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  • When's Your Birthday is one of a series of low budget comedies that Joe E. Brown did after leaving the comfort and trappings of Warner Brothers. Though the production values leave a lot to be desire, Brown is still pretty funny as the astrological driven idiot who when the planets and stars are favorable can't seem to do anything wrong.

    Of course when they're not everything seems to happen to him. It's sort of like Danny Kaye in The Court Jester when he's under that hypnotic spell.

    We first meet Brown as a pug fighter who's fighting just so he can earn enough money to become a Doctor of Astrology. It's a surprise to me too that doctorates are given out in this subject. But it turns out he's good at it. Give him a horse's birthday and he can handicap a winner. That's a desirable talent though in the end Brown returns to the fight game. How does it end? For reference see the Cagney-O'Brien film, The Irish In Us from Brown's former studio to find out.

    Joe E. Brown gets some good support from Marian Marsh as his sweetheart and Edgar Kennedy as his prospective father-in-law. See how Kennedy gets taken like Lou Costello with predictable results. Ward Bond has a small role as a cop and gamblers Frank Jenks and Minor Watson who see a gold mine in Brown are also good.

    Too bad this one didn't have good major studio production values, it would be a classic today.
  • JohnSeal11 October 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    The two prior reviews for this film each rest at one end of the spectrum: I'm going to come down somewhere in between them. I'm not a huge Joe E. Brown fan, but When's Your Birthday? is a pleasant low-budget comedy with a few laughs and a decent cast. Brown does his best with the thin material, and, in a scene that anticipates his cameo in 1959's Some Like It Hot gets to strut his stuff in drag! Brown had the best poker face this side of Buster Keaton--albeit one that could also burst into a wide grin at the slightest provocation--and he uses it effectively here. Also on hand are Marian Marsh, who isn't given much to do, and Edgar Kennedy, who seems to be having fun. A minor film best suited for insomniacs and vampires.
  • Barney Bat8 October 2005
    I just saw this one courtesy of Turner Classic Movies, and can't really agree with the other user comment. I saw many of Joe E. Brown's Warners films on TCM back in August, and personally I thought this picture was better than many of them. Being post-Code, the script didn't rely on double entendres, which can get tiresome very fast; the writers have to work to get laughs, and they do a good job. Brown is at the peak of his form, and the supporting cast--particularly Edgar Kennedy and Fred Keating--is a lot of fun. Bull Montana is also hilarious as the Salvador "slayer." Favorite line:

    Frank Jenks: How'd you like to get drowned the bathtub?

    Joe E. Brown: Not particularly!
  • Because I have read the other reviews and know that this film has recently been shown on Turner Classic Movies, I am more likely to recommend you watch it. That's because the DVD version I saw was absolutely dreadful--thanks to yet another craptastic DVD transfer from Alpha Video. Alpha specializes in public domain and other cheap productions that you sometimes just can't find from other sources--so I am glad the company exists. However, far more often than not, the quality of the prints are absolutely dreadful--with terrible sound and picture...and never any captioning in case you need it because of the sound issues. As usual, this particular film is practically unwatchable because of an annoying whistling sound that persists throughout the film. It's watchable--but just barely.

    This film was made after Joe E. Brown made a very fateful decision about his career--one of the worst career moves in film history. After several extremely successful years with Warner Brothers where he was a top movie draw, he decided to sign with Loew Productions--a tiny company with paltry funds--and in some cases, no money to hire writers! Tonight I watched two of these films--mostly out of morbid curiosity to see just how bad these films really are--their reputations are pretty bad.

    As for the first one on the DVD, "Riding on Air", it was truly dreadful--unfunny and about as much fun to watch as a migraine. Plus, the print was of even worse quality than "What's Your Birthday?". So, I had very low expectations for the next. Surprisingly, however, "What's Your Birthday" is actually pretty good--better than some of the Warner Brothers films even--but not up to the quality of Brown's best films, like "Alibi Ike". It is certainly enjoyable and worth seeing.

