Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Great Rupert

An odd little Christmas movie that may or may not be to everybody's taste is The Great Rupert. It's airing tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM on TCM, so you can watch it then.

Joe Mahoney (Jimmy Conlin) is a circus animal trainer who is responsible for the trained squirrel Rupert. Unfortunately, circus work doesn't bring in too much, and Mahoney's landlord Mr. Dingle (Frank Orth) has Mahoney evicted for failure to pay the rent. The squirrel, however, runs off back home to the space between Mahoney's old apartment and Mr. Dingle's. The apartment, in turn, is rented out to another family of entertainers, the Amendolas (patriarch Jimmy Durante).

The Amendolas have an adult daughter (Terry Moore), while Mr. Dingle has an adult son (Tom Drake). Predictably, the two fall in love. This is a bit of a problem, though, as the Amendolas are about as well off as Joe Mahoney was. Things are about to change, however. The elder Mr. Dingle doesn't make his money so much from the apartment, but from a mine he owns out west. He gets regular royalties from it, and not trusting banks, he puts the benjamins in a hole in the wall. Well, that hole just happens to lead to Rupert's nest, and Rupert doesn't like having his home disturbed by these papers. So Rupert pushes them out a different hole, which just happens to be in the ceiling of the Amendola's apartment. So Mr. Amendola finds $100 bills raining down on his head, while of course Mr. Dingle thinks somebody is stealing his money!

The Great Rupert is harmless enough Christmas fare, but it can be a bit sweet at times. Jimmy Durante in the lead might be a problem for some, in that his shtick can be an acquired taste. If you like Durante, there's no problem; if not I think I'd look for a movie that has him in a supporting role to introduce him to people. The animation of Rupert is primitive by today's standards, but that adds to the movie's charm and shouldn't be a problem for children. In fact, The Great Rupert is the sort of movie that's inoffensive enough that it should be great for the children as long as they don't get bored by Durante or the idea of a 60-year-old movie.

The Great Rupert fell into the public domain at some point, so there are a lot of different DVDs out there. Some of them have been colorized, and the movie also got released under an alternate title, A Christmas Wish.

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