Hi Diddle Diddle (1943)

Hi Diddle Diddle (1943)

Andrew Stone produced directed and wrote the story (which was adapted by Edmund Hartmann and Frederick Jackson) for this wartime screwball comedy featuring an Academy Award nominated Score by Phil Boutelje (The Great Victor Herbert (1939)). Also notable is the appearance of Pola Negri in the cast; this was her first film in years and her last until her final role in The Moon-Spinners (1964). Adolphe Menjou Martha Scott Dennis O’Keefe Billie Burke Walter Kingsford and Barton Hepburn play the other significant parts in the movie.

The plot is pretty standard stuff for a screwball comedy: it relies on misunderstandings among some wealthy characters – like the always reliable ditz Burke – for its comic payoffs. Menjou plays his typical womanizer even though he’s married to Negri’s character an opera singer he’d charmed six months ago for her money. Paul Porcasi plays her impresario. Menjou’s son Sonny (O’Keefe) is a chip off the old block a sailor in the Navy with a girl in every port until he meets Martha Scott who’s playing a wealthy debutante that’s Burke’s daughter. O’Keefe’s character insists that he’s never been in love like this before a line he uses several times with other women in the film’s opening credits which include cartoon character sequences as does the film’s final scene (of operatic composer Richard Wagner and his family at a picnic!).

But as is often the case Burke’s character is really smarter than she looks or acts; she and Hepburn’s character have schemed to test O’Keefe’s love for her daughter Scott. Burke a rich widow who socializes with a senator played by Kingsford pretends to lose all her money to Hepburn who’s ostensibly interested in marrying Scott for himself in order to see if O’Keefe still wants to marry her. Naturally their love is stronger than such concerns but with the prospect of having to support his would-be mother-in-law Burke O’Keefe engages his “pretending to be wealthy” father Menjou who’s a somewhat impoverished kept man of Negri’s to solve this newly financial problem of his. Menjou’s plan involves using a more powerful magnet at the 59 club’s (owned by Georges Metaxa’s character) crooked roulette table (operated by croupier Eddie Marr) to beat them at their own game. He gets assistance from a longtime associate who’s currently the club’s singer June Havoc.

There’s another scam involving some phony gold mine stock (wasn’t there any other type of enterprise that could be used in those days?) which inadvertently fools a real brokerage firm employee (Byron Foulger) and its owner (Richard Hageman). There’s also a running joke whereby Lorraine Miller appears in almost every scene (walking her dog on the street as a hatcheck girl etc.) noticed by Menjou and eventually labeled a friend of this film’s director by Burke. Several requisite false identity gags who’s married to whom etc. also transpire which when combined with the aforementioned schemes nearly prevent the newlyweds time from having any alone time. But thanks to the family’s maid (Ellen Lowe) O’Keefe and Scott finally get some time to consummate their marriage before he has to ship off again.

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