Saturday, March 7, 2015

Double Dynamite

Double Dynamite (aka It's Only Money, Irving Cummings, 1951) You've probably never heard of Double Dynamite—it's a slight musical comedy that isn't exactly successful in its intent, or commercially, due to the sabotage perpetrated by then-head of RKO Studios, Howard Hughes, who sold it as something else, entirely—focusing in its marketing on the things that had proved successful in the past, those being Jane Russell and her breasts.

A stupid move, that—a huckster's move, because not only is Russell under-utilized in the movie—as the romantic focus of two disparate bank employees—she's also costumed like a normal human being, not sexualized, not provocative, just normal. Hughes' marketing tried desperately to make the movie (filmed in 1948 and held back from release) something it wasn't, while also dismissing entirely what it actually is—a Frank Sinatra musical comedy. A not very good one, at that.
Chairman Blue Eyes plays Johnny Dalton, a bank teller without prospects for advancement, despite being a whiz with numbers. Perhaps it has something to do with the bank president's son (Don McGuire), working for the old man and making goo-goo eyes at Johnny's girl Mildred Goodhue (Russell). She's crazy about Johnny, but she wants security, something a teller's job paying $42.50 a week just doesn't provide.
But the movie starts on Johnny's lucky day—a visit to his favorite Italian restaurant brings an encounter with waiter Emile J. Keck (Groucho Marx...Groucho Marx!) and continues with his saving the life of a notorious bookie (Nestor Paiva), who repays Johnny by giving him a benjamin and convincing him to bet on the ponies...and keep betting...and keep betting until he has a wad of cash—$60 grand, in fact. Now, Johnny and Mildred can get married.
But, those thousands come at a very inopportune time..which just happens to be when $75,000 seems to have been embezzled by the bank Johnny works for. So, he's had all this good fortune—but can't tell anyone about it because they'll suspect he's the robber and his windfall are ill-gotten gains. What to do? What to do?

One would use the cliched "hilarity ensues," but it just doesn't. It sputters along, with only two songs for Sinatra—duets with Groucho and with Russell. Groucho's in fine form and Frankie and Jane are eager enough, but the movie's pretty small-potatoes for all the potential of the cast. All would do bigger and better things, and that's the real happy ending to this movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment