Tuesday, March 04, 2008


This is one of those movies I used to see listed in TV Guide all the time when I was a kid but which rarely crops up today. It’s a fairly mild slapstick comedy with Lucille Ball just before she hit her stride on TV with "I Love Lucy." In fact, she comes off here as something of a second cousin to Lucy Ricardo, playing the mildly ditzy fiancĂ©e of the mildly ditzy Eddie Albert. Both work at a steamship company, she as a secretary and he as a file clerk, and plan to marry and buy their dream house until, in Lucy Ricardo fashion, Ball starts an office fire and, well, gets fired. We learn that Jerome Cowan, the boss, is involved in diamond smuggling and needs to find someone rather stupid to replace an outgoing manager, so he promotes Albert. In the meantime, Ball has taken a job as a Fuller Brush girl, a door-to-door salesperson of cosmetics. We see her in a series of misadventures until she gets to the door of Cowan's wife (Lee Patrick). Cowan has had his wife killed (by a sexy female hit person, Gale Robbins) and Ball ends up under suspicion not only for that murder, but for the later death of Cowan. There follows a commotion in a burlesque house and a chase on board a ship before all is righted. I'm not a big fan of Ball's movie career, but she is quite funny here. Three scenes are standouts. In the first, Ball is giving home perms to a group of ladies when chemicals from a boy's science kit get mixed in with the perm solution, causing the ladies' hair to fall out in huge twitching clumps. During the climax, in a scene a bit like her later famous Vitameatavegamin episode on "I Love Lucy," she's on a ship filled with wine casks and ends up ingesting much of the wine, getting quite drunk in the process. My own favorite, however, is the burlesque house scene; Robbins does a nice version of "Put the Blame on Mame," but Ball steals the scene, dressed up in outrageously exaggerated chorus girl drag. Just remembering how she looked makes me chuckle. This film was a sequel to THE FULLER BRUSH MAN with Red Skelton, and he has a funny cameo here. Also with Jeff Donnell and John Litel. Not a movie for the ages, but worth seeing for Ball's performance. [TCM]

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