DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

ALWAYS LEAVE THEM LAUGHING (aka: THE THIEF OF BROADWAY) (director: Roy Del Ruth; screenwriters: From a story by Max Shulman & Richard Mealand/Melville Shavelson/Jack Rose; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Clarence Kolster; music: Ray Heindorf;; cast:  Milton Berle (Kip Cooper), Virginia Mayo (Nancy Eagen), Ruth Roman  (Fay Washburn), Bert Lahr (Eddie Eagan), Lloyd Gough (Monte Wilson), Alan Hale (Sam Washburn), Grace Hayes (Grace Kennedy Washburn), Jerome Cowan (Elliott Montgomery), Ransom Sherman (Hank), Iris Adrian (Julie Adams), Wally Vernon (self), Cecil Stewart & His Royal Rogues (specialty act), O'Donnell & Blair (specialty act), Max Showalter (Comet Pen Salesman), The Moroccans (specialty act); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jerry Wald; Warner Bros.; 1949)

"A polished sentimental backstage biopic about making it to the top as a comic."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A polished sentimental backstage biopic about making it to the top as a comic, that was not a big box office success during its release.. It works best as a curio showing famed vaudeville comedians doing their act on stage and their bitter rivalries. It comes when Milton Berle hit it big on TV in 1948, in the show originally called the Texaco Star Theater, where he became nationally famous as Uncle Miltie. Roy Del Ruth ("Topper Returns"/"The Babe Ruth Story") directs by the numbers. It's written by Jack Rose and Melville Shavelson, who adapted it from the book by Max Shulman and Richard Mealand. It was shot in black and white.

Kip Cooper (Milton Berle) is a self-centered unlikable loudmouth struggling comic who is obsessed with being a top banana at any cost. The pic shows how the brash comic rose from playing in flop houses to becoming a big star. It's framed around Kip's longtime agent Monte Wilson (
Lloyd Gough) telling in one long flashback an aspiring naive comedian Kip's struggle to rise to fame, as he tries to discourage him from becoming a comic.

We learn that Kip's act depends on him stealing material from the great comedians, and he uses their gags to work in second-rate venues like in an Asbury Park, N.J. hotel. When the popular elderly  comedian Eddie Eagan (Bert Lahr) becomes ill before his show opens on Broadway, Kip replaces the star in the show for its trial runs out-of-town before the Broadway opening.  But Eddie recovers to open on Broadway.  When Kip invites Eddie to join him onstage to do an old routine on the the eve of his New York opening, Eddie dies when performing. A contrite Kip turns over a new leaf, and turns suddenly from a selfish guy to one who will now only use his own material. This change of heart has him reject the business proposals of Eddie's cold-hearted scheming wife (Virginia Mayo) and marry the struggling song and dance nice girl Fay Washburn (Ruth Roman).

The Berle character is a misanthrope whose sudden change for the good is unconvincing, which makes it difficult to have sympathy for anyone in the film..

REVIEWED ON 10/9/2016       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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