26 January 2016 | vert001
Filmic root of The Producers
One of many comedies made by Joe E. Brown for Warner Brothers/First National during the thirties, The Tenderfoot lacks much of the physical stunt work that features in many of the athletic Brown's films but compensates with a cleverer than usual plot that apparently originated in a Kaufman play, The Butter and Egg Man. The idea of producing a play so bad that it's taken as satirical and becomes an unexpected hit would reach fruition in The Producers. The Tenderfoot is not quite up to that deliriously brilliant work, however.
One problem is that, while the best scene in the whole picture is Brown explaining to a prospective investor, i.e., the latest sucker, the plot of this 'masterpiece', which turns out to be a rural melodrama old hat by 1914 or so, we never actually see it presented on the stage. I guess the budget wouldn't allow for it. An early and hilarious musical number is obviously lifted from some other film which may be a hint as to the constraints under which director Ray Enright was working.
Simple comedies such as this live or die on their performers. Brown is in fine form as the unlikely Texas cowboy come to the city to make his fortune. He's supported nicely by Ray Cody as a sleazy producer looking for funds and by the young Ginger Rogers playing Cody's secretary and Brown's love interest in an unusually fiery role for those functions. Ginger is also the recipient of a couple of the nicest closeups that she would ever receive courtesy of cinematographer Greg Toland no less, famous for his later work on Citizen Kane among other masterpieces. The Tenderfoot is no masterpiece, but it does have its moments.