Sunday, December 23, 2012

Whistling in the Dark (1933)

Whistling in the Dark is a dated little trifle. Don't let me scare you off from it, though; it can be fun if you're in the mood.

Based on a play which ran 265 performances between 1932 and 1933, the comedy/drama about two elopers who end up trapped in a mansion and forced to think up the perfect murder for a group of mobsters can be tedious. It's stage-bound and director Elliot Nugent's directing is static and blah.

The cast is good, though, headed by Una Merkel (playing her typical ditzy role) and Ernest Treux, who also played the lead onstage. His under-played, self-effacing humor reminded me of the comedic performances of Roland Young (especially in Topper). (Claire Trever played the Una Merkel role onstage)

The lead mobster is played by Edward Arnold, reprising his stage role. Also in the cast is John Miljan, who seemed to be in every other MGM film of the time and Nat Pendleton, who excelled in playing goofy, dense gangsters.

The film does have some racy, pre-code humor. Other than the pleasure you'll have in watching some talented performers, though, there's not a lot to recommend in  Whistling in the Dark

The story was remade in 1941 with Red Skelton, in a movie so successful that two sequels were made.

A bit of trivia: Ernest Truex was the lifeless body of Harry in Hitchcock's the Trouble With Harry. If you have to be dead onscreen, that's the way to do it.

Whistling in the Dark isn't available on DVD, but has been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

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