16 September 2002 | mark.waltz
Funny World War II Farce
Joe E. Brown made several dozen comedies throughout the 1930's and early 1940's, most of which are very mediocre and some extremely unfunny. At Warner Brothers, he was their comic star throughout the depression era, and his mild-mannered characters (with the loud yell from his overly large mouth when in trouble) were the perfect depression comic hero. By the time World War II arrived, Brown was reduced to a series of less-than-funny comedies at Columbia. I watched several of them along with this one, having little enthusiasm for the minimal amount of comedy they provided. That cannot be said for "The Daring Young Man", an actually very funny low-budget comedy which was the best of the bunch.
The story has Brown in a dual role as a mild-mannered not-so- youngish young man determined to get into the Army who fails at every attempt. Brown also appears for the umpteenth time in drag, this time as his grandmother, probably the only time he actually played a female character. Reporters follow his every attempt to get into the army, and before you know it, Brown is a buffoon for the media. Of course, a group of Nazi spies come Brown's way, and he ends up a hero by the time the film's 73 minutes have passed.
Having appeared in drag in a very poor Columbia western comedy, "Shut My Big Mouth", one of the few saving graces of that film, Brown pulled the same gag again. Let's just say Brown's drag would never threaten RuPaul or even Milton Berle. He is more of an American counterpart to Britain's Old Mother Reilly with his grandmotherly outfits that add comic effect to his characterization. In "Shut My Big Mouth", he was supposed to be a bride, and looked more like Frankenstein's mother than the bride of. Here, Brown plays an elderly lady, combo of Old Mother Reilly and Jonathan Winter's Ma Frickle, and is absolutely hysterical in the part. There is a fashion show sequence where Brown (in his old lady guise) dresses in several glamorous outfits, and his shaunte-sashe's are hysterical. So are the reactions of his reluctant audience, which makes room for at least one classic wisecrack.
There is another hysterical sequence where Brown's male character finds himself in the hospital with a tyrannical nurse (the always dependable "B" character actress Minerva Urecal, from the Bela Lugosi Monogram horror films) where Granny makes an unexpected appearance and gives the ultimate revenge that would stifle both Nurse Ratched and Diesel. The finale is filled with some great slapstick that barely gives the audience to catch their breath from all that has happened prior.
The supporting cast is overshadowed by Brown who gives his all. His leading lady, Marguerite Chapman, gets very little to do. Look for a very young Lloyd Bridges.