|WHOOPEE! (director: Thornton Freeland; screenwriters: based upon the play "The Nervous Wreck" by Owen Davis/William Conselman/story by Robert Hobart Davis, William Anthony McGuire and E.J. Rath; cinematographers: Lee Garmes/Gregg Toland/Ray Rennahan; editor: Stuart Heisler; music: Gus Kahn/Walter Donaldson; cast: Eddie Cantor (Henry Williams), Eleanor Hunt (Sally Morgan), Paul Gregory (Wanenis), Albert Hackett (Chester Underwood), Ethel Shutta (Mary Custer), John Rutherford (Sheriff Bob Wells), Betty Grable ( Goldwyn Girl), Walter Law (Jud Morgan), Chief Caupolican (Black Eagle), Spencer Charters (Jerome Underwood); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Samuel Goldwyn/Florenz Ziegfeld; Warner's Archive (MGM); 1930)|
|"Snappy stage-bound musical comedy."
by Dennis Schwartz
Freeland ("Flying Down to
Rio"/"Brewster's Millions"/"Jericho") directs this
snappy stage-bound musical comedy, a huge hit in the
early days of talkies. It's noted for three memorable
songs: "Makin' Whoopee," "A
Girl Friend of a Boy Friend of Mine" and "My
Baby Just Cares for Me," for its innovative use of two-tone
Technicolor (one of the first films to use color)
and surviving the nebbish antics of the
overbearing eye-rolling wit of Eddie Cantor (a
love him or hate him actor). It was remade by
Samuel Goldwyn in 1944 as Up in Arms, with Danny
Kaye as star. Freeland
adapted it from Flo Ziegfield’s
popular 1928-29 Broadway musical, which was based on
the play by Owen Davis entitled "The Nervous Wreck."
This was the film that launched Eddie
Cantor into a major film star. The innocuous film, whose fluff
comedy is derived from a case of mistaken
identitys and its drama from an unrequited love
story. The tiresome plot gets repeatedly
refreshed by the Goldwyn “girls” going through their drills
to show us their sexy gams in dance
numbers arranged by the iconic choreographer Busby Berkeley. The lead chorus girl
is Betty Grable.
The story takes place at an Arizona
ranch, where there are real cowboys and Indians.
The nervous wreck protagonist is the
hypochondriac Henry Williams (Eddie Cantor), who
in the dry climate. Henry makes up his
mind to save the ranch owner's daughter,
Sally Morgan (Eleanor Hunt), from
marrying the domineering Sheriff Bob Wells (John Rutherford) when he learns she loves another.
In one revolting scene Cantor manages
to be in blackface, like in his minstrel man
vaudeville act. Also,
like his neurotic imitator, Woody Allen, Cantor
fires away throughout with one-liners, such as "Last week I looked so terrible, two
undertakers left a deposit on me."
Ethel Shutta plays Cantor's
harried nurse, who proposes to her patient but
is rejected because he thinks he's too sick to
marry. Paul Gregory is the singing
son of Chief Black Eagle (Chief Caupolican),
whose mother is white. Henry pines for the white
heiress Sally, and she says her heart belongs to
the Indian. But their marriage is taboo for
racist reasons. Anyway, it turns out Henry is
actually white--so the racial prejudice plot
angle suddenly vanishes and true love prevails.
REVIEWED ON 2/27/2015 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