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  • If you're up for a challenge, definitely see RKO's 1934 bizarrefest DOWN TO THEIR LAST YACHT. You'll have self-inflicted dandruff from scratching your head by the time it's finished, I promise you. A family formerly of the social register hit the skids after the stock market crashes. All they have left is their 80 ft. yacht, which Polly Moran arranges for rental on behalf of skipper Ned Sparks. A boatful of nouveau rich (with the likes of Tom Kennedy, Maurice Black and Blanche Payson!!) set sail for the south seas. Stowaway Sidney Blackmer (watch out - he sings!!) pines for ingenue Sydney Fox, late of MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. Sparks runs aground and the whole gang is captured by Queen Mary Boland and her butler (what else) Charles Coleman. The natives are seen lazily singing of love. The lead is none other than Felix "Tom Tom" Knight. Boland's native guards are armed with tommy guns. She threatens to kill them if Blackmer doesn't marry her. I won't give it all away, but there's more incredulity involving bombs, a radio-wired saxophone and Pooh himself Sterling Holloway.

    Whether or not DOWN TO THEIR LAST YACHT was actually the financial disaster that legend has painted must be confirmed with documentation. While not a top drawer release, it was certainly big enough to warrant issuance of motion picture edition sheet music. Also, there are some pretty costly optical and miniature effects. But whatever its cost and subsequent receipts, there is no denying that the film is strange beyond comprehension. And for those who are inquisitive and indulgent of films off the beaten path, DOWN TO THEIR LAST YACHT is definitely worth 64 minutes of your time!
  • As noted in other comments for this film, this one starts out looking like a typical 1930s screwball comedy about high society but changes course quickly. The story takes several sharp left turns into becoming a musical farce set in a Polynesian island kingdom. Of particular delight is Mary Boland's shabby-glamorous queen and her manservant in tattered livery. The two romantic leads are undistinguished, particularly the male. But any film with Ned Sparks deserves some credit, and the musical numbers aren't as tedious as many others of the period were. It's a curious affair, made all the more startling by the film's rapid pacing, but I feel I must say that other comments make "Down To Their Last Yacht" sound like something from the avant-garde. In truth it's no more 'out there' than W.C. Fields' "Million Dollar Legs" or some of Wheeler & Woolsey's more absurdist work. Not a classic, but certainly worth watching if you come across it.
  • Warning: Spoilers

    What a very, very strange movie. From the title and set up one would think that this would be a neat, depression era, class reversal, screwball comedy complete with the icon of that genre, Mary Boland. How wrong one would be.

    A once wealthy but now working family living in elegant poverty aboard their yacht are suddenly thrust into leasing their yacht and themselves for a cruise for some vulgar and possibly underworld connected nouveau rich by a decidedly sexually ambiguous Polly Moran. All right, that sounds like a comedy. Ned Sparks is hired as the captain and Sidney Blackmer has a very early outing as a romantic lead, a singing romantic lead, romancing Sidney Fox (certainly one of the few, possibly unique, screen romances between two stars named Sidney). There is some silliness about fixing the roulette wheel with the aid of Stirling Hollaway, a scam which is exposed to an angry shipload of people when the captain deliberately beaches the yacht on an Island and things get very funny, peculiarly funny, indeed.

    The island, which features a very good Hawaiian band, is ruled by a feather bedecked, quite mad Mary Boland, famous for murdering her husbands and is attended by a man in tattered formal wear. Ned Sparks proposes to take the passengers hostage, strip them of everything and split the loot with the Queen but she intends to take it all, after murdering, with the assistance of her Thompson machine gun toting natives, everyone. Instead she becomes enamored of Blackmer, who plays the whole picture in white tie, to whom she proposes he become her king. He convinces her to let everyone go back to civilization as a more fitting punishment. Unfortunately she has had a bomb planted on the yacht. Fortunately she switches her affections to saxophone playing Stirling Hayden, her next "King", and Blackmer is able to get everyone off the boat in time. The yacht explodes. Back on the island everyone pairs off and behaves in a decidedly pre-code manner and everyone is libidinously happy. The End.

