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Eddie Cantor





United Artists, 1931.  Directed by A. Edward Sutherland.  Camera:  Ernest Palmer.  With Charlotte Greenwood, Barbara Weeks, Spencer Charters, Paul Page, Charles Middleton, George Raft, Harry Wood, Eddie Cantor, Arthur Hoyt, Olive Hatch, Georgia Coleman, Dorothy Poynton.

Palmy Days (United Artists, 1931), directed by Edward Sutherland, became Samuel Goldwyn's second annual Eddie Cantor production, and another laugh fest with dance numbers and smiling chorines, compliments from choreographer, Busby Berkeley. This being the shortest Cantor musical in the Goldwyn series (77 minutes), it also consists of the least amount of songs (a total of three), plus a handful of funny dialogue as well as some violent physical comedy that would be considered something of a throwback during the Mack Sennett silent comedy days.

In this venture, Eddie Cantor plays Eddie Simpson, a nervous little man (as he was in his initial Goldwyn musical, Whoopee (1930), this time singing whenever he becomes excited), who becomes an unwitting assistant to Yolando (Charles Middleton), a phony spiritualist.  Helen Martin (Charlotte Greenwood), a single woman in search of a husband, who manages a gymnasium, regularly attends Yolando's sťances.  Merry mix-ups follow when Helen mistakes Eddie for her future husband, while Eddie is mistaken for the predicted efficiency expert by Yolando's gullible but millionaire client, A.B. Clark (Spencer Charters), owner of a gigantic bakery business.  Eddie becomes interested with Clark's doll-faced daughter, Joan (Barbara Weeks), whom he believes is in love with him, but she is really interested in Steve Clayton (Paul Page).  Because Eddie stands in the way of Yolando's corrupt scheme to rob Clark of his $25,000, he hires two thugs, Joe (George Raft) and Plug Moynihan (Harry Woods) to do away with him, but Eddie has his own problems being pursued by the man-chasing Miss Martin, who won't take no for an answer from her "Romeo."

The musical numbers for Palmy Days include: "Bend Down Sister" by Ballard MacDonald and Con Conrad (sung by Charlotte Greenwood and Goldwyn girls); "There's Nothing Too Good For My Baby" by Benny Davis, Harry Akst and Eddie Cantor (sung by Eddie Cantor in blackface); "My Honey Said Yes, Yes" by Cliff Friend (sung by Cantor/ performed by Goldwyn Girls); and "My Honey Said Yes, Yes" (finale reprise by Cantor and Greenwood).  If the "My Honey Said Yes, Yes" score sounds familiar, it was later used for the 1981 Steve Martin musical, Pennies From Heaven.

Aside from two production numbers with the Busby Berkeley overhead camera shots and kaleidoscopic routines, trademarks that would make him famous, Palmy Days features several very funny comedy routines, including Greenwood giving Cantor a workout in the gymnasium, even at one point having him twisted in pretzel fashion like a contortionist; being offered a medicine ball with Cantor feeling it too big to swallow; and later being pursued by gangsters (Raft and Woods), hiding out into the company gym locker room while the girls prepare to take their daily swim, thus having Eddie disguising himself as one of the girls (looking almost amazingly like Jack Lemmon's cross-dressing character in the 1959 comedy classic, Some Like it Hot), and being forced to strip by Helen Martin for a shower and a dip into the pool.  (Watch Eddie get himself out of that!).  The movie is highlighted with a comedic chase in the Clark bakery involving Eddie, Helen, Yolando and his gang over the $25,000, which is hidden in the dough of bread. The one brief scene in which Eddie tries to show off his operation to Mr. Clark (Spencer Charters), is a little inside humor lifted from their comedy routine in Whoopee.  And let's not overlook a line uttered by Cantor during a sťance early in the story, "There is a Minneapolis in heaven, just as there is a St. Paul."

The chemistry between Eddie Cantor and Charlotte Greenwood is priceless.  It's a pity they didn't do another movie together. In recent years, Palmy Days enjoyed some frequent cable television revivals briefly on Turner Network Television (TNT) in the early 1990s, the Nostalgia Channel, and on American Movie Classics during the season of 1992-93.  It was distributed on video cassette, and one of the six package set of Cantor/Goldwyn musicals, but has since been discontinued, with the exception of Roman Scandals (1933) and Kid Millions (1934) which continued in video sale distribution for several years thereafter.

Palmy Days would not rank as the American Film Institute's top 100 comedies of the twentieth century, but it's worth viewing, particularly due to Cantor's buffoonery that at times predates the 1960's comedies of Jerry Lewis, but not to the extreme, and/or spotting some future film stars as George Raft (in a small role); watching the villainous Charles Middleton, five years before achieving fame as Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon chaptered serials for Universal in 1936; and Betty Grable and Virginia Bruce, recognizable and visible in the opening dance routines.

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