WHISTLING IN DIXIE
(director: S. Sylvan Simon; screenwriters: Nat Perrin/Wilkie Mahoney; cinematographer: Clyde de Vinna; editor: Frank Sullivan; music: Lennie Hayton; cast: Red Skelton (Wally ‘The Fox’ Benton), Ann Rutherford (Carol Lambert), George Bancroft (Sheriff Claude Stagg), Guy Kibbee (Judge George Lee), Diana Lewis (Ellamae Downs), Peter Whitney (Frank V. Bailie), Rags Ragland (Chester & Sylvester Conway), Celia Travers (Hattie Lee), Lucien Littlefield (Corporal Lucken), Louis Mason (Deputy Lem), Mark Daniels (Martin Gordon); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: George Haight; MGM; 1942)
“It’s not easy to make a comedy thriller as badly dated as this one.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s not easy to make a comedy thriller as badly dated as this one. The problem starts with Red Skelton–he’s silly but not funny. He’s a country bumpkin with no edge to his innocent and witless humor. Next in the blame game is the weak script by Nat Perrin and that is followed by the hackneyed directing by S. Sylvan Simon.
Wally Benton (Red Skelton) plays the Fox, a sleuth on a popular syndicated radio series. Carol Lambert (Ann Rutherford) is his costar and about to be his wife, when she receives a letter from her former college sorority classmate from Georgia named Ellamae Downs (Diana Lewis). Carol calls to find out what’s so urgent, but her friend indicates she needs her help without telling her what’s going on. In Georgia the couple learn that Ellamae’s love interest, researcher Martin Gordon, was shot on her uncle’s estate, where he’s a guest. When Ellamae left to get Sheriff Claude Stagg (George Bancroft) and then returned–there was mysteriously no body.
Wally and Carol plan to use the Georgia visit to marry, where they stay as guests in the house of Ellamae’s drunken uncle Judge George Lee (Guy Kibbee) and his love-sick daughter Hattie (Celia Travers). The Judge hires an ex-con, Chester Conway (Rags Ragland), who is trying to reform, as his chauffeur. Chester has an unreformed evil twin brother Sylvester who is in jail for murder, but escapes and visits Chester. During his stay, Wally finds himself more deeply involved in the mystery than he hoped for. The climax finds our bumbling cowardly hero and the regal heroine locked with several others in the basement of an old Civil War fort that has a buried treasure of interest to certain parties. As the water is rapidly filling up, the only chance to escape for our hero is to find a way to wake up the drunken Judge.
Red does his usual physical comedy bits, sight gags and lame one-liners, and he milks all he can from the mixup between bad and good twin until it no longer becomes a credible gag. It’s strictly for Skelton fans, who evidently see something in him that I don’t, and parrots who are still whistling Dixie along with some wistful Rebs.
REVIEWED ON 7/21/2005 GRADE: C-