The boys start the fifties with a new Butch, and William Beaudine back at the helm after a year-long absence. Their first film, Blonde Dynamite, is an above average entry with an increasingly rare emphasis on the whole team. The setup has Louie going on vacation (Coney Island) and in his absence, the boys turning his Sweet Shop into their own escort service, Slip's latest get-rich-quick scheme. Meanwhile, Gabe, now working at a bank, is being blackmailed by some shady characters into giving them the combination to the vault. Naturally, as in any good Bowery Boys film, these two plot threads come together in the end, as the gangsters use the boys to drill a tunnel through the floor of Louie's Sweet Shop into the bank a few doors away.
The film is so team-oriented that even David Gorcey and Buddy Gorman get their own comedy scene, when they are hired by a Women's Self-Defense Defense instructor and judo-flipped across a room. Meanwhile, Billy Benedict and Huntz Hall have a fun scene as Whitey and Sach are hired to be escorts to the opera for a couple of old maids. Bernard Gorcey gets a number of cutaway scenes, the best being the first, as he plays a ukulele on the beach and sings "Aloha Ay" while watching girls, as his wife glares disapprovingly.
Mrs. Dumbrowskl is played by wonderful comic actress Jodi Gilbert, best known to comedy fans as the waitress "Blimpie-Pie" in W. C. Fields' Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. In Fighting Fools, Louie insisted he wasn't married, yet here we see his wife. If you're looking for continuity, you are looking at the wrong series.
For trivia buffs, Slip may have
revealed the real
names of his cohorts in this film, as he introduces Butch as
Bartholomew, Chuck as Cedric and Whitey as Whitmore.
SLIP OF THE LIP
"I'll sue them for salt and some batteries!"
A solid mixture of drama and comedy, Lucky Losers is a well-directed and edited film about the Bowery Boys invading the casino business to investigate the suicide of their stock broker friend. As with Blonde Dynamite, the film makes good use on the entire team, with Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall getting the bulk of the footage, Gabe Dell helping to move the plot along, and Billy Benedict, David Gorcey and Buddy Gorman getting moments to shine. Then, of course, there is Bernard Gorcey, as Louie, or in this case "Arizona Louie", a shill brought in by the boys. Huntz Hall was undoubtedly the best comedian of the bunch, but the older Gorcey had an uncanny ability to steal any scene he was in. Listen to him closely during one of his angry moments at the craps table and you may actually hear him using the "F Word" mixed in with his Yiddish!
My favorite sideline scenes have Whitey, as a blackjack croupier, cheating to allow two nice elderly ladies to win back their money, and Whitey, Chuck and Butch all climbing into one phone booth to make a call (why do they always do this?). For those keeping track of the Bowery Boys fighting routines, "Routine 8" apparently consists of throwing whatever is at hand, in this case hundreds of poker chips, at the bad guys until they are incapacitated.
Gabe Dell, as Gabe Moreno, works as a television commentator, a nod to the invention that was quickly becoming a thorn in the side of the movie industry. Of course, as in all movies of this time, the television reception characters get is immaculate!
The female lead, Hillary Brooke, had a long but relatively undistinguished movie career, but is beloved by fans of both the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films and Abbott and Costello. She appeared in Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942), Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943) and The Woman in Green (1945). She also co-starred with Abbott and Costello in Africa Screams (1949) and Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952) as well as in the first season of their television show which ran from 1955 to 1956. I am particularly fond of her because she was born in my hometown of Astoria, Long Island City, New York.
After several above-average pictures, Triple Trouble falls curiously flat. The opening is creepy and bizarre, as the Boys, dressed in rubber Halloween masks, happen upon a robbery and are mistaken for the actual criminals. It's a unique mood setting opening which, unfortunately, the rest of the film fails to live up to. In one of Slip's least comprehensible plans, he elects to plead guilty to the crime (and enters the same plea for Sach) in an effort to track down the real crooks. Once in prison, they pretend to be two more famous gangsters, with Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall occasionally doing over-the-top impersonations of Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney. There are moments that resemble Laurel and Hardy's 1931 feature Pardon Us, especially when a scene in which Slip and Sach are put in solitary confinement is filmed from the exact same angle as a similar scene in the Laurel and Hardy film. But the Laurel and Hardy film, although patchy and episodic, had a lot of good comic sequences. Triple Trouble lacks any real comic highlights.
There are times when Huntz Hall's exuberant characterization of Sach could be overbearing, and this is one of them. Without halfway decent material, Hall's nonstop talking, gesticulating and laughing is not terribly funny. He would do much better in the next film, Blues Busters, in which he gives one of his best performances.
It's not overloaded with gags or action, but Blues Busters is one of the most pleasant and certainly the most musical of the Bowery Boys films. The premise - after Sach has his tonsils out, he can sing like Bing Crosby - is so wacky, the film doesn't even need much of a plot to be entertaining. The film just rides along on Sach's new ability, the Boys' creation of a supper club out of Louie's Sweet Shop, and a rival nightclub owner's attempts to win back the crowds that have now deserted his establishment. As usual, Gabe has a new job directly tied to the plot - he's a song plugger at a sheet music store on the same block (who knew it was such a musical neighborhood?) and to help out matters, Slip's latest girlfriend is a dancer.
The songs are catchy but not classic, and they are really sold by the voice (attributed to John Lorenz) and Huntz Hall's ability to sell them with his superb mimicry of your standard 1940's crooner. There's also a scene that is reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy when Sach, who has accidentally signed a contract with the rival owner, meets Slip on the street and both men come to near tears because their friendship is no longer what it once was. Except for one or two Slipisms ("You're at the pineapple of your success"), the scene is played completely straight and is one of those rare moments when you can feel the affection these two characters had for each other. (Whether that affection was real between the two actors may be another story, though Leo Gorcey certainly knew that Hall was a huge factor, possibly the primary factor, in the success of the Bowery Boys).
Some cast notes: this was Gabriel Dell's last Bowery Boys film. A talented man with an affable screen presence, he continued acting on Broadway, on television and in the movies for most of the rest of his life. In the fifties, he formed a nightclub act with fellow Bowery Boy Huntz Hall. He was also part of the rogues gallery of comics on Steve Allen's television shows in the late 50s and early '60s. (See video below)
As for Phylis Coates, who plays dancer Sally Dolan in Blues Blusters, well, let me put it this way: almost every Bowery Boys film had one beautiful B-movie actress in its cast, and many of them were quite good. But Phyllis Coates? Talented, funny, cool and just all kinds of sexy. Coates would never become a huge star, but she will always be remembered by TV fans as Lois Lane, playing opposite George Reeves in the first season of The Adventures of Superman where she was still all kinds of sexy even as a brunette.
SCHTICK 'EM UP!
"Maybe we could float a loan at the bank."
"With our reputation, we couldn't float a rowboat."