HAVING WONDERFUL CRIME(director: Edward Sutherland; screenwriters: inspired by Craig Rice’s novel/Howard J. Green/ Parke Levy/ Stewart Sterling; cinematographer: Frank Redman; editor: Gene Milford; music: Leigh Harline ; cast: Pat O’Brien (Michael J. Malone), George Murphy (Jake Justus), Carole Landis (Helene Justus), Lenore Aubert (Gilda Mayfair), George Zucco (The Great Movel), Anje Berens (Phyllis Gray), Richard Martin (Lance Richards), Charles D. Brown (Winslow), Josephine Whittell (Myra Lenhart), Blanche Ring (Elizabeth Lenhart), Wee Willie Davis (Zach); Runtime: 70; RKO; 1945)
“The mystery story is fair, the comedy is silly…”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A lively mystery/screwball comedy involving a zany trio of practical jokers. Michael J. Malone (Pat O’Brien) is a gruff Chicago lawyer and his pals are a wealthy wisecracking newlywed couple, Helene and Jake Justus (Carole Landis/George Murphy). They get their kicks by playing detective games and calling up the police about make belief crimes that they solve. When threatened with arrest after one such call, they flee their apartment and duck into a theater to catch the magical stage show of The Great Movel (George Zucco).
While in the middle of his disappearing act, The Great Movel really disappears. The trio quickly exits the theater before the police arrive, and in their hurry to get to their honeymoon suite at the Lenhart Lodge they sideswipe a car driven by Gilda Mayfair (Lenore Aubert). They find out she works in the The Great Movel’s show as an assistantand has angered him by becoming engaged to the other assistant, Lance Richards (Richard Martin). She’s also carrying with her a huge trunk, which they suspiciously think has the magician’s body in it. When she notices that she is being followed, Helene tells the lodge manager, Mr. Winslow (Brown), that Gilda and Malone are also a newlywed couple and registers them in her honeymoon suite.
When the trio open the trunk, they find it filled with magical props and a check made out to Movel for $50,000. Things seem whacky when the porter, Zach, keeps trying to get his hands on the trunk and when Gilda’s boyfriend shows up, as well as Movel. It seems they worked here last night and Movel received a check for $50,000 from the co-owner, a daffy elderly spinster, Elizabeth Lenhart. She also has a more rational spinster sister Myra, who acts protective of her.
When the trio checks the trunk again, they find the body of Movel. There are lots of murder suspects in the lodge, yet the trio convinced the hotel manager not to call the police before giving them a chance to solve the murder. Malone in the meantime is trying to pick-up a swimming champ, Phyllis Gray, who is here for Lenhart’s Water Carnival. The running gag is that he keeps dumping on her, and even leaves her stranded in the middle of the lake in a rowboat without oars.
The mystery story is fair, the comedy is silly, but there’s lots of energy and the whole thing sort of works in an easy-going way. Carole Landis combines beauty with comedy, and says lines such as “The right road, is the right road after all.” While Pat O’ Brien makes comments such as, “Helene makes sense until she starts talking.”
REVIEWED ON 1/28/2002 GRADE: C +
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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