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  It's In The Bag! Show Him The Money
Year: 1945
Director: Richard Wallace
Stars: Fred Allen, Jack Benny, William Bendix, Binnie Barnes, Robert Benchley, Jerry Colonna, John Carradine, Gloria Pope, William Terry, Minerva Pious, Richard Tyler, Sidney Toler, George Cleveland, John Miljan, Ben Welden, Don Ameche, Rudy Vallee, Victor Moore
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The elderly millionaire Frederick F. Trumble is determined to find his great-grand-nephew before he shuffles off his mortal coil, and although on paper he is a very rich man, actually his hangers-on have drained his funds to a mere three hundred thousand dollars. To prevent this amount being appropriated too, the old man hides it in one chair of a set of five, but before he can contact his relative to inform him, a gun appears through the open window of his study and fires. He is killed instantly, but whoever shot him makes it look like suicide; however, the great-grand-nephew has been found, and he is Fred Floogle (Fred Allen), a certain flea circus owner...

As with Great Britain, radio comedy in the United States used to be massively popular and frequently the stars of one medium were transported over to another, in this case cinema. Fred Allen was one of the biggest radio stars of his day, but for some reason he never took off in the picture business, not like his friendly rival Jack Benny did: there was no To Be Or Not To Be in his filmography. The closest Allen got to a movie hit was It's In The Bag!, and even then it was only a cult success amongst those who liked his radio show, or now, among those who enjoy vintage humour.

The plot is the old Twelve Chairs one so beloved of the makers of vehicles for comics - see Keep Your Seats, Please with George Formby, or Mel Brooks' The Twelve Chairs for examples. Fred has to track down each of the five chairs in this case, when he is told by the lawyer (John Carradine, not as trustworthy as he might appear) that the millions have gone astray and all he has is the furniture and a phonograph recording. Fred sells the chairs at auction, and only then hears the recording of the old man telling them where he has hidden the cash, so the race is on as he is not the only one in pursuit - there's whoever the murderer is to contend with as well.

It has to be said, although Allen contributed to the script (as did Alfred Hitchcock's wife Alma Reville), nobody here seems all that interested in the finer details of the plot, and it takes about a third of an already pretty short movie to reach the stage where Fred is searching for the correct chair. Mostly this is an excuse for a series of sketches with a few guest stars, most notably Jack Benny here appearing as himself and sending up his meanness to humorous effect when Fred visits him to get a chair back - Benny has a hat check girl in his cupboard who charges twenty-five cents, and a till and wrapping paper in his bureau to sell Fred his tie as a memento (!).

Other stars up for a laugh included Don Ameche, Rudy Vallee and Victor Moore who are reduced to a gig as singing waiters (Ameche explains he ran out of things to invent) in a nightclub that descends into bedlam when the murderer strikes again, and one to especially treasure, movie tough guy William Bendix amusingly lampooning his image as a gang boss who is a hypochondriac wimp, constantly popping vitamin pills to bolster his frail constitution. Although the material is only intermittently as funny as you'd like it to be, it's worth seeing for the array of comic talent, both famous and not so famous, who contribute to the crazy world Allen can't believe he has been landed in. All this and hearing Charlie Chan actor Sidney Toler speaking in his normal accent. Now to track down a copy of Zombie in the Attic... Music by Werner Heyman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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