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Monday, April 7, 2014

DIPLOMANIACS (1933)

Back in the ‘30s & ‘40s, every studio wanted their own Crazy Comedy Team. The Marx Bros. @ Paramount (later M-G-M); The Ritz Bros. @ 20th/Fox; The Three Stooges @ Columbia; and Bert Wheeler & Robert Woolsey @ R.K.O. till Woolsey died in ‘38. Wheeler played junior troublemaker to Woolsey’s owlish George Burns lookalike, but their films now play like comic afterthoughts, routine program fillers with de rigeur wacko gags, bad puns & forgettable songs. This one promises a tad more with a script from the young Joseph Mankiewicz, fresh off MILLION DOLLAR LEGS/’32 @ Paramount, pivoting from L.A. Olympics to International Peace Conference. The opening finds W&W as barbers to Native Americans (who sadly can’t raise a beard worth shaving!) before they get sent to Geneva as Indian Nation reps. It sounds like fun, but the film loses all narrative momentum once the boys take off (literally) for the conference, without the jokes or specialty routines to hold our interest. The film does rate a BLACKFACE ALERT for turning the conference assembly into a minstrel show, while offering many lesser, but cringe-worthy politically incorrect moments we might put up with if they were funnier. Alas (or is it fortunately?), they’re not.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Released a few months before DUCK SOUP/’33 took on similar international tensions & war fever, DIPLOMANIACS is in every other way left in the dust by the Marx Bros. classic.

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