Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Naughty Nineties (1945)

Another collaboration between Abbott & Costello and director Jean Yarbrough provides fans with another one of their better comedy outings.

The plot sees the comedy twosome working on a steamboat that's captained by the kindly Capt. Sam Jackson (Henry Travers, probably most recognised by people of all ages as Clarence the angel from It's A Wonderful Life). We get the usual knockabout first reel before the major plot development - poor Captain Jackson loses most of the rights over his boat when he's tricked by a bunch of scheming gamblers. The gamblers then go on to use the steamboat as a base of operations, fleecing crowds of people who come on board, trusting in the good name of the captain. Can the devious villains be stopped and can Bud and Lou help in any way?

It becomes clear while watching numerous A & C movies that some people just knew how to get the best out of them. Erle C. Kenton was one and Yarbrough was certainly another. The Naughty Nineties starts off amusingly enough and rattles through a number of enjoyable set-pieces en route to a fast and funny finale. The fact that it features what many people consider to be the best version of the famous "Who's On First" routine is another HUGE bonus - I could quite honestly watch that routine on a loop from now until the end of time.

Edmund L. Hartmann, John Grant, Edmund Joseph and Hal Fimberg wrote the screenplay, with some extra material from Felix Adler, and the quantity of laughs onscreen certainly benefits from the talented wordsmiths who managed to work with Abbott & Costello to add gags wherever they could. At least, that's how it seems from this perspective.

The leads are up to their usual standard (which means that if you still don't like them by now then you're never going to) while the supporting players make more of an impression than usual. Henry Travers is wonderful, Lois Collier is lovely and Alan Curtis, Rita Johnson and Joe Sawyer make a good trio of potential baddies.

This is a very enjoyable movie and the more I think about it the more I am tempted to rate it even higher. So I'll just stop now before I get carried away.


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