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FULLER BRUSH MAN, THE (director: S. Sylvan Simon; screenwriters: Frank Tashlin/Devery Freeman/from a story by Roy Huggins; cinematographer: Lester White; editor: Al Clark; music: Heinz Roemheld; cast: Red Skelton (Red Jones), Janet Blair (Ann Elliot), Don McGuire (Keenan Wallick), Hillary Brooke (Mildred Trist), Adele Jergens (Miss Sharmley), Ross Ford (Freddie Trist), Trudy Marshall (Sara Franzen), Nicholas Joy (Commissioner Gordon Trist), Donald Curtis (Gregory Cruckston), Arthur Space (Police Lt. Quint); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: S. Sylvan Simon; Columbia; 1948)
“Even though this is one of Red Skelton’s better films, it’s not much more than low-brow slapstick comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Even though this is one of Red Skelton’s better films, it’s not much more than low-brow slapstick comedy and is only for the diehard fans of Red’s naive and goofy brand of mime comedy. MGM loans him out to Columbia, as Red is on the down-slide after being a box office hit in the early 1940s. When returning from his service duty during the war, his film career was in decline until this pic gave him a new movie lease on life (it turned out to be Red’s biggest grossing film ever).

S. Sylvan Simon (“Grand Central Murder”/”Bad Bascomb”/”Son of Lassie”) directs in a workmanlike way, but never gives Red his due as a comedian by failing to fully draw out his physical humor; it’s written by Frank Tashlin and Devery Freeman, and is from a Saturday Evening Post story by Roy Huggins. One should take note that the door-to-door salesman, once common on the American landscape, is no longer a presence, as the times have radically changed and people no longer will freely admit a stranger into their homes.

Red Jones (Red Skelton) is a bumbler who gets fired after causing a catastrophe from every job he tries. The last job he’s canned from is as a street cleaner for the Sanitation Department. His bossy attractive upstart secretary girlfriend Ann Blair (Janet Blair) turns down his engagement ring but gives him one more chance to get a good job and keep it before she dumps him for good. She fixes it up with her boss at the Fuller Brush company, for Red to become a door-to-door salesman for the company. This puts Red in competition with Ann’s other suitor, Keenan Wallick (Don McGuire), the firm’s top salesman. On this job, problems arise for Red when one of his customers, the head of the Sanitation Department, is murdered and he becomes the prime suspect. There’s a Keystone Cops-like finale that brings the film back to life and makes it almost worthwhile seeing. It also has the novel idea that the weapon used was one of the brushes from the Fuller Brush line, which had been melted in hot water and reshaped into a dagger-like object (the film hired a plastic company to invent such a weapon from a process they called a “memory plastic”).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”