I Dood It (1943) – reviewed by George

Red Skelton was a radio comic when MGM signed him, and unlike television and film which are very literal, radio is a realm of the imagination. It was very easy for Skelton to play The Mean Widdle Kid who tortured his mother (played by Harriet Hilliard) and was a walking disaster. Each week he would say something like, “If I (anything – put ink in the fishbowl) I will get in twubble…. I dood it!”
So I fully expected a cameo by the MWK, with Red in a diaper and whatever those little coat-things for babies are called. No, there is one quick reference and that’s all.
Red plays Joseph Rivington Renolds, a pants presser in the Valet Department of a ritzy hotel, who is making his boss, Ed Jackson (Sam Levene), insane by borrowing the customers’ clothes to look wealthy and to attend every showing of “Dixie Lou”, which stars the love of his life (who doesn’t know him), Constance Shaw (Eleanor Powell), a very popular tap dancer currently playing it straight in a Civil War drama. Her costar as Lou’s Southern officer boyfriend and Connie’s off-stage boyfriend is Larry West (Richard Ainley), a jerk who flirts and more with Suretta Brenton (Patricia Dane), who seems to be a rich rival actress, intent on starring in Connie’s producer’s next play. The producer, who seems easily led by anyone who can “angel” a show, is willing to dump Connie for Suretta, but doesn’t want Connie to find out while “Dixie Lou” is still running. The producer is Kenneth Lawlor (Thurston Hall).
At a USO Bazaar Connie is raising money by dancing while Bob Eberly, one of two vocalists for the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (the other is Helen O’Connell, who sings later),  sings “So Long, Sarah Jane”. It’s a song about a cowboy saying goodbye to his girl as he leaves to join the Army. Connie’s routine is a spirited tap dance with lariats. At one point she’s jumping back and forth through a lariat that she’s twirling herself. You can argue that the lariat is tied open so it won’t collapse on her, but in one long camera shot she uses eight (count ’em, 8) lariats to lasso a saddle on a stand, and each one is pulled taut after falling over the stand. Impressive!
Lena Horne and Hazel Scott also appear as themselves (like Jimmy Dorsey and his two singers). Lena does a full production number of “Jericho”, and Hazel plays a wonderful jazzed-up version  of “Taking a Chance on Love” on the piano, accompanied by only a bass player and a drummer.
Of course there has to be more conflict than a poor man dressing to impress a girl, and Roy Hartwood (John Hodiak) furnishes that as a German spy who is working in the basement, when he’s not on stage, building a bomb. In “Dixie Lou” he plays the Northern officer who wants to get Larry in front of a firing squad.
Also in the cast: Butterfly McQueen plays Connie’s maid and dresser, and Andrew Tombes and Marjorie Gateson appear as the Spelvins, whose theatrical experience is ruined by having Red sitting between them at “Dixie Lou”.
The screenplay was written by Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy, and the film was directed by Vincente Minnelli.

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