    This film belongs to a group of surrealist films very characteristic of the late twenties and early thirties like MILLION DOLLAR LEGS and just about anything with W.C. Fields or the Marx Brothers. Avant Garde Europeans and South Americans were very taken by these films so their influence was mainly felt by such artists as Jean Epstein, Dali, Bunuel, Cocteau and the Magico-Realists. Oh, did I mention this was a musical?
  • lugonian30 July 2011
    DOWN TO THEIR LAST YACHT (RKO Radio, 1934), directed by Paul Sloane, is a strange little musical- comedy somewhat inspired by Paramount's similar but far more entertaining venture of WE'RE NOT DRESSING (1934) starring Bing Crosby and Carole Lombard, each revolving around high society passengers on a yachting cruise ending up stranded on an island somewhere in the Pacific. Unlike WE'RE NOT DRESSING, which is bizarre in itself, DOWN TO THEIR LAST YACHT, is one to have earned its reputation of being a poor motion picture, a reputation that still stands today.

    Opening with an overview of a social register introducing the high society family of the Colt-Strattons: Linda (Sidney Fox) and her parents (Ramsey Hill and Marjorie Gateson), through a passage of time (1929, 1930, 1932 to 1934) before showing how the Colt-Strattons were reduced to becoming the working class after losing their fortune in the 1929 stock market crash. With father in construction, mother in an office job and daughter working behind the perfume counter of a drug store, they've managed to have retained their yacht named after Linda. While on board, the Colt-Strattons are approached by Nella Fitzgerald (Polly Moran) with a perfect idea. Because she has a ship with a captain but no crew, and the Colt-Strattons have a yacht with no captain, a plan is worked out by having Nella renting the Linda with Dan Roberts (Ned Sparks) acting as captain, using former members of the social register and their servants as their passengers. Along the way comes Michael Forbes (Sidney Blackmer), a rich gambler in love with Linda, accompanied by his chauffeur, Freddie (Sterling Holloway), joining in on the cruise. With the Colt-Strattons as hostesses, with yacht equipped with gambling tables for entertainment, things turn out well until Captain Roberts purposely beaches the yacht on the island of Molakamokalo headed by its queen (Mary Boland) with Sir Guy (Charles Coleman) as her adviser. After having the captain placed inside a cage for his mischievous scheme of stealing the money from his "cargo" and taking off on the yacht without them, the queen strips the passengers of their expensive clothing, reducing them to native clothes consisting of hula skirts, sarongs and loincloths. As the queen beauties herself with fashionable clothing, furs and jewelry, she takes a fancy on Michael (retaining his dinner suit) whom she wants to marry and made king of the island, much to the dismay of the jealous Linda. To assure the wedding takes place and no chances of escape, the queen has her natives place a bomb inside the boiling room of the yacht. How the crew gets back to civilization is anyone's guess.

    Playing like an extended comedy short, the film starts off promisingly, but falls short in comedy once it reaches its level of singing natives and the presence by the top-billed Mary Boland. Boland, who can either be a delight or annoying, shows her annoying qualities by overplaying her character to the extreme. Polly Moran, on the other hand, annoying or amusing, is the latter, especially through her broad and loud mannerisms reminiscent to that of comedienne, Patsy Kelly. Another setback is its tight editing to 64 minutes, leaving certain scenes to be either unresolved or unexplained. And then there's the poor deadpan Ned Sparks spending much of his second half of the story locked inside a cage pacing around for the exercise. He continues doing so even after Polly Moran's character gets locked up with him. What becomes of them is never actually revealed.

    Satisfactory but non-memorable tunes along with one Busby Berkeley inspired production number are somehow worked into this awkward production, including: "Funny Little World" (sung by Sidney Fox/ and individual cast members) by Ann Ronell; "Tiny Little Finger on You Hand" (sung by Sidney Blackmer / and individual cast members) by Val Burton and Will Jason; "There's Nothing Else to Do But Ma-La-Ka-Ma-Ku But Love" (possibly sung young native enacted by Felix Knight) by Cliff Friend and Sidney Mitchell; "Beach Boy" by Ann Ronell; "The Queen March" and finale, "South Sea Bolero" by Max Steiner and Ann Ronell.

    For the musical department, it does come as a surprise finding the likes of non-singers as both Sidneys, Fox and Blackmer, vocalizing adequately and in tune, though not being a threat to any popular singers of that time. Sterling Holloway offers some humorous moments with his saxophone, using the instrument for vibration purposes by moving the ball on the roulette wheel from landing onto the winning number, and later by attracting attention of the queen. Also seen in support are gangster-types of Tom Kennedy (Joe Schultz) and Maurice Black (Mr. Spivatti); with the broad and sassy Irene Franklin (Mrs. Gilhooley, a former cook of the Colt-Strattons), and Gigi Parrish (Patricia Gilhooley), among others, all sad looking specimens in their limited native attire.

