I’m grateful to Laura for introducing me to this Fox comedy of 1941. It’s out on DVD.
I’m a not-so-secret fan of Cesar Romero, and he gets one of his few starring roles in TALL DARK AND HANDSOME, in a story that is very Damon Runyonesque in character and names.
Romero is gangster Shep Morrison. His henchman, Frosty (Milton Berle) tells would-be singer Judy (Virginia Gilmore); ” Shep’s got a record of 10 killings and no blood spilt.” As a result Shep has a fierce reputation .
But, instead of killing anybody, Shep keeps them locked up in a hidden area of his mansion! And he looks after them. It’s so daft, but very funny.
On the other hand, Pretty Willie (Sheldon Leonard) is the real thing – a hood who is ready to wipe out Shep’s operations .
When Shep meets Judy in the childrens’ dept of a store, he pretends to be a banker and a father. He engages her as a nanny, and then has to find a child to call him daddy.
Frosty obliges and produces Detroit Harry Morrison jr. (Stanley Clements) who’s an orphan after Detroit Harry Sr was shot.
Clements, who was 14 at the time but looks younger, is hilarious as the hard as nails,little tough guy who admires Shep once he knows who he is. (and he has some mop of hair!).
Shep has a night club where Winnie Sage (Charlotte Greenwood) works. Winnie has dome some acting and Shep asks her, “How are you at straight dramatic parts.?” Winnie then pretends to be Shep’s housekeeper. But before that, Charlotte delivers a song and dance to Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin’s ‘I’m Alive and Kicking.’ Great number which made me want more songs from the marvellous Ms. Greenwood.
Of course, she does her famous high kick.
We do get two more Rainger/Robin songs, when Judy is given a job by Shep at his club.( Dubbed by Harriet Kaye). I love how Judy delivers her first song with absolutely no rehearsal!
Shep’s very proper butler (played by English actor Barnett Parker) packs a shoulder holster in case of trouble. He also looks after the prisoners in the basement!
Barnett Parker got very typecast in these sort of roles. He died, aged 54, the year this film was released.
The supporting cast is just first class.
Addison Richards……Anthony Caruso…….Frank Jenks
Marion Martin…….James Flavin…….Marc Lawrence