Movie Critique - Whistling in the Dark; Whistling in Brooklyn
Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: Both are enjoyable murder mysteries, with sinister plots blended in with comic antics, dialogues and funny mishaps by everyone included. Funny banter with a balance of slapstick comedy and suspense on equal merits.
A few months ago I watched the film Whistling in Dixie and was rather harsh on the lead actor, Red Skelton, in my review. Since then I have watched a few of his movies such as Having Wonderful Time released in 1938, Red Skelton's debut film. And gave me a new appreciation for his acting.
So when Turner Classic Movies (TCM) was airing the remaining two movies in the Whistling series I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch them. Both movies had Red Skelton as Wally "The Fox" Benton and Ann Rutherford as Carol Lambert in the lead cast; Directed by S. Sylvan Simon; and Produced by George Haight.
First up the 1941 comedy mystery Whistling in the Dark, the first film in the series. In this Wally "The Fox" Benton is kidnapped by a cult leader Joseph Jones (portrayed by Conrad Veidt) and is forced into committing a perfect murder else he would kill Wally's girlfriend Carol Lambert (portrayed by Ann Rutherford). This would be the first full lead role for Skelton that proved to be a platform for his future success.
This film is based on the 1932 play of the same name by Lawrence Gross and Edward Childs Carpenter. Screenplay for this 1941 version was written by Robert MacGunigle, Harry Clork, Albert Mannheimmer; and uncredited support by Eddie Moran and Elliot Nugent.
Virginia Grey who plays the role of "Fran" Post had a successful radio career as well. In many of the old time radio podcasts that I am listening to lately has Virginia Grey in many roles. Almost every other radio show had her cast in it.
Next up is the 1943 comedy mystery Whistling in Brooklyn, the final movie in the series. In this film Wally "The Fox" Benton and Carol Lambert are all set to get married, and preparations are in progress. But first they have to prove that Wally is not a serial killer. Along side Skelton and Rutherford, we see Jean Rogers , Ray Collins and Rags Ragland among other cast.
Screenplay was written by Nat Perrin, Wilkie C. Mahoney, and uncredited support by Stanley Roberts. This is the longest of the three films with a running time of 87 minutes.
We remember Ray Collins for his famous role as Lieutenant Arthur Tragg in the original TV series Perry Mason with Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale. He is playing as Grover Kendall in this film. It is so interesting that outside of Perry Mason series, he played more roles against the law than for it including the one in Perry Mason.
Skelton and Rutherford have such immense chemistry between them I wonder why they didn’t do more films together. His facial antics are pretty funny and amazing actually the way he twists and contorts his facial muscles and eyes.
We again get to see the various people and props that are used to get a radio show episode created. Very fascinating.
Both are enjoyable murder mysteries, with sinister plots blended in with comic antics, dialogues and funny mishaps by everyone included. Funny banter with a balance of slapstick comedy and suspense on equal merits.
1) Movie Trivia:
a. Whistling in the Dark:
i. A 1933 pre-code version of the film with the same name exists which was directed by Elliott Nugent who also wrote the film adaptation, and has Ernest Truex, Una Merkel and Edward Arnold in the lead cast.
ii. Wally has an agent named "Buzz" Baker whom we don’t see in the remaining two films. In this film it is played by Eve Arden. We know Arden famously as Our Miss Brooks on radio, TV and film. Her 1956 film titled Our Miss Brooks aired on TCM a couple months ago that I posted about too.
iii. Virginia Grey (who plays "Fran" Post) and Don Costello (who plays "Noose" Green) also appear in the 1939 film Another Thin Man.
b. Whistling in Brooklyn:
i. The then Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher makes his screen debut playing himself.
ii. In fact several members of Brooklyn Dodgers and future baseball hall of famers make an appearance in this film. And they are aptly credited in the opening credits as one team "The Brooklyn Dodgers".
iii. We also see the Dodgers super fan Hilda Chester making a brief cameo as herself.
2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:
a. Whistling in Brooklyn:
i. The thugs talk about taking the prisoners to Leighton Street Dock. But when they all arrive it is Leighton Ave Dock.
ii. When Rutherford's stunt double jumps from the table to save Wally, she is wearing black sneakers instead of black shoes that Rutherford's character Carol wears.