    Out of circulation since the film's initial release, and never distributed to home video or DVD, DOWN TO THEIR LAST YACHT saw some temporary life on cable TV, American Movie Classics around 1991, and limited showings years later on Turner Classic Movies. With its poor reputation and bizarre situations, a pity DOWN TO THEIR LAST YACHT couldn't have been better. It goes on record simply as a curio for film buffs if not much else. Funny little world. (*)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This may be a programmer from RKO but I saw ambition especially in the production values. And some of the music and songs are by Max Steiner. But I'm a Mary Boland fan. She's wonderful in any thing she appears in usually as Charlie Ruggles wife henpecking him. Well poor Charlie is not in this. Mary is the Queen of her own island visited by some down on their luck socialites from the mainland. These people played by Sidney Blackmer, Sidney Fox and her mother played by Marjorie Gateson decide to lease their yacht for a cruise. On board are the zany likes of Polly Moran, Irene Franklin and Sterling Holloway. Captain of the yacht on this cruise is Ned Sparks who, it seems, 'deliberately' runs the yacht aground on Mary's island. Hmmm! it almost turns out that goofy Sparks was working for Mary as Mary's plan was to find herself a husband from the mainland. Spoiler! She ends up with one of them but I won't say. When the castaways find out that they were purposely trapped on the island they try to get away only to be prevented by Mary's islander posse.

    But apart from the societal hijinks the movie comes and goes and doesn't overstay it's welcome. It was a wise diversion to add musical numbers in this. They are excellently sung by singers who are native Pacific islanders. And it elevates the movie from being a typical programmer or time waster. Comically the socialites who came in on the yacht join in the chorus at the close of the movie and you know what? They're not half bad. Some will recognize Sterling Holloway in an early performance having trouble playing his Saxophone in the yacht's orchestra.
  • A family of blue-bloods made destitute by the depression are scammed into leasing out their yacht and posing as crew to tacky "new money", one of whom is their former cook. The scam turns out to be a plot by the gruff captain (Ned Sparks, the Walter Matthau of his day) to shipwreck them on a desert island run by a madcap queen (Mary Boland) and escape with their money. Of course, things go afoul has the queen as plans of her own.

    Such is the basic plot of this pre-code comedy with a few musical numbers thrown in for good measure. It was the era of Astaire and Rogers at RKO, and in their other musicals, RKO attempted to give them the gloss of the popular dance team. This relatively short film (just over an hour) was a major disaster in its day according to "The Hollywood Musical", but seen today, it is fairly fun, campy, and a passable time-filler. There is nothing remarkable in the songs or numbers (except one production number, "South Sea Bolero"), and the romantic leads (Sidney Fox and Sidney Blackmer) are uninteresting. The character parts, however, add humor, especially Spark's grumpy ship's captain, Boland's dizzy queen, and Polly Moran's butch cruise director. Throw in Sterling Holloway (the voice of Winnie the Pooh), and you have enough humor to make this an adequate second feature.

    The comic moments (most notably Holloway's rigging of a roulette table) are enjoyable, but there is a somewhat disturbing portrayal of South Sea Islanders as lazy folks who do nothing but make love all day. There was plenty of eye-raising and "I can't believe they said that!" among my friends whom I watched this with, but just another example of what Hollywood "used" to be like. I view it as an interesting idea with tacky elements thrown in that make this film a product of its times.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I like to watch old films and this one is included. I liked the short time of just over an hour, it was light entertainment. Absurdist in nature, it starts off as comedically attacking the silver spoon rich who have lost all their wealth in the Great Depression (except for a cruise ship sized yacht!) and then goes into comedy of how white Americans are slaving away while life in the South Pacific is laid back and enjoyable. I was surprised that more then one reviewer was offended by racial stereotyping of South Pacificers as being "lazy." Talk about being thin skinned and looking for something to get offended about. I'm pretty sure you can get offended by any film featuring a minority in film made before 1950 so pointing that out is a given. I actually think it wasn't stereotyping them because when you think about it, they have a white queen and in the end the white people are doing the same things so it wasn't a commentary of them being lazy but about the way of life when you are on a remote island with not much else to do. They weren't lazy either as they show them doing chores so I don't think it depicted them as lazy. My favorite charcter was the Captain, who is really gruffy in a funny way. Pre-code is probably the reason why they showed dark skinned island women in the dance numbers and some of them are very hot even if they are white actresses in makeup. I was kind of surprised at that, this film was probably banned in white theaters in the 1930s South. The one who winks caught my fancy! The film doesn't really deserve my rating of 7 but it was so interesting to watch I gave it higher marks. Looking for something weird from the 1930s? This one will definetly qualify. Shown on TCM.
  • Such a fun group -- Mary Boland (The Women), Ned Sparks (Bride Walks Out, Imitation of Life), Sterling Holloway, Sydney Blackmer. Too bad they couldn't have given that group a better script to work with, but here it is. As the title suggests, the family is quickly running out of cash, so they rent out their "last yacht" for a big cruise to the upper crust. The script starts out with a plausible story, but goes silly about halfway through, and i'm also not a fan of all those musical song-and-dance numbers. Ned Sparks is his usual awesome self, with his slow, dry, sarcastic statements, as the captain. When the ship runs aground, they have to deal with "Queenie" (Boland), who pretty much carries the second half of the film, with her musings and wisecracks. and that final song and dance number... it just goes on for-everrrrrrrr! this one is just campy and silly enough to be fun, but the story line goes off the rails, for sure. fun, if just for the historical value. Directed by Paul Sloane, who had been around since the EARLY days of silents. It's watchable, and has two of my favorite character actors... Boland and Sparks! Check it out! it's fun and upbeat.
  • A shipload of supposedly rich and connected folks runs aground in a strange kingdom populated with Hawaiians and white folks who have been dyed dark which are led by a ditsy American white lady who wears evening wear and a tiara. Supposedly these are Zulus--but the film and the island where it's set have nothing to do with South Africans. One anachronism after another occurs in this 'primitive' land--including natives who pack Thomson machine guns! Most of what happens on the island is a lot of nonsense.

