11 May 2016 | SimonJack
Hiding the gossip in the woods
This is a funny film that stars Charles Ruggles in the leading role as Orville Shanks. He is a nature and wildlife columnist for one of the city newspapers. I doubt there were many such paper positions in those days. Shanks is on the verge of getting sacked by his boss, Crane (played by Lyle Talbot), for his spending so much time out in the woods. This day he has been with friends – the young men of his alligator patrol scouts.
Apparently the Boy Scouts took part in the film, and it was sort of a testimonial to the good training that the then three million Scouts in the U.S. received. Anyway, we see Shanks with the Scouts as they are on an outing. They pitch camp, do some training and he gives a talk on wildlife and demonstrates semaphore signaling with flags.
Later at home with his wife, Melba (played by Alice Brady), Shanks tells her of his plight. He has a cold and she puts him to bed. When she reads his column, she sees how dull and flat it is. So, she tries her hand. The next day, she delivers his column to the office, and the editor/boss likes it so much he runs it on the front page. From then one, Orville writes his column using wildlife critters to report city gossip. Melba is his assistant and the couple enjoy celebrity status and notoriety.
This seems to be a clear reference to Walter Winchell of New York who was a famous gossip columnist of the time. And also to more recent writers and radio gossip personalities who began appearing in and around Hollywood.
Well, all mayhem breaks loose after a politician is "rubbed out" when Orville's column had alluded to such an event. The police, the gangsters that did the job, the newspaper folks and Orville's Scout friends all get in on the action before the end. The film isn't loaded with witty or clever lines. But it has some very funny situations.
This is the first film I've seen – and the only one I know of, that has a snipe hunt in it. I'd completely forgotten about such a thing until I watched this movie recently. It brought back fond memories of my Boy Scout years of camping and trips that included such things as Capture the Flag games and snipe hunts.
Ruggles and Brady give very good performances in a film that most folks should find entertaining.