3 December 2004 | Ron Oliver
Dazzled by the BRIGHT LIGHTS of Broadway success, a burlesque actor is blinded as to what's really most important in life.
The film career of Joe E. Brown, Warner's rubber-faced comedian, essentially reached its zenith in this very enjoyable little comedy/drama obviously tailored for Joe's considerable skills. All too soon a change of studios would sidetrack Brown into cheaply made movies which would inevitably dim his celebrity. But here, in this backstage show biz story, his talents may still be enjoyed at full throttle.
Although the movie was directed by Busby Berkeley, it includes none of his celebrated dance extravaganzas, focusing instead on personality rather than pulchritude. The film is fortunate in that Brown, presented as a Broadway star, is genuinely funny when engaging in his slapstick humor. Whether dangerously balancing on a balcony rail as part of his stage act, using his tremendous mouth to great advantage while telling a party story about a 'little mousie,' or engaging in impressive nightclub acrobatic stunts with The Maxellos, Joe is never less than hilarious.
Although the focus is firmly on Brown, he is given able support from the rest of the cast: Ann Dvorak as his patient, long-suffering wife; Joseph Cawthorn as a fatherly theatrical troupe manager; William Gargan as an energetic press agent; and lovely Patricia Ellis as a stage bound heiress. William Demarest appears for a few seconds as a determined detective. Best of all is Arthur Treacher, wonderful as Brown's impeccable new valet.
Movie mavens will recognize sour faced Clarence Wilson as a train station clerk.