    "Down to Their Last Yacht" is a very unusual musical comedy for many reasons. First, it has no stars to anchor the movie--just various supporting players who didn't have the charisma and range to helm the project. So, while Mary Boland, Ned Sparks and Polly Moran COULD have been funny (they all have had some nice roles in support in other film comedies), there they have no one to act against and they simply are out of their league. Second, for a comedy, it seems to have an amazingly small amount of laughs. While the situations could have been funny, nothing was done to exploit the humorous aspects of the plot. Third, the music...UGGHH! Not only are the songs poor, but the voices are dreadful--and very dated. Considering that IMDb says the movie needed retakes, I assume that even in 1934 it was pretty bad and the studio was trying, in vain, to salvage the project. It all makes you wonder WHAT the folks at RKO were thinking when they made this film!! A real clunker!
  • ptb-813 September 2011
    This 70 minute film made at huge expense at RK0 was their entry into the scatterbrain comedies of the early 30s like DUCK SOUP and MILLION DOLLAR LEGS. Madcap social anarchy mixed with silly kingdoms and sprinkled with songs. KING KELLY OF THE USA and HIPS HIPS HOORAY also fall into this format of two separate halves of a film making up the 60-70 minute running time. In this catastrophe comedy the first 30 minutes aboard the yacht of the title are quite terrific with two truly divine songs set in art deco splendor akin to an Astaire Rogers film: 'Funny little World' especially is worth listening (and watching) over and over. 'The little finger on your hand' is a lilting wistful song and equally memorable and well staged. However..... it all runs aground on some dirt puddle island and complete 'wackiness' takes over. The second half is simply terrible with the shipwrecked socialites living and working like natives while the Polynesians wear silks and top hats and get ordered around by a deranged 'queen' Mary Boland. The film completely falls apart, as if two completely different films were made and wedged together. However the production values are spectacular. I truly love the first half on the yacht. I truly gasp in sheer embarrassment at the second half. as one friend said to me after we lurched thru it: "you sure have shown me some silly films, but that was the silliest"............And not fun either. Apparently it cost half a million dollars in 1934... an epic disaster financially for such a support film.
  • Idiotic as its plot may be, this early musical fantasy is worth watching just to witness Hollywood's impossibly silly version of native life on an exotic island ruled by a floozy during the height of the Great Depression. The film tries (in vain) to milk comedy out of pitting the nouveau riche against the nouveau broke in a ridiculous plot that ends up with a yacht blown up and its stranded passengers frolicking with the oversexed natives (who all look like Midwestern chorus girls and bodybuilders slathered with bronzer). Unfortunately, none of the songs in the film is particularly memorable, but the cavorting about during "South Sea Bolero" is a hoot.
  • This RKO comedy was the last film that Sidney Fox did. 8 years later the tiny young actress was dead from overdosing on sleeping pills.

    She went out on a weird movie with Down To Their Last Yacht. She's an heiress whose family only has its yacht left. It gets rented out to Polly Moran who is hosting a big cruise for those who made out OK and didn't lose their shirts in the Depression.

    They are a crowd of boors as Captain Ned Sparks finds out. He's planning to rip them off until he runs the ship aground on an island where Mary Boland is queen.

    If that ain't weird enough I can't help it. The film is funny but it has a surreal quality to it. I thought the ending would show it was Fox's dream. That wasn't it though.

    Fans of some of the players will like this.
  • richard-178727 May 2016
    I'm not sure if this movie is bizarre, as several previous reviewers have claimed, or just a silly attempt to slap something together that will appeal to audiences after they have sat through whatever the main feature was.

    For this must certainly have been made as the B movie for houses that showed double features.

    Humor: Mary Boland is her usual funny self. Sterling Halloway, who could be funny, doesn't get much to work with.

    Sex: You get to see lots of "native" men and women in skimpy outfits. For 1934, this could have been titillating. No one would have mistaken them for real "natives," however. Some of them sing with noticeably New York accents.

    Music: The big production number near the end, the second-last number, is pleasant.

    Production values: Some of the editing of that production number is interesting.

    And there you have it. For 64 minutes, it's fine. Longer than that would have been too long for something so unsubstantial.

    I can't imagine anyone would have paid money to see just this, without a better main feature.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I watched this movie just to see Sidney Fox ( Sidney which was her REAL first name ( Lifer was the last), is one of the WORST first names for a woman in Motion Picture History ( Charlie Murphy might be the only name as bad)) in her final film is the only reason to watch this movie. Any scene without Fox is bad. Mary Boland as Queen of this Island and Sterling Holloway ( who has such a " Deer In The Headlights" look throughout the movie looks totally stoned) are particularly awful. I wonder if the creators of Gilligans Island saw this movie as an idea? Wealthy and average people ending up on an Island together? Even Gilligan who was pretty stupid in the Series is The Professor compared to the morons in this movie which was EVERYONE except ( Linda Colt-Stratton ( Fox) and Barry Forbes ( Sidney Blackmer) who spoilers ahead: Ends up with Linda). I can only hope that Charlie Murphy has a better career and fate then Sidney Fox who committed suicide at age 34. Needless to say that I despised this movie and give it zero stars. The best thing is Fox and the WORST thing is Fox? Why? She is the only one decent but without her I never would have watched this movie which belongs in the Top Ten All-Time WORST film list.
  • ... but the script writers, actors, directors and so forth were high on something when they made this movie. The actors/actresses look and act like every rejected job seeker hanging around Hollywood as an extra from 1931 to 1933 and were called up to do one movie. You think of the beautiful leading ladies back then but the women in this movie must have cost $1.00 a day. The men are not much better.

    It's hard to watch all the way through but I did. The musical numbers are God awful. No they are worse than that.

    RKO is my favorite pre-war movie studio by far but, wow, did they lay an egg with this one. Dear Lord, how did this ever get this past the cutting room. Maybe Howard Hughes put the money up for this nonsense before he bought RKO and bankrupted it post WWII.

    I'm sure people went to this back in 1934 but only because movie theatres had air conditioning.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ... and not for much else! This strange offering looks to have been costly, with many lengthy songs, a fine Hawaiian band, and some visual effects, too. The story involves rich folks turned poor but not giving up because they become service workers. A sight gag of Dad searching for his keys while standing next to an expensive car, only to pan out to reveal he's parked his and his wife's and daughter's bicycles in a city parking lot, is funny enough. The plot involves these formerly rich going on a South Seas cruise on the eponymous yacht with some friends in the same circumstances; each relationship is reversed, because the new rich are their former employees. On board, newly rich Tom Kennedy (poetry spouting Gahagan in the Torchy Blane series) cavorts with his "niece," double entendre intended, and Ned Sparks "gets the girl" in the climax, surely a rarity in all his appearances.

    Once on a tropic isle that Captain Sparks runs them aground on, everyone's wardrobe, rich and poor alike, gets nearly shredded or stolen by the natives going through luggage and we see more flabby middle aged actors, although they are mixed in with nubile "nieces". The natives have machine guns and a chilling moment arrives when the passengers stage a riot because they've been forced to work, only to have machine guns pointed down at them from a stockade. I felt their panic and thus for one moment the movie moved me, so to speak.

    The leads both named Sidney absolutely stank and I couldn't believe anything they said or did. It was just weird, because I expected to sympathize a little with them or at least be entertained by them. The mad queen Boland failed to amuse, too. The three stars are for Kennedy and the Hawaiian band.