But whenever I’m being serious with regards to Mr. L, I have referred to him in the past as “the best friend a classic film fan can have.” He’s steered me to a number of notable movies I might have otherwise passed on, like The Iron Petticoat (1956—I wanted to like this one, but it just didn’t work for me, Lou) and To the Last Man (1933—this one I did enjoy). Lou did an introduction and history on this last film when it was released to DVD in July of 2005 as part of those splendid Roan Archival Group releases…one of several Roan projects in which Lumenick participated, including today’s Overlooked Films on Tuesdays.
a January 2005 Roan release combined a pair of film comedies centering on the Sweet Science, Harold Lloyd’s The Milky Way (1936) and the East Side Kids vehicle Kid Dynamite (1943). I posted a picture of myself on Facebook with the copy I purchased from Oldies.com for the nominal sum of—get this now—seventy-nine cents. Was I going to pass this up? Au contraire! Anyway, when Lou saw the photo he asked: “Are those the ones I taped in my apartment? Or on the roof of the former Troma building in Hell’s Kitchen?” This intro looks like an apartment job; possibly with a blue screen in the background so they could dub in the Troma promotional stuff on the wall in post-production.
No sooner said than done: Burleigh arrives on the scene, and in the fracas that follows, Speed is sent to the concrete canvas. The newspapers have a field day with the story that a mere amateur was able to knock out the reigning middleweight champion, and those headlines give Speed’s manager, Gabby Sloan (Adolphe Menjou), a severe case of ulcers.
Sloan’s condition is further exacerbated by the fact that Burleigh—a timid, mild-mannered milkman—didn’t actually slug Speed; all those years of being bullied since childhood have allowed Sullivan to perfect a “ducking” technique, in which he most effectively bobs and weaves to avoid any blows. Burleigh demonstrates again, and this reveals that it was Spider who sent Speed down for the ten-count…just as a gaggle of reporters descend upon the hotel room where the four men and Sloan’s longtime fiancée Ann Westley (Verree Teasdale) were congregated.
While Burleigh undergoes training (he’s never had any kind of fight in his life), Speed romances Mae to keep her from finding out about the scheme.
There are two schools of thought regarding Harold Lloyd’s “talking” comedies. One group believes that Movie Crazy (1932) represents his best work from the sound era (I happen to think so myself). The other faction argues that Milky Way is his finest talkie—an exuberant slapstick affair directed by one of the finest comedy directors in the motion picture business, Leo McCarey. (Portions of Milky were also directed by Norman Z. McLeod; McCarey and the cast/crew made the mistake of drinking the milk featured in the film—Lloyd’s character is employed by a dairy—and the unpasteurized cow juice made a lot of them sick. Leo was so under the weather he wasn’t able to attend his father’s funeral…and moviegoers benefited from that when he made his next film, Make Way for Tomorrow , as a tribute to his pop.)
Milky has a superlative supporting cast: Adolphe Menjou as the scheming Gabby; Verree Teasdale as the sarcastic Ann; Lionel Stander as the loyal but dense Spider. (Stander would reprise this role in the Danny Kaye remake The Kid from Brooklyn ; both he and Eve Arden were regulars on Kaye’s radio show and Evie was perfect for the role of Ann.)
You’ll also spot familiar faces like George Barbier, Charles Lane, Murray Alper (the truck driver in Saboteur), Eddie Dunn, Lloyd Ingraham, and Milburn “Doc” Stone; of course, I can’t leave out the contribution of Marjorie Gateson—who plays the dowager taught by Burleigh to “duck” in the movie’s highlight.
The [always reliable] IMDb says this was Anthony Quinn’s movie debut but I wasn’t able to pick him out. It might have been the quality of the print; Sam Goldwyn bought the rights to Milky when he was planning the Kid from Brooklyn remake and purportedly destroyed not only the original negative but all existing prints. (Fortunately Harold Lloyd’s original nitrate print surfaced—the one featured on the Lloyd boxed set—but a good many of the DVD releases of Milky are public domain copies.)
Ethelbert “Mugs” McGinnis (Leo Gorcey) is scheduled to fight in the neighborhood boxing match—but after running afoul of pool shark Harry Wycoff (Gabriel Dell), Mugs finds himself taken for a ride by a pair of goons who work for Harry’s boss, a mobster (Wheeler Oakman) named Tony. (How original.) In the place of the missing Mugs, his pal Danny Lyons (Bobby Jordan) agrees to put on the gloves…not the wisest decision in retrospect.
Being eliminated from a jitterbug contest at a neighborhood dance—Mugs’ partner (Kay Marvis—Mrs. Gorcey at the time, and later Mrs. Groucho Marx) is a professional dancer, which is verboten in an amateur competition—doesn’t smooth things over between the two, particularly since Danny benefits from Mugs’ removal. Ethelbert, not to put too fine a point on it, is being a bit of an asshole (he’s turned his fellow gang members against Danny) and if Danno expects to live happy ever after with Ivy McGinnis (Pamela Blake), Mugs’ sister, he needs to show his future brother-in-law who’s boss.
Because I’ve always preferred the “pure comedy” approach of the later Bowery Boys films (though the early ones did dabble in melodrama), I’m not as fond of the East Side Kids movies as are others. But, hey—for 79¢ I’ll make myself a fan; besides, I do enjoy the ones where the Kids match wits with Bela Lugosi (Spooks Run Wild , Ghosts on the Loose —both of which will air on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ later this month) and East Side features that have a “pure comedy” approach (like Clancy Street Boys ) are also most welcome. Kid Dynamite has many interesting facets: the jitterbug dance is a lot of fun (watching Huntz “Glimpy” Hall dance with his Amazonian date is chuckle worthy); the Gorcey-Jordan rivalry was apparently drawn from real-life; and Bennie “Beanie” Bartlett probably has more lines in this film than he did in all of the later Bowery Boys romps.
Daphne Pollard, who worked with comics like Shemp Howard and Laurel & Hardy, plays Mugs and Ivy’s mom…and Vince “Elmo” Barnett is on hand as a nemesis of the gang named Klinkhammer. Columbia shorts player Dudley Dickerson is “Sunshine Sammy” Morrison’s (Scruno’s) father; Minerva Urecal a judge who reads Mugs and Company the riot act; and if you’re quick you’ll spot ‘Snub’ Pollard as one of the dance contest officials. Directed by programmer auteur Wallace Fox, Kid Dynamite also takes a little time for a musical interlude from Marion Miller and Mike Riley’s Orchestra with a jazzy version of Comin’ Thro’ the Rye. If that’s not enough to entice you (I’d like to think I had you at seventy-nine cents), Morey Amsterdam gets an “additional dialogue” credit!