|Road Show (1941)
Run time: Approved | 87 min | Comedy, Music
Director: Hal Roach
Writers: Arnold Belgard, Eric Hatch
Stars: Adolphe Menjou, Carole Landis, John Hubbard
Tag Line: Gay with girls! Goofy with gags!
In this off-beat comedy, a playboy and his screwy friend from an insane asylum! join a traveling carnival. A completely mad, amusing farce.
This is an absolutely hilarious 1941 carnival farce that is relentlessly nutty. With a roster of character actors you will recognize from every 30s/40s screwball chase/society comedy, B grade 2 reeler and a million other scenes from every other silly Hollywood comedy of the pre TV period, ROAD SHOW, like Hellzapoppin, or The All American Co Ed each made the same year, shows clearly how there must have been a turn for the completely crazy after WW2 started and these 3 films led the new post Marx Bros wave of deliberately ridiculous and risqué comedies. I was tired and not very interested in watching all of this film when I lazily slotted it into the DVD. Within ten minutes I was laughing out loud and sat up… the film actually energized me into attention and shook me awake. Read the cast list, admire the excellent production values, relish the Mad Mad Mad World level antics and just plain enjoy 70 minutes of perfectly deliberately contrived chase/Carnival/society farces the Hal Roach Studio ever put on film. In a big theater this would have been hilarious and noisy to enjoy. The firetruck chase with Patsy Kelly aloft a loose ladder as they drive thu an orchard on their way past a fire to be at an art deco circus location… well what more can I say. Shemp Howard, crooning teenage Negroes, lions on the loose, Carole Landis singing, an amorous Indian, a taffy pulling machine, fantastic Packard cars, mansions, the nut house drunk at a dinner-party with 4 chicken legs on his plate, and snazzy fashions each only party reveal the treats in store. Find ROAD SHOW and have a really delicious long laugh. Adolph Menjou's droll shyster is as funny as anything WC Fields delivered. What a hilarious film! A close cinema relative would be Million Dollar legs or a lot of the Wheeler and Woolsey comedies of the early 30s. ROADSHOW is a very funny film.
I have to agree with the two previous reviewers. I can't believe this film hasn't got more of a reputation than it does. It's a non-stop laugh from start to finish.
The players in Road Show look like they're having a marvelous time in this film. Hal Roach must have kept a really loose and happy set for these people to have put in the work they did.
Millionaire playboy John Hubbard gets cold feet at the altar and his gold digging bride gets him committed to an asylum. While there he meets Adolphe Menjou who's another millionaire there for a rest cure from his grabby family.
The two make an escape and wind up in a carnival owned by Carole Landis and from then on it's one mad plot situation after another.
Adolphe Menjou was a player of extraordinary range. In silent films with that waxed mustache he was usually villains, but in sound he played a good range of serious characters. Yet he had a funny side to him that when it was displayed could be hilarious. We saw more than hints of it in films like Broadway Gondolier and Gold Diggers of 1935. But here as the center of the film, he really explodes on the screen. I've never seen him funnier.
Possibly because it did not star any of the great comic actors, just a whole lot of good players doing their shtick, Road Show does not stand out in the Hal Roach list of comedy masterpieces. That's a pity because this shows what Roach could do without people like Laurel and Hardy to star in a film for him.
Don't ever miss this if it's broadcast again.
This isn't a comedy for intellectuals, as they will no doubt find the film too silly and full of cheap slapstick to enjoy. However, if you are not a film snob and you give it a chance (especially at the beginning), you'll probably have a few laughs and enjoy yourself.
The film begins with a man (John Hubbard) about to marry. However, he's having cold feet and pretends to be crazy. During his crazy act, he overhears his fiancée say that she can't stand him and is only marrying him for his money. Before he can do anything about this, she decides, out of spite, to play up that he really is insane and has him placed in a mental institution. So far so good, though the film lags a bit in the sanitarium due to too many "crazy people" jokes.
Hubbard can't get out despite his attempts to convince the chief of staff that he is sane. In this "rest home" for the rich, Hubbard meets Adolph Menjou–who isn't dangerous but certainly is rather crazy. Menjou LIKES living there but knows of a way out so they both escape together. Menjou's character is awfully broadly written at this point–laying on the mentally ill part a bit too thick, though he does settle down later in the film and is a good sidekick for Hubbard.
On the run, the two men meet up with Carole Landis and her traveling carnival. Things look great except that the awfully loud and untalented Patsy Kelly is with the carnival as well, though fortunately her role in the film isn't a big one. Plus, so much of the time she's avoiding the romantic overtures of George E. Stone ("Runt" from the Boston Blackie series), that she doesn't get that much of a chance to yell her lines. Landis welcomes the pair of escapees and they all become one big happy family. Things come to an interesting conclusion when Menjou directs him to the mansion of his rather cracked nephew, played by Charles Butterworth.
The film has a lot going for it other than the crazy jokes. The script is bouncy and fun, the supporting singers (The Charioteers) are amazingly fun to listen to and the film never gets dull. Certainly this isn't a great film, but it is fun–and isn't that what comedy is all about anyway?
FYI–Two things to look for: Adolph Menjou's amazing hat and Shemp Howard in a small role (before joining the Stooges in films) and he's billed as "Moe"!
The opening scene in "Road Show" is one of the funniest scenes I can recall from all the movies I've ever watched. This is another of those crazy comedies produced in Hollywood during the tough economic times of the decade plus before World War II. I remember watching some of these gems when TV first began running them as afternoon and late night movies. Some, I don't recall ever having seen, including this hilarious romp, until I bought it on DVD. Movies such as this don't really need much for a plot they just need to present scenes for the players to do their zany antics and dialog.
What's interesting about these old black and white films is that their humor isn't dated. Sure, some of the situations in this case, a traveling carnival are dated. But that can be a little educational for a modern audience, as well as it is entertaining. Although few people have rated this film as of the time of my review, most of the reviewers saw it for the zany and fun humor vehicle it is.
"Road Show" moves from one zany scene and incident to another. Adolphe Menjou was a master in delivery of off-hand wit in his comedies. But here, he also shows physical aptitude in some slapstick scenes as Col. Carroway. He and Drogo Gaines, played by John Hubbard, make a great comedy duo. Carole Landis plays just about the only straight part in the movie as Penguin Moore, owner of the carnival. Several other roles are hilarious and add to the fun.
In a scene toward the end, Col. Carroway has upped the prices on the signs of the carnival booths. Penguin asks, "Don't you think you've raised the prices too much?" Carroway replies, "Too much? Why these people couldn't have a good time unless they paid too much." A few songs add to the enjoyment, with an appropriate tune, "Calliope Jane," sung by the Charioteers.
Incidentally, this film was based on a novel of the same title by Eric Hatch. Hatch also wrote a novel and the screenplay based on it by the same name "My Man Godfrey" (1936). He wrote more than 20 novels and worked for The New Yorker Magazine.
I highly recommend this comical farce for movie fans who like zany humor and real laughter.