Sunday, November 23, 2014


I briefly mentioned the movie Broadminded a few months back, although it was in error, as I mixed up Boris Karloff with Bela Lugosi. At any rate, TCM is showing it again tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM as part of a salute to actor Joe E. Brown. The movie is well worth watching, if only for how bizarre it is in spots.

Brown plays Ossie, who is the cousin of playboy Jack (William Collier, Jr.). Jack is in love with wealthy Mabel (Margaret Livingston), but Jack's father (Holmes Herbert) doesn't particularly care for Mabel, who seems to have more of a knack for getting in the newspaper than anything else. The current scandal involves a "baby party" that Mabel throws. And when I say "baby party", I don't mean a baby shower, but a party that has all of the adult guests dressing up like infants and acting like babies! When a story like this hits the papers, you can understand why Dad would be displeased. So Dad suggests to cousin Ossie that perhaps Ossie should take Jack on a trip someplace warm and far away, like California. Perhaps at one of the posher resorts out there, Jack will meet a young lady who is more suitable for him and who won't cause scandal for the family.

So Ossie and Jack set off for a cross-country road trip, and this is where Bela Lugosi and not Boris Karloff shows up. The two young men stop at one of those roadside service station/diner places, and the wealthy Latin Pancho (yes, Bela Lugosi is playing a South American) happens to be there too. Due to an accident, Ossie gets pen ink all over Pancho's dessert, which understandably ticks Pancho off, although to be fair this was the days before ball-point pens; Laszlo Biro wouldn't put those on the market for another decade. Now, this should have been no big deal; just apologize and go on your way. Except that Pancho and his traveling companion wind up going to the same resort as Ossie and Jack!

Ossie and Jack get to that resort. You just know that they're going to find women, although the question of whether they'll be able to keep those women is something that will occupy us for the rest of the movie. Especially when you consider that Pancho shows up and threatens to spoil the whole thing. Ona Munson plays Jack's girl, while Ossie is paired with Marjorie White. Antics ensue and eventually the good people live more or less happily ever after.

The second half of the movie, once the characters get to California, is a bit frantic and drags the movie down a bit, as it plays out like the plots of so many other off-kilter playboy meets girl movies that made it to the screen in the early 1930s. But the movie is still worth watching for several reasons. Joe E. Brown's facial expressions and mugging for the camera make all of his films worth one viewing, even if you ultimately realize he's not your thing. And Lugosi looks like he's having the time of his life doing comedy. Once Dracula became a hit, Lugosi didn't get to do too much straight-up comedy without any horror elements. And then there's that baby party at the beginning of the movie. Joe E. Brown in a baby carriage with a bonnet around his head and bottle (presumably liquor-filled) in hand is a truly disturbing image.

I don't think Broadminded has received a DVD release, not even from the Warner Archive.

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