WHISTLING IN BROOKLYN
(director: S. Sylvan Simon; screenwriters: Nat Perrin/Wilkey C. Mahoney; cinematographer: Lester White; editor: Ben Lewis; music: George Bassman; cast: Red Skelton (Wally ‘the Fox’ Benton), Ann Rutherford (Carol Lambert), Jean Rogers (Jean Pringle ), Rags Ragland (Chester), Ray Collins (Grover Kendall), Henry O’Neill (Inspector Holcomb), William Frawley (Detective Ramsey), Sam Levene (Creeper), Arthur Space (Detective MacKenzie), Robert Emmet O’Connor (Detective Leo Finnigan), Steve Geray (Whitey), Morris Ankrum (Blake), Howard Freeman (Steve Conlon), Tom Dillon (Manager of the Beavers),The Brooklyn Dodgers (Themselves); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: George Haight; MGM;1943)
“Red Skelton fans should be pleased with his usual goofy comic antics, others may not.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Red Skelton fans should be pleased with his usual goofy comic antics, others may not. It’s helmed with proficiency by S. Sylvan Simon(“I Love Trouble”/”The Fuller Brush Man”/”Lust for Gold”), but the screenplay by Nat Perrin is witless juvenile humor. The lightweight B/W shot comedy is the third and last in the series that starred Red Skelton, following Whistling in the Dark and Whistling in Dixie. It’s filled with physical comedy, sight gags, pratfalls and one-liners, and an Abbott & Costello sensibility.
Skelton plays Wally Benton, who is the always successful radio sleuth The Fox. During a series of NYC murders Wally becomes a suspect when his ex-con chauffeur, Chester (Rags Ragland), who promotes himself to be Wally’s press agent, tells the green lady reporter, Jean Pringle (Jean Rogers), that The Fox is the Constant Reader. He’s the mystery figure who has written notes deriding the police in their failure to get the serial killer, whose fourth victim Sergeant Malcolm is found slain in a Sheepshead Bay lighthouse. Before Wally takes a vacation to marry his co-star Carol Lambert (Ann Rutherford), the reporter informs her editor (Morris Ankrum) that The Fox is the Constant Reader and Chester likewise informs the police. The idea is to get publicity for the Fox. Thereby Inspector Holcomb (Henry O’Neill) orders the Fox’s arrest, but Wally flees with the bride-to-be, the reporter, and Chester. The real killer, Grover Kendall (Ray Collins), a leading citizen calling for a new chief investigator, who secretly is a mob boss, overhears the call for the arrest of The Fox while protesting at police headquarters and then overhears his call to surrender to the police in a Brooklyn warehouse and orders his henchman, the Creeper (Sam Levene), to beat the police there and to kidnap the Fox. The plan is to frame the Fox as the killer of the Inspector, while Grover intends to knife him to death while sitting with him at an exhibition baseball game at Ebbets Field between the Dodgers and an all-bearded team.
Except for some wonderful nostalgic moments with legendary Dodgers such as their fiery manager Leo Durocher and great players Billy Herman, Arky Vaughan and Ducky Medwick, the comedy was unbearable. Ragland as the moronic comic relief sidekick was beyond being annoying.
REVIEWED ON 3/27/2014 GRADE: C+