Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Yikes! I sat through another Ritz Brothers movie and lived! (see my review of THE GORILLA, 4/30/05). It's not a terrible movie exactly, but the Brothers look like they're having much more fun than the audience. The main reason I watched it was to see Ethel Merman in one of her rare screen appearances, but she doesn't have much to do. The Ritzes work at a side show, giving pony rides to kids. At a horse race, they accidently bet on Playboy, a horse which comes out of nowhere to win. The horse belongs to heiress Phyllis Brooks, but her boyfriend, Richard Arlen, tired of her all-consuming interest in the horse and convinced that the win was a fluke, bets her that if Playboy doesn't win again in three months time, he gets the horse and her. The horse does prove a loser and Arlen sells the horse to the Ritzes with the stipulation that they cannot re-sell it (a lame plot device so that Brooks can't just buy it back). The brothers discover that the horse is better at steeplechase jumping than racing, and Brooks helps them to train the horse and enter it in a big race. Many plot improbabilities later, the Ritzes wind up taking the place of three Russian jockeys who are out to sabotage the race. Arlen gives in and rides Playboy to victory, with the predictable happy ending for all, except perhaps Merman, who plays a brassy babe who loves Arlen but is clearly not quite dainty and feminine enough to compete with Brooks. The Ritzes showiest bit aside from the horse race is a silly wrestling match with the Terrible Turk. One big problem with the Ritz Brothers is that they all look alike and more or less act alike; Harry is usually the Groucho figure, but he only barely stands out from the other two (Al & Jimmy). Arlen and Brooks are a fairly bland couple, though Arlen tries hard. Also featured are George Barbier as Brooks' father, Sidney Blackmer as a gambler, and Lon Chaney Jr. in a tiny part as a chauffer. Merman sings OK, but the songs are undistinguished. [TCM]

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