Next up, we have the classic 1945 Fred MacMurray comedy Murder, He Says.
Coming Up Shorts! with… Barking Dogs Don’t Fite (1949)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 3 from Warner Archive Collection)
Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.
(Length: 6 minutes, 12 seconds)
Popeye is stuck walking Olive’s new French poodle when they encounter Bluto and his big bulldog. Yep, it’s still Popeye vs Bluto, but this time, they’re going to the dogs! At least this time, it gives us something different, focusing in on the fight between the dogs a little more than Popeye vs. Bluto. While I’ve definitely seen similar gags done elsewhere, I can’t deny this one was still fun just the same!
And Now For The Main Feature…
Pollster Pete Marshall (Fred MacMurray) has come to town, looking for his colleague Hector P. Smedley. Hector had last been seen heading towards the home of the Fleagle family, so that’s where Pete goes. He soon finds that to be a mistake, when he meets the rough Mamie Fleagle Smithers Johnson (Marjorie Main), her twins sons Mert and Bert Fleagle (both played by Peter Whitney), her daughter Elany Fleagle (Jean Heather) and her current husband Mr. Johnson (Porter Hall). Pete realizes they killed Hector and are considering doing the same to him, but they decide to keep him alive. Their relative, Bonnie Fleagle, had committed robbery with her father and the money had been hidden before he died and she was sent to prison. Only Grandma Fleagle (Mabel Paige) truly knows where it is, but since she doesn’t trust the rest of the family (and for good reason, since they’ve been poisoning her), they all want Pete to pose as Bonnie’s boyfriend to get the information from Grandma Fleagle. She figures out he isn’t Bonnie’s boyfriend, but figures she should tell him anyways, giving him a sampler with some musical notes on it before passing away. He tries to tell the other Fleagles about the sampler, but they don’t believe him, since the lyrics are just nonsense words that Elany keeps singing. Then Bonnie Fleagle shows up, and starts working Pete over. However, when the two are alone, Pete finds out she is not Bonnie, but Claire Matthews (Helen Walker), whose father had been working at the bank when the robbery happened and was accused of being part of it. Claire hoped to find the money and clear him. Pete isn’t thrilled, but he decides to stay. Of course, the trouble is trying to figure out where the money is hidden, all the while avoiding the attempts by the other Fleagles to find out or kill them, which becomes harder when the real Bonnie Fleagle (Barbara Pepper) arrives.
The movie had been filmed as far back as the spring of 1944, but was held back due to the war and was released in 1945. Paramount had a big backlog of movies, mainly because they were trying to get a lot more war-related movies out faster, hoping to keep them from being dated with the war’s end. Murder, He Says took place in a mountain community, and some of the cast made use of recordings of native Arkansas speakers to help with their accents. Reviewers of the time had mixed opinions on this movie, but over time it has grown to be considered one of the better comedies of the era.
This is one of those movies that, prior to my recent viewing, I didn’t immediately recognize, but upon watching, I found it very familiar (although when or how I might have seen it before, I couldn’t tell you). What I do know is that I did enjoy this movie very much. The cast just works so perfectly here. Marjorie Main as the leader of the opposing Fleagles is just hilarious, equally at home using a bullwhip as a shotgun. You know you can’t trust her, no matter what bull she might be peddling to Fred MacMurray’s Pete. And speaking of Fred MacMurray, he does pretty well here too! While I’ve read that the movie was originally planned as another vehicle for Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, I can’t deny that everybody cast in this movie does pretty well (and I can’t help but chuckle at the movie’s reference to one of the Bob Hope/Paulette Goddard films). Many funny moments here, including the twins, both played so wonderfully by Peter Whitney, especially with MacMurray constantly getting them mixed up, or trying to get away from them by pretending to see the “ghost” of his colleague Smedley! I could easily list off a whole lot more, but some things are best left to be seen in a very fun movie! I definitely recommend this one any time of the year, but it certainly should work pretty good around Halloween!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, touting a brand new 4K restoration. I’ll certainly say that this transfer looks fantastic! A very vivid picture, and it certainly brings out the “glow” of some characters throughout the movie! Only a few scratches here and there to keep it from being perfect, but I’d still say that it’s well worth it!
Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
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