Sunday 20 April 2008

Three Men on a Horse (1936)

This has because almost the definition of what I want to record as a guilty pleasure. It's going to be awesome fun but probably completely nonsense and it'll yet brighten my day at the very start of it. Why? Because it's a 1930s Warner Bros picture starring Frank McHugh and Joan Blondell, with support from the like of Guy Kibbee and Allen Jenkins. How could it go wrong with that talent? There's even Edgar Kennedy and Harry Davenport and Sam Levene.

McHugh is Erwin Trowbridge who's a mild mannered greeting card writer who lives in Dobbins Drive (where all houses are alike). He has a nervous wife whose brother is the Dobbins who built them and who obviously has no confidence in him in the slightest. She's discovered his little black book and thinks he's cheating on her but all the girls names in there are really horses. He picks winners as a hobby and is amazingly good at it, even though he never actually puts any money down because as they aren't flush with cash, he seems it as immoral to bet money they don't have.

The plot comes from an argument between Erwin and Clarence Dobbins that leads Erwin to a bar instead of work. There he meets a bunch of low life hoodlum types who have been losing all their money on bad picks. The obvious next step is for them to use Erwin to pick their winners for them and make them huge amounts of money, and sure enough, that happens. The surprising side is that their leader, who has the awesome name of Patsy, has to start keeping Erwin happy in order to persuade him to keep picking horses, and that he actually starts caring about him in the process.

The dialogue is awesome, mostly because it's realistically common but it contains a whole bunch of lines that come out of nowhere and require double takes. In amongst the obvious stuff there are some really subtle peaches. They're interspersed between the cast too: an irascible Kibbee as Erwin's boss; Sam Levene as Patsy, an old school gentleman to new school hoods; outrageous Teddy Hart; Joan Blondell as the real brains behind the operation; seemingly everyone in the cast. Bizarrely the best lines are absolutely not the ones listed in the quotes section of the IMDb page.

It was as fun as I expected, but it was of a higher quality than I expected, certainly above the last couple that I saw with Frank McHugh in the lead. I'm certainly going to set this to record again next time it comes up. It's not Sh! The Octopus or The Merry Wives of Reno but it may just become another guilty pleasure favourite. Great escapist fun.

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