Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Bandleader Kay Kyser was quite popular in the 1940's, largely due to his radio show "Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge" which featured music, comedy, and music trivia quizzes. His band featured singers Harry Babbitt and Ginny Simms, and the chief comic relief, aside from Kyser himself, was cornet player Ish Kabibble (his real name was the just as unlikely Merwyn Bogue) who came off as a mellow dimwit--his stage name is apparently based on a Yiddish expression that has been translated as, "What, me worry?" Kyser and the band made a number of comedies in the 40's, mostly playing themselves. Though none of them come anywhere the heights of the Marx Brothers or Crosby and Hope, they are all entertaining, and to my mind, some of them are as good as and even better than the average Abbott and Costello movie. I've already reviewed THAT'S RIGHT YOU'RE WRONG and I've caught up with most of the rest of them recently and will write them up this week. In this one, Kyser, playing himself, gets a draft notice on his wedding day. It turns out to have been a case of mistaken identity, but he's enlisted by the government to do some spy work because the Orchid Club, where he and his band are playing, may be a hotbed of espionage. His partner in spying, blonde looker Jane Wyman, makes Kyser's new wife (Ellen Drew) jealous, but he can't tell his wife or his band what's going on, leading to lots of comic misunderstandings. Robert Armstrong (Carl Denham in the original KING KONG), the owner of the club, is the Nazi spy, and in an nifty twist, he's getting messages out to his fellow Nazis through Morse code worked into the musical arrangements of the songs. Things drag a bit in the middle, but the ending, with everyone racing around an abandoned theater, is fun. There are only a couple of songs, but Ish Kabibble gets to do some of his deadpan shtick, and familiar supporting cast faces include Una O'Connor, William Demerest, and Helen Westley. (Talk show host Mike Douglas was a singer with the band, but doesn't have a featured role in any of the movies.) Generally good fun. [TCM]

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