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  • The frantic energy of Ed Wynn which went over so well on radio and in vaudeville for some reason did not come over well on the big screen. His son Keenan Wynn would achieve film success as a character actor before his old man did. It would be over 20 years more Ed Wynn would be seen live on film.

    What he needed most was decent direction by a director who was versed in comedy who could have dialed down his perfect fool character to make it work. He did not get that in The Chief, his fire engine was going pedal to the metal.

    For those who do not know the reason Ed Wynn was cast as the fire chief or in this case son of the fire chief was his well known radio persona. Wynn was for decades on radio sponsored by Texaco and he was known as the Texaco fire chief on the air. Like here on film, for his studio audiences Wynn would come out in a fire chief's hat and tell a lot of awful jokes in rapid succession like he was running to a fire. The jokes were bad, but the delivery was hilarious.

    In this film Wynn is the son of a late fire chief on the Bowery back at the turn of the last century. A pair of political rivals try to use him for political purposes when they run and/or oppose his candidacy for alderman. God has a special providence for fools and the perfect fool comes out on top.

    Walt Disney utilized him best. He was the voice of The Mad Hatter in his animated Alice In Wonderland film in 1950 and that was perfect casting. Later on if you want to see him with good direction in a live film, try watching his last film, The Gnomemobile. And he was quite the good dramatic actor in his last years, see him in Marjorie Morningstar and his Oscar nominated performance in The Diary Of Anne Frank.

    But The Chief is strictly for Wynn's legion of fans and nostalgia lovers.
  • Ed Wynn is listed in the cast as Ed Wynn "The Perfect Fool" and that's because he first gained fame on stage from a show with that title. In 1932 he became an overnight sensation with his radio show 'The Fire Chief' and this film is an attempt by MGM to make some money off Wynn's success. But taking his show to film was not a success, either at the box office or as a movie. It's all wheezy stuff now. Wynn does his dithery, silly shtick as the turn-of-the-century doofus "hero" of a local fire department who is co-opted by political wheeler dealers trying to make him an alderman. Oddly, the film ends with Wynn dropping any pretense of playing his character and instead doing his radio show: explaining into a microphone what happens with the remainder of the story and characters. The film has shades of a Harold Lloyd feature, but without the laughs. And Wynn is an acquired taste, seeing as he's both physically repulsive and cartoonish in voice and manner. But fans of Wynn and/or Golden Age of Radio buffs may find it of interest.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    While Ed Wynn was a beloved figure in early television history, his foray into films was not so least not until late in his career. This vaudeville comic's routine just didn't translate well to the big screen and when you see this film it's pretty clear why he did so few films--despite being a headliner on stage. When you see this movie, you'll understand why.

    Wynn plays a doofus who blunders into becoming the honorary fire chief. When he saves a woman's life (quite accidentally), he suddenly is a hero and they convince him to run for alderman--despite being rather dumb. But, when his mommy is kidnapped, he decides to withdraw from the race. Can they find his mom and Wynn still run for office? There are many problems with this film--the most serious of which is Wynn himself. You can't blame the script for Wynn's insipid giggling! Unfortunately the script isn't all that good, either. It includes bear wrestling (with a guy in an obvious costumes for many scenes) and characters (aside from Wynn's on-screen mother) who aren't particularly good. But the worst problem is how the movie ends--just as Wynn is about to win the election, the plot ends and suddenly Wynn is no longer in the Gay 90s but doing his radio show! Huh?! A film with no ending but just Wynn making bad jokes is not a good movie.

    Dull and stupid. However, if you get a chance, try to find Wynn in some of his dramas he made later in life. Instead of an annoying comic like he was in this movie, Wynn's dramatic portrayals in the TV version of "Requiem For A Heavyweight" and his appearances on "The Twilight Zone" were outstanding.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    What starts off promising turns to disaster as the brilliant Ed Wynn turns from coward to hero saving a woman in a fire and taking over his late father's post as fire chief. What could have been a light look at the Bowery of the early 20th Century with dramatic moments turns into political melodrama. This would have been fine had it starred one of MGM's other character actor leads like Wallace Beery or Chester Morris. But legendary comic Ed Wynn, in a rare early appearance with no comedy after the opening quarter of the film? Absurd! The ending is ridiculous. We would have to wait over 20 years to see Wynn back on screen to appreciate his gifts.