16 April 2013 | case-50
An entertaining mixture of mystery, comedy and musical.
B-movie star Frankie Darro and everyone's favorite bug-eyed comic relief Mantan Moreland made several murder mystery comedies together around 1940 (with some other more-or-less recurring cast members, including Tristram Coffin) for Monogram Pictures. In this one, the guys work at a radio station (Frankie as a bell-boy as usual) when they get mixed up in the murder of the station's popular, but problematic singing star, Rita Wilson (played by Lorna Gray) who is shot during a rehearsal. As usual, the police detective who handles the case is quite arrogant and incompetent, but he ends up working together quite fine with Frankie. And Mantan. Who, while doing his regular scared-of-everything act, is definitely much more than a mandatory comic relief here: he gets top billing, proves again that he is an excellent comedian and also takes part in the detective work quite effectively and in general, his role is more similar to what we usually see from Lou Abbott. So even the people who are extra-sensitive about the racial stereotypes of classic Hollywood are safe with this one. And talking about Abbott and Costello: they actually did their own version of the "murder mystery at the radio station" theme two years later in Who Done It? (1942), while Monogram remade the story in 1945 as There Goes Kelly.
Up In The Air has a little bit of everything: mystery, action, comedy, musical and the mixture works pretty well, but as the hour-long entry has several musical numbers, comedy acts and even a dance performance by Mantan, you can imagine how thin the plot is. But it is actually nothing more than a tool to keep the story going and to hold the movie together and at that, it does a pretty fine job and makes this a rather enjoyable little time-passer, complete with car chase, Frankie and Mantan's black face comedy act and a mysterious singing cowboy.