    The film begins with an odd little animated sequence. In it, you see the symbols of the zodiac come to life and they dance about and are quite charming. Then, suddenly, this all disappears--it was all a hallucination by Brown---as he'd been knocked out in the boxing ring and imagined all this! While he apparently is a terrible boxer, Brown isn't too upset, as his career goal is to be an astrologer. So, after getting a degree in astrology from some fly-by-night college, he decides to try his hand at it. To his surprise, he finds he has 'the gift'. To the audience's surprise, they learn that he really can predict the future and he becomes a very popular man--especially with mobsters who want to use his talents for their bookmaking operation.

    Unfortunately, when it comes time for the big fight, the gamblers misunderstand Brown's reading and bet heavily. When they learn the truth (that their new prospect stinks), they force Brown to fight in the guy's place---against the middle-weight champion! Overall, while this is not packed with laughs, the film is very solid--with much better writing than I expected. While it certainly isn't a great film (and, I dare say, none of Brown's are), it is pleasant and worth seeing. Just be sure to wait for it to come on TCM or see if someone else--ANYONE else makes the DVD!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The funniest film ever made! I laughed until I cried! And I'm not normally a great fan of Joe E. Brown. In fact, I had the movie – included as an extra on Alpha's Joe E. Brown DVD, Riding on Air, ever since it came out, back in 2008, and I'd not got around to watching it until the night of February 24, 2014. One of the things I liked about this Brown entry was that in Harry Clork's excellent screenplay, all the laughter-making wasn't left solely to Joe E. with his limited bag of tricks, but that almost everybody in the cast – particularly Edgar Kennedy, Maude Eburne and Suzanne Kaaren as the Bascombes, Minor Watson and Frank Jenks as the better bettors, Charles Judels as the headwaiter, Granville Bates as the judge, Margaret Hamilton as Mossy, Bull Montana as the Salvador Slayer and MOST particularly, Marian Marsh, as the girl of all our dreams, and not forgetting Corky, the dog who plays Zodiac – contributed to the fun! The director was none other than Harry Beaumont of The Broadway Melody (1929) fame. Harry Clork wrote the engaging and riotously amusing script.
  • "Color sequences in Technicolor" have been lost for this film; apparently, the animated opening was one of them. Nicely done, this short cartoon turns out to be occurring in the mind of defeated middle-weight boxer Joe E. Brown (as Dustin Willoughby). An astrology enthusiast, Mr. Brown believes his luck in and out of the ring depends upon proper alignment of the stars. He adopts a stray dog ("Zodiac") and goes to visit fiancée Suzanne Kaaren (as Diane Basscombe). Brown calls off their June wedding due to a bad astrological forecast, but will soon meet pretty secretary Marian Marsh (as Jerry Grant). Before that, he bungles his job as a busboy. Brown disguises himself as a chorus girl and then a bearded fortune teller. As the latter, he is hired by carnival barker Fred Keating (as Larry Burke). Lastly, brown gets back in the boxing ring. This was the first film Brown made after leaving Warner Bros., where he'd become a box office super-star. Fit and funny, Brown is able to carry some silly material. Supporting performers Maude Eburne and Edgar Kennedy are worth their weight in laughs.

    ***** When's Your Birthday? (2/19/37) Harry Beaumont ~ Joe E. Brown, Marian Marsh, Fred Keating, Maude Eburne
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Doing slapstick humor. When Dusty Willoughby (Joe Brown) goes on the lam, he ends up at an astrology business at what appears to be Conie Island. Dusty starts making predictions, and comes between the couple of Jerry ( Marian Marsh ) and Larry ( Fred Keating ). Marsh and Keating made many films in the 1930s and early 1940s, but they seem to have faded fast in the early forties. Fun, pretty fast moving story. Lots of jokes, one liners, two liners, all set up for the benefit of Dusty, who usually gets to say the punchline. Three stooges humor, pratfalls, falling and tripping. Then Dusty meets up with Diane ( Suzanne Kaaren ), which threatens his relationship with Jerry. Suzanne Kaaren actually HAD worked with the Three Stooges the year before! Based on a play, which is why there's so much talking and walking from room to room. Pretty entertaining. We get to see Brown's boxing expertise, and he was quite the athlete. Check out the photo of Brown and his wife from 1970 on his bio page. He was about 75, and still in amazing athletic shape. Watch for Margaret Hamilton as "Mossy". She will go on to be a HUGE hit in the Wizard of Oz in 1939.

    Directed by Harry Beaumont, who started early in the silents, and continued into the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Joe E. Brown made a horrible business decision by leaving Warners and signing to do a series of independent comedies for David Loew. This was the first and it is cheap looking and unfunny. There is an astrology theme to it, but the production values are bad and Brown's performance is whiny and annoying. The supporting cast does nothing to help. Avoid at all costs.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The loud mouthed comic Joe E. Brown is not going to be everybody's taste outside of his final line in the 1959 comedy classic "Some Like It Hot" (or possibly his lovable Captain Andy in 1951's "Show Boat"), but during the 1930's, he was one of Hollywood's most popular comic actors. He is definitely a product of his time, brash and excitable, yet big hearted and a delightfully clumsy oaf. His rather large mouth made him odd looking (yet caused a female inmate in "Ladies They Talk About" to sing a love song to his photo), and when he would open up his mouth and prepare to howl, it often came out as a quick "No!" When he did howl, it was like a siren going off, and I wouldn't be surprised that if he did it in public, people would look around and wonder where the fire was. As a result, Brown often ended up with loud mouthed or brash female comics like Lila Lee, Winnie Lightner, Judy Canova and Martha Raye. But sometimes they'd slip in a feminine young lady like Joan Bennett, Ginger Rogers, Joan Blondell or Alice White. For 7 years, Brown was a box office favorite at Warner Brothers, but left to work for independent producer David Lowe, of which this is the first of several films he did before going onto a short term deal at Columbia.

    Brown is a professional fighter (he often played underfed athletes) who has an interest in astrology and is only using his boxing money to finish his degree so he can become a doctor of astrology. He's engaged to the pretty Suzanne Kaaren, the sophisticated daughter of brash nouveau riche Edgar Kennedy and Maude Eburne who have about as much class as Ma and Pa Kettle. Thanks to the dog Zodiac (who seems to adopt Brown as his owner), Brown is kicked out of their home, and takes a job as a horoscope reader at a carnival. This leads him to become involved with some high society types involved in crooked activities where he meets the pretty Marian Marsh. Brown's fame begins to give him unwanted notoriety, and he is reunited with Kaaren and her parents who now seem to want to push their daughter together with him, upsetting his romance with the sweet Marsh. Brown's past as a boxer comes back thanks to his use of astrology in predicting disaster for the pending champion, leading to a slightly funny boxing finale which somehow Kennedy shows up at, having earlier been once again perturbed by Brown's antics.

    No Joe E. Brown film would be complete without the obligatory drag sequence, and here, he ends up in chorus girl garb, although not on stage (unfortunately) with chorus girls in the same outfit. There are other amusing sequences as well, obviously those with the terrier Zodiac (who briefly gets to deal with Kennedy's maid, the smart alecky Margaret Hamilton), and another sequence where as a clumsy bus boy he causes havoc in a fine dining establishment. Brown gives his typical performance, no different than the dozens of cheap programmers that he made throughout his long career as a leading comic (1929-1944), but the supporting cast is exceptional, especially Kennedy and Eburne as the slow burning pop and pickle puss/nasally voiced mother of Brown's high society fiancee. This is what is referred to as a passable time filler, one that is amusing for what it is, containing some knee slapping farce yet eye rolling dated verbal humor, so how viewers like it will depend on their tolerance of the types of comedies they actually find funny.
  • Not terrible but not great Joe E. Brown comedy about an astrology-obsessed boxer who lets "the stars" dictate every decision he makes. I'm not the biggest Joe E. Brown fan but this is one of his more tolerable efforts. The movie starts with an animated sequences involving the zodiac symbols. It's very cute and was probably the highlight of the film for me. From there it becomes a live action film; a comedy that is never overly funny but is pleasant and harmless enough. Obviously Brown fans will enjoy it more than I did. I freely admit he's not one of my favorites. Still I thought it was a watchable movie. I didn't laugh a lot but it kept my attention.