The names of the characters in You’d Be Surprised (1926)—Green, Brown, White, a valet named Grey (Granville Redmond)—telegraph to the audience that we’re in for an interesting round of the board game Clue…with the funster talked about previously in this space in features like Open All Night (1924) and Paths to Paradise (1925) in charge of the investigation in this most curious comedy. I say “curious” because from a critical stand point, Surprised has almost as many admirers as it does detractors. At the time of its release, the comedy was highly praised by critics like The New York Times’ Mordaunt Hall, who wrote “Although there is a lot of nonsense in this current effort, it is pictured in a clever fashion and Mr. Griffith is in his element in this type of comedy.”
|Dorothy Sebastian, Griffith|
I call vehicles like You’d Be Surprised “who-turned-out-the-lights” movies, and while I certainly didn’t plan it this way, Surprised is the third of these such films I’ve watched within the span of a week. Earlier, I caught a 1933 film (I grabbed this from Epix [Vault] on Demand, by the way) entitled Tomorrow at Seven which features Frank McHugh and Allen Jenkins as a pair of incompetent detectives investigating a murder. (Produced by independent Jefferson Pictures and released through RKO; apparently, Warner Bros. had nothing for McHugh or Jenkins to do that week.) I followed this up with The Gorilla (1939), another murder comedy with three inept investigators: Al, Harry, and Jimmy—the Ritz Brothers. (Don’t think I can’t hear you judging me out there.)
|Character great Roscoe Karns has a small role as a party guest, and Columbia comedy shorts stalwart Monte Collins can also be glimpsed as the milkman on the "coroner's grand jury."|
“I really love watching him work,” declares my Facebook compadre Christopher Snowden on a Raymond Griffith thread at the Silent Comedy Mafia bulletin board. “I love that he's distinctive, I love the sly looks, the confidence, the resourcefulness, the moral ambiguity. I love that he's a rascal, even when he's on the right side of the law.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. You'd Be Surprised is available on DVD from Grapevine Video (I bought a copy back in December of 2012), and is well worth the purchase.