Clown-faced comedian Joe E. Brown heads west with his skirt-chasing cousin, ending up in Pasadena where he enrages a towering South American, played by Bela Lugosi.
The film opens on a drunken party with the guests dressed as babies. A knock at the door reveals the aforementioned cousin wheeling a large stroller. We hear crying, “Wah, wah, wah, I want my mamma!” and the cousin opens the stroller to reveal Brown, dressed as a baby—complete with bonnet—mouth wide, crying. Bugged-eyed, he babbles baby-talk and takes an oversized lollypop and a bottle filled with booze.
As in this scene, most of the film’s humor derives from Brown mugging for the camera using his oversized mouth and rubber face to convey exaggerated emotions.
Miscast as a Latino heavy, Lugosi compounds the error by over-emoting, trying to match Brown’s broad humor with wide-eyes and exaggerated movements. His introduction comes at a roadside diner. Brown, seated next to Lugosi, knocks over the salt. Oblivious to Lugosi, Brown tosses handfuls of salt over his shoulder, right onto Lugosi. When Lugosi points this out, Brown remains oblivious, believing the white on Lugosi’s back and shoulders to be dandruff. Moments later, Brown attempts to write on a postcard. When his fountain pen proves dry he shakes it, again oblivious to Lugosi, spurting ink all over Lugosi’s desert, to which Lugosi replies, “You fool! Look what you’ve done to my strawberry shortcake!”
Your enjoyment will depend on how funny you find this kind of shtick. I found Brown’s one-note performance unfunny from the outset. Like many farces, the situational humor relies on Brown being self-absorbed, a personality trait I find grating. Still, his above-the-title billing meant he had an audience, and his fans should be well-served here.