I Dood It (Vincente Minnelli / U.S., 1943):

"I like a touch of nightlife, don't you?" "Yeah, keeps us out of the rain." The opening credits have barely come up and the joint is already jumpin', Saturday night with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and yet the lanky clod in bowler hat and tails (Red Skelton) only has eyes for the visiting Broadway diva (Eleanor Powell). The pants-presser masquerading as swell struggles to buy a smooch from his favorite starlet at the USO show, only to find himself married to her when the lass decides to get even with her straying beau (Richard Ainley). Cut to the honeymoon: The bride chills the champagne with tranquilizers but accidentally sips it herself, five minutes of Buster Keaton-supervised slapstick find Skelton negotiating the comatose Powell's torso and gams like a folding chair. "That wasn't a kiss, that was a war effort!" Vincente Minnelli in his second film has a lot to stitch together, an antebellum stage melodrama skewered by Skelton with glued-on Yankee beard, a saboteur thriller starring John Hodiak in the wings, plus many a recycled Powell cartwheel from Born to Dance and Honolulu. Where he really gets going, for anyone's money, is the sensational "Jericho" number—Hazel Scott at a grand piano with "Taking a Chance on Love" (the camera cranes in and arches 180° over her shoulder for an absorbed view of the galvanic keyboard, and in a flash you have The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach), then Lena Horne with an accelerating revivalist storm that turns a bare penthouse into an Archibald Motley sketch. Not even an Art Deco battleship cannonade can compete with it. With Patricia Dane, Sam Levene, Thurston Hall, and Butterfly McQueen. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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