Day 14: The Gorilla (1939)
Cast: Bela Lugosi as Peters
Jimmy Ritz as Garrity
Harry Ritz as Harrigan
Al Ritz as Mulligan
Lionel Atwill as Walter Stevens
Anita Louise as Norma Denby
Patsy Kelly as Kitty
Screenplay by Rian James & Sid Silvers
Play by Ralph Spence
Directed by Allan Dwan (Look Who’s Laughing, Sands of Iwo Jima)
Plot: When wealthy Walter Stevens is threatened by the killer known as The Gorilla, he hires The Ritz Brothers detective agency to save his life and solve the mystery. However, a real gorilla is on the loose in the mansion too, resulting in a madcap caper.
Personal Thoughts: This full old dark house comedy is more fun than it probably has a right to be. The Ritz Brothers are an acquired taste. I’ve always considered them to be low-rent Marx Brothers rip-offs. They’re funny enough in small doses but they lack the talents of Groucho, Harpo and Chico. Patsy Kelly adds some fun in random scenes, which is more than enough. Anything more and she may have turned annoying. Lionel Atwill is great as always but poor Bela doesn’t have much to do here. He turns in an adequate performance as the butler but nothing more. Well worth a watch on a weekend with your expectations set low.
- 20th Century Fox bought the rights to the original play by Ralph Spence in October 1938 but various events, including the death of The Ritz Brothers’ father, delayed production. They were sued by Fox for breach of contract, which was eventually resolved. However, it became their last film for Fox.
- The Ritz Brothers comedy act was often compared to The Marx Brothers but they never achieved anywhere close to the fame and notoriety on screen. However, their stage act lasted from the 20s until the 70s, minus Al, who died in 1965.
- The film is now in the public domain.