Lloyd Bacon – 50 Million Frenchmen (1931)

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Olsen and Johnson on the loose in France.

50 Million Frenchmen is the film adaptation of the hit Broadway play with all of Cole Porter’s music eliminated, with the exception of “You Do Something To Me”, which is used as background music. The songs were omitted because box office receipts for musicals were down and Warner Brothers apparently didn’t want to risk a flop. The movie was originally filmed in 2-color Technicolor, but all that remains is this black and white version.

This pre-Code comedy has some daring moments (Olsen and Johnson wickedly rummaging through lady’s lingerie) and a real vaudeville feel to the humor. Look for Bela Lugosi in a small cameo as a sinister swami who falls afoul of the boys’ slapstick antics.

Contemporary review (NY Times):

Quote:
Only a few mildly amusing episodes are depicted in the Vitaphone-Technicolor version of the musical comedy, “Fifty Million Frenchmen,” which is now holding forth at the Winter Garden. This film has been produced without the songs of Cole Porter and the prismatic work is at times poorly lighted. The players, including Olsen and Johnson, William Gaxton, Helen Broderick, John Halliday, Claudia Dell, go about their work with marked enthusiasm, but they are unfortunate in the vehicle.

Lloyd Bacon directed this film and it should be said that its buffoonery aroused quite a deal of laughter in the Winter Garden at the opening performance. A closing sequence in which there is a chase has its ludicrous moments, for the Parisian policemen gradually increase in number as they run through streets and squares, leaping on the tops of congested automobiles and taxicabs, being stuck in the soft asphalt and then slipping on other sections of the roadway.

Jack Forbes, played by Mr. Glaxter, is an unfortunate victim of a wager, that is unfortunate for a good deal of the time. His rival bets him $50,000 that he cannot start without any money (in the French capital) and keep himself going by what work he can find and become engaged to the pretty Looloo Carroll within two weeks. The pseudo comic Simon and Peter, impersonated by Olsen and Johnson, are employed to follow Forbes and worry him.

In the course of his anxiety over his love for Looloo, Forbes, in order to be presentable, borrows a waiter’s short coat and trousers and then tacks a pair of boys knickers to the back to look like tails.

At the race course, which is quite well pictured, Forbes after thinking that he has won a tidy sum, hears that the horse on which he had made the bet has been disqualified and he tears up his betting tickets. Then he learns that the animal has won.

This causes further disappointment and for some reason, not quite clear, Looloo is not particularly pleased with Forbes.

And so it goes until at the last second Looloo is pacified and consents to listen to Forbes’s proposal of marriage.

Miss Broderick makes the most of her rôle. Mr. Halliday also does what he can in his part. Miss Dell is very attractive and Charles Judels is faintly amusing as a Frenchman. Olsen and Johnson are a trifle too boisterous to be funny.



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no pass

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