introduction, it seems like it’s a lotta people’s favorite. A construction worker finds a singing frog in the cornerstone of a 100-year-old building and thinks he’ll get rich exploiting it, but finds the frog will only sing for him. Ruined, he buries the frog again, where it’s discovered in 2056 A.D. by a space-construction-worker. No spoken dialogue except by the frog, who has about ten wonderful old-timey songs.

What’s Opera, Doc? (1956) – Maybe it’s the musical ones that grab me, because I could sit through this one and the last three times in a row. Tells the same story as Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen but this is way shorter. Also the only movie in which Elmer actually kills the wabbit. I suppose operas can’t have happy endings. Some credit should finally be given to Michael Maltese, who wrote the last four shorts.

The Dot and the Line (1965), ahh, finally something new. By now, Bugs’ heyday is over and Chuck is working at MGM doing more independent work but with much lower budgets. Writer of The Phantom Tollbooth contributed this story of a line (not just a line segment – he always extends past the screen in both directions) in love with a free-spirited dot, who in turn is enamored with a wild squiggle. Seems awfully 60’s, and not as much fun as its oscar-winning cannes-nominated reputation would imply, but it’s cute… and short. The line learns to impress by forming shapes and super-complex patterns and formulas, and all the squiggle can do in response is freak out and wriggle about, so the faithless dot hooks up with the line for our happy ending. My favorite bit was near the start, trying to convince the dot verbally rather than through shape-shifting physical prowess, the line tries telling her “I know where I’m going!

The Bear That Wasn’t (1967), based on the story by the great Frank Tashlin, and just in time – R.O. says it was the last-ever MGM theatrical animated short. The premise is super, and typical of Tashlin’s cynicism and distrust of “progress” and technology: while a bear hibernates, a giant factory is built over his cave, and when he wakes up nobody believes he’s a bear. If he’s in the factory, he must be an employee, or as they call him, “a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat.” Finally the factory chain-of-command’s pigheaded insistence convinces the bear that he isn’t a bear, and he goes to work… but when winter comes, he returns to the cave (through a maintenance closet) to hibernate again, a cautiously optimistic ending. Unfortunately the movie itself is repetitive (probably the book too – children’s books sure can be), harping on the “silly man” line, and watching the bear’s spirit get crushed is surely less satisfying than watching Daffy get poked and prodded into a rage, and the happenin’ title song is played too often, but I still liked it more than The Dot and the Line. Maybe I’m a sucker for talking animal cartoons, or abstract math stories are too high-class for the likes of me.

Finally I tried to watch the feature-length The Phantom Tollbooth (1970). It seems cute enough, but perhaps too much of a kids movie for me to completely enjoy. After a live-action intro with some famous child actor it goes all animation. Our kid, who keeps learning slow and pointed Valuable Lessons about things, ends up in a swamp called The Doldrums at which point the sludgy narcoleptic music put our hero to sleep, and me with him.