Public Wedding (1937)
Directed by Nick Grinde this Houston Branch story was made into a below average B picture with Jane Wyman William Hopper Dick Purcell Marie Wilson Berton Churchill Jimmie Fox and Veda Ann Borg among others. Wyman plays the daughter-in-law of the serially married and divorced Churchill the leader of a gang of con men (Purcell James Robbins and Raymond Hatton) that’s frequently had to have been bailed out by her even though she participates. Hopper plays a struggling artist sap that gets mixed up with said gang during the titled con. If you watch this “comedy” you’ll wish you could get back the hour you invested in it.
Unable to make a dime selling tickets to see their taxidermy whale sideshow ‘Pop’ Lane (Churchill) & his gang that includes his daughter-in-law ‘Flip’ (Wyman) barker Joe Taylor (Purcell) Nick (Robbins) and The Deacon (Hatton) decide to go have dinner. Outside the window Flip greets sand artist Tony Burke (Hopper) flipping him a slug. After their meal Pop tells his team that they’re destitute and that their whale will be repossessed the next day. Flip mentions the artist’s display saying it looks like a public wedding which gives her father-in-law the idea for their next scam a sponsored one. Nick will be the groom The Deacon will perform the service and Flip will be the bride. After conning the restaurant owner Gus Papadopoulos (Zeni Vatoria) out of $10 for promoting his establishment as the place for its reception Pop can pay their tab to the waiter (Curtis Karpe).
The next day the novelty of a public wedding in the mouth of a whale sells 50 cent tickets until the sideshow is “filled to the gills”. Out front Nick and The Deacon decide to split with the take leaving Flip Pop and Joe inside with a bridegroom. However The Deacon did hire a real justice of the peace Jeremiah Boggs (Fox) before splitting town. Naturally Flip et al have no knowledge of Boggs’s