HI DIDDLE DIDDLE (director: Andrew L. Stone; screenwriter: Edmund Hartmann/Frederick Jackson/story by Jackson & Stone; cinematographer: Chas. Schoenbaum; editor: Harvey Manger; music: Phil Boutelje; cast: Adolphe Menjou (Colonel Hector Phyffe), Martha Scott (Janie Prescott), Billie Burke (Mrs. [Liza] Prescott), Dennis O’Keefe (Sonny Phyffe), Pola Negri (Genya Smetana), June Havoc (Leslie Quayle), Walter Kingsford (Senator Jimmy Simpson), Barton Hepburn (Peter Warrington, III), Georges Metaxa (Spinelli), Ellen Lowe (Maid), Paul Porcasi (Impresario), Lorraine Miller (Taxi ride hubby bit), Eddie Marr (Michael Angelo, Croupier), Bert Roach (Husband, in the taxi cab bit), Chick Chandler (Chauffeur), Richard Hageman (Boughton), Hal K. Dawson (Minister), Bess Flowers (Wedding Guest); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Andrew L. Stone; Alpha Video; 1943)
“Inane but enjoyable wartime screwball comedy about newlyweds whose honeymoon is ruined and saved by the groom’s lovable scoundrel con artist father.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Inane but enjoyable wartime screwball comedy about newlyweds whose honeymoon is ruined and then saved by the groom’s lovable scoundrel con artist father. The fluff comedy is derived from a series of misunderstandings. It’s slightly amusing in parts, but also tiresomely routine at times. The talented cast puts a lot of energy into it, making it happen despite its limitations. It’s cartoonishly directed by Andrew L. Stone(“Cry Terror!”/”Confidence Girl”/”The Steel Trap”), that’s based on a story he wrote with Frederick Jackson. Along with all its running gags, it opens with Looney Tunes and closes with animated graphics created by Disney’s Leon Schlesinger, as its grand finale has the opera players sing the Pilgrim’s Chorus from Wagner’s Tannhäuser in the apartment of an opera singer until the noise becomes deafening and the music transfers to the diva’s wall paper patterns of the Wagner opera and Wagner in the tapestries drives the cast off in a carriage giving peace and quiet to the diva’s musically unappreciative hubby.
Janie Prescott (Martha Scott) anguishes when her straight-arrow sailor bridegroom, Sonny Phyffe (Dennis O’Keefe), on a two-day leave, is a few hours late to the wedding ceremony at her Manhattan town house because his ship hasn’t docked yet.Sonny’s con artist dad,Colonel Hector Phyffe (Adolphe Menjou), the kept husband of the much younger egotistical, moody and vain Wagnerian opera star Genya Smetana (Pola Negri, former silent screen star), doesn’t let on to wifey that he has a 29-year-old son, who was at sea for the six months they were married and she also doesn’t know he’s much older than the age of 42 he passed himself off as. Since Hector is broke he steals the management sent corsage intended for his wife, to show their appreciation for her singing, to give to the bride not realizing a diamond clip was also inside.
At the wedding, the pudding-faced wealthy businessman former suitor of Janie’s, Peter Warrington, III (Barton Hepburn), admits to being responsible for Janie’s ditzy rich widowed mom, Liza Prescott (Billie Burke), losing her fortune in a stock swindle and at the roulette table at the 59 Club. Peter believes the sailor is a gold digger and won’t marry her now that he knows Janie’s family has no money. The scheme to leave Liza without any money was cooked up by Liza and Peter to test Sonny. But Sonny is in love, and the couple marry and rush off for their honeymoon.
Hector, pretending to be a prosperous Wall Street whiz, vows to recoup the money Liza and by partnering with his ex-lover, Leslie Quayle (June Havoc, sister of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee), a crooner at the 59 Club, they rig the crooked roulette table bottom with a more powerful magnet than the club’s, after dragging sailor boy away from his honeymoon and not given him a chance to consummate the marriage. Pop not only wins back the gambling losses, but works a whacky scheme to dupe a slick wall street investment manager (Richard Hageman) into buying Liza’s worthless gold stock by printing up a phony copy of the Wall Street Journal with a rave headline about the supposedly worthless stock.
The amusing crowd-pleaser pic manages to blend in Havoc singing a pop song, while the Negri character sings the ‘Evening Star’ from Wagner’s Tannhäuser.
REVIEWED ON 9/9/2014 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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