Eddie Cantor and Joan Davis in If You Knew Susie (1948)


(director: Gordon Douglas; screenwriter: Oscar Brodney/Warren Wilson/Bud Pearson/Lester A. White; cinematographer: Frank Redman; editor: Philip Martin; music: Edgar Fairchild, Ramez Idriss/Jimmy McHugh/George Tibbles; cast: Eddie Cantor (Sam), Joan Davis (Susie), Allyn Joslyn (Mike Garrett), Charles Dingle (Mr. Whitley), Sheldon Leonard (Steve Garland), Margaret Kerry (Marjorie Parker), Bobby Driscoll (Junior Parker), Phil Brown (Joe Collins), Howard Freeman (Mr. Clinton), Douglas Fowley (Marty), Eddie Hart (Willie), Joe Sawyer (Zero Zantini), Dick Humphries (‘Handy’ Clinton, III); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Eddie Cantor/Jack J. Gross; RKO; 1948)

“Cantor’s appeal as as a vaudeville, stage and radio performer never quite made it to film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A feeble star vehicle that might only please fans of Eddie Cantor and Joan Davis. Cantor’s appeal as as a vaudeville, stage and radio performer never quite made it to film. This was Cantor’s last film as a star after 22 films in a 16 year career. It was sheer drudgery as the acting was leaden, the comedy from hunger (ex. Someone tells Cantor they see a mouse. He replies “What do you want me to do, oil it?) and the story was ridiculous. It’s directed by Gordon Douglas (“First Yank Into Tokyo”/”The Great Missouri Raid”), who exhibits no ear for comedy. It’s few moments of fun were when Cantor sings (there’s a film clip from “Show Business” of Cantor singing “If You Knew Susie” and Davis dances.

The plot has retired vaudevillians Sam (Eddie Cantor) and Susie Parker (Joan Davis) and their two children Marjorie (Margaret Kerry) and “Junior”(Bobby Driscoll) move back to Sam’s ancestral home in Brookford, Massachusetts, in the hopes of living a normal life. As a business move they convert part of their colonial house into a restaurant. The town snobs instigated by Mr. Clinton (Howard Freeman), the head of Brookford’s First Families of the Revolution organization, orders the townspeople to boycott the eatery because the Parker family line boasts no colonial heroes. The Parkers discover a letter hidden in a wall that is signed by George Washington and is addressed to Sam’s great-great-great grandfather, Jonathan Parker, citing his bravery during the Revolutionary War and that Washington owes him $50,000. Clinton says the letter is a fraud and that drives the couple to go to Washington, D.C. to prove it’s authentic. The nearly broke couple are befriended by reporter Mike Garrett (Allyn Joslyn), who offers to share his newspaper’s penthouse apartment for one hundred dollars. But the generous offer brings the couple into contact with gangsters, as the reporter owes big money to a loanshark, and on top of that the penthouse is owned by the reporter’s boss Mr. Whitley (Charles Dingle). The boss unexpectedly shows up and throws a fit when he finds these intruders in his pad. This spurs the reporter to really help the Parkers verify their letter with the National Archives hoping to save his job.

The news of the letter catapults the couple into overnight celebrities. But the reporter learns from his sources that Congress has scotched the inheritance and in a desperate move plots with the loan shark’s boys Marty (Douglas Fowley) and Willie (Eddie Hart) a phony kidnapping of the Parkers, but gangster Steve Garland (Sheldon Leonard) overhears them and with his partner Zero Zantini (Joe Sawyer) plans to kidnap them for real. The Parkers don’t know they lost the inheritance and go along with Steve and Zero, believing Mike sent them. But Steve discovers the Parkers are not getting the loot and sells the story of the fake kidnapping to a newspaper rival of Mike’s. It all results in the Parkers becoming a national disgrace and retreating to their Brookford colonial home to withdraw from the world. Ironically, when Clinton gets Congress to investigate the Parker’s claim they find it’s legit and agree to pay. But in a patriotic gesture and belief that money is the root of all evil, the Parkers refuse the money and live happily ever after in their stuffy community and plush home as poor but accepted heroes.