Review: Caught Plastered (1931)

>> Sunday, June 3, 2007

USA/B&W-68m./Dir: William Seiter/Wr: Douglas MacLean, Ralph Spence, & Eddie Walsh/Cast: Bert Wheeler (Tommy Tanner), Robert Woolsey (Egbert G. Higginbothom), Dorothy Lee (Peggy Norton), Lucy Beaumont (Mother Talley), Jason Robards, Sr. (Harry Waters)

Popular prohibition-era comedians, Wheeler and Woolsey, inadvertently dispense moonshine-spiked drinks from a drug store soda fountain in Caught Plastered. The duo portrays out-of-work vaudevillians who stumble across a little old lady in distress. The elderly woman is in danger of losing her drugstore to a medicine wholesaler (and secret bootlegger) to whom she owes a great deal of money. Although the boys know nothing about the drug store business, they agree to help the old woman run the store and soon turn a profit by stocking the shop with everything but drugs. When it looks like the old lady will be able to pay off her note, the bootlegger tries to gain control of the business by framing the widow and the boys by spiking their lemon soda.

Although Wheeler and Woolsey are virtually unknown by today’s audiences, they were box office champs during the Depression and kept RKO afloat almost single-handedly. Their best comedies--Peach O’Reno (1931); Hips, Hips, Hooray (1934); and Cockeyed Cavaliers (1934)--are as good or better than those of their contemporaries (such as the Marx Brothers and Laurel & Hardy). Unfortunately, Caught Plastered is not one of the team’s best efforts. The plot creaks and the wisecracks the boys are forced to deliver are mostly unfunny or corny. Being professional funnymen, Wheeler and Woolsey still manage to wring a few chuckles from this weak material.

After a slow start, the second half of the film contains some genuine laughs. Bombed on 100-proof lemon soda, the patrons of the store (including the most recognizable movie drunk of the 1930’s, Arthur Housman) raise out-of-control havoc--making slurred pronouncements, singing Sweet Adeline, and playing London Bridges. Dorothy Lee, the boy’s most regular co-star, is also amongst the accidental drunkards. Dottie was always an enormous asset to W&W vehicles, with her kewpie doll cuteness (imagine a blonde Betty Boop), natural humor, and musical talent. Her inebriated scenes in Caught Plastered are amongst her best. She is absolutely adorable whilst getting giggly amorous on joy juice and bouncing her way through a musical duet with Bert Wheeler. All in all, Caught Plastered is a mixed bag, but the delightful moonshine-fueled scenes toward the film’s end are enough to recommend it.

Drinks Consumed--Lemon soda (spiked with moonshine)

Intoxicating Effects--Slurred speech, hiccups, harmonizing, and loosened inhibitions

Potent Quotables--COP (doing a spit-take): Chief, this stuff is just full of booze.
TOMMY & EGBERT (in unison): Booze!

Video Availability--Not officially released on DVD, but Hollywood's Attic provides a collector's copy of Caught Plastered

Similarly Sauced Cinema--In their first film together as a comedy team, Rio Rita (1929), Wheeler and Woolsey get spifflicated on old Aztec wine.

Wheeler & Woolsey: The Vaudeville Comic Duo and Their Films, 1929-1937 (McFarland Classics)

5 comments:

Hal C F Astell July 30, 2007 at 11:17 AM  

Hola!

Thanks for your visit and comment. Your blog is fascinating and unique. I wonder what the result would be if you merged with the Conelrad 100!

I'll keep watching your blog, mostly for insight into some of the older movies you're covering, especially the precodes.

One in particular you ought to look out for is The Last Flight (1931) with Richard Barthelmess and Helen Chandler. There's more booze consumed in that movie than can comfortably be imagined.

Hal Astell
Apocalypse Later: A Cinematic Travelogue
dawtrina.blogspot.com

garv July 30, 2007 at 5:11 PM  

Hal,

Thanks for the kind words and the movie suggestion. I've never seen The Last Flight. From what I can find on the film online, it sounds right up my alley. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to have ever been released on video. I'll set my Tivo to catch it if it ever runs on TCM or another cable outlet. Any suggestions where I might find it?

Cheers,
garv

Hal C F Astell July 31, 2007 at 2:32 PM  

TCM is your best bet for most of this stuff, but you know that already... : )

Hal C F Astell December 14, 2007 at 5:36 PM  

Hola! I've just seen Cracked Nuts, which had a whole scene dedicated to the potency of 100 year old Napoleon brandy. Kentucky Kernels and The Nitwits are on TCM next week.

garv December 15, 2007 at 2:32 PM  

I TiVoed CRACKED NUTS, but I haven't watched it yet. I'm trying to burn a copy of each film as it is broadcast, because I don't have high hopes of a Wheeler & Woolsey DVD collection. I'm going to have to get around to reviewing RIO RITA before long.

Neither KENTUCKY KERNALS or THE NITWITS display the boys at their best. I'm hoping TCM will rebroadcast HIPS, HIPS, HOORAY and COCKEYED CAVALIERS soon. Those two can't be beat.

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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