26 September 2016 | lugonian
Lipstick and Slapstick
HIPS, HIPS, HOORAY! (RKO Radio, 1934), directed by Mark Sandrich, stars the comedy team of Bert Wheeler (the innocent boyish type banana eater) and Robert Woolsey (the one with the horn-rim glasses, cigar and all the wisecracking quips) in another one of their wildest romps. Often classified as their very best comedy, it's certainly their most fast-paced 68 minutes. Aside from puns, wisecracks and cartoonish style antics, there's also Dorothy Lee, the team's frequent co-star, making her return engagement as Wheeler's love interest for the first time since GIRL CRAZY (1932), to make their reunion complete. There's also a musical highlight performed by the third billed "mistress of melody," Ruth Etting, appearing only for a few minutes singing a bright tune set during a radio program.
The plot opens at the struggling enterprise of Maiden America Beauty Products Inc. where Daisy Maxwell (Dorothy Lee), one of its models and sales clerks, is trying to attract customers by demonstrating at the store window. She finds the attention is not on her but on a couple of peddlers across the street, Andy Williams (Bert Wheeler) and "Doc" Dudley (Robert Woolsey), demonstrating flavored lipsticks. Mistaking Daisy's wave as her way of being acquainted, Andy walks over to her and is told she's losing customers because of what they're doing. To help this "swell kid," Andy offers to help sell her products along with theirs, but with a couple of police officers nearby and to keep from getting arrested for soliciting without a license, Andy and Bob give away $24.50 worth of her items instead. Because the company is on the verge of bankruptcy due to Arnold Beauchamp (George Meeker), its crooked manager, siding with Madame Irene (Phyllis Barry), its competitor, Miss Frisby, Daisy's employer, stumbles upon the idea that because of Andy and Doc's "expert salesmanship," that they should merge with the boys, in spite the fact they Andy and Doc aren't what they appear to be. In order to make a good impression with the girls, Doc arranges for Mr. Clark (Spencer Charters), president of the Clark Investment Company, to leave his office at the Banker's Trust Building just long enough for the duel to use his office to discuss business matters with Daisy and Miss Frisby. When caught in the act of song and dance, they all make a hasty retreat, with Doc unwittingly taking Clark's bag of bank securities instead of his own bag of lipstick products. Before the promotional cross country auto race between competitors Maiden America and Madame Irene, situations occur as Andy and Doc find themselves being pursued by a couple of detectives, Epstein (James Burtis) and Sweeney (Matt Briggs), hired by Mr. Clark to locate his missing bank funds. As Andy and Doc discover their error and attempt to return the money, they find the bag has mysteriously disappeared, forcing the boys by doing the same thing.
In typical fashion in most Wheeler and Woolsey comedies, there's musical moments on two songs, mostly reprized throughout the story, with music and lyrics by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. The motion picture soundtrack includes: "Keep Romance Alive" (sung by Ruth Etting); "Just Keep on Doing What You're Doing" (sung/performed by Wheeler, Woolsey, Dorothy Lee and Thelma Todd); "Just Keep on Doing What You're Doing" (reprise); "Keep Romance Alive" (chorus girls/production number); "Keep Romance Alive" (tap dance by Bert Wheeler/comic dance by Robert Woolsey); and "Just Keep on Doing What You're Doing" (closing). While the comedy antics of Wheeler and Woolsey are a mix of hit and miss, best moments occur in the pool room where the balls have minds of their own, along with silly but often amusing race car chase.
While the Wheeler and Woolsey comedies have lacked any sort of attention and cult following in later years of other comedy teams as Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello due to lack of television broadcasts, HIPS! HIPS! HOORAY, and several of their other works, have achieved some rediscovery over the years when distributed to home video and cable television broadcasts on American Movie Classics (prior to 2001) and Turner Classic Movies. This particular one, however, with certain blackouts and brief scenes indicating edited material to tighten structure in plot, retains enough routine entertainment to have viewers "keep on doing what you're doing," by sitting back and enjoying this one. (***)