Movies Till Dawn: The Saturday Morning Strange – “A Girl in Every Port” (1952)

Groucho Marx, sans his brothers and in his last leading screen role, plays a Navy man who helps slow-witted pal William Bendix divest himself of Little Erin, a broken-down race horse bought on impulse with an inheritance windfall. Divine Providence (or writer-director Chester Erskine) allows that the nag is also a twin, but its more capable sibling, Little Shamrock, already has an owner in zaftig carhop Marie Wilson. Their efforts to first sell Erin to stable owner Don DeFore – who falls for Wilson – and then swap Erin for Shamrock attract the attention of gangsters (led by diminutive Teddy Hart as “High Life”), horse-nappers and Fifth Column types before the concluding race brings matters to something resembling a conclusion. Groucho and Bendix do what they can – their ridiculous Southern gentlemen routine is amusing – but neither can save this slope-browed comedy, co-produced by future disaster movie mogul Irwin Allen, which all too often adopts a leering, possessive tone in regard to its female cast members; scenes of Groucho and Bendix – who were 62 and 46 at the time of filming – making eyes at Wilson play as Creepy Grandpa behavior, and far beneath the talents these performers, even in this past-their-prime stage of their career A palate cleanser is provided by the supporting cast, dotted with familiar mugs like rusty-hinge-voiced character actor Percy Helton, patron saint of pint-sized oddballs everywhere, as Wilson’s fuming boss, as well as future Fred Flinstone voice Henry Corden and the ubiquitous Dave Willock as a sour-pussed sailor. Warner Archives Collection’s fullframe DVD showcases the cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca (an Oscar nominee for “I Remember Mama”), which also lends a degree of polish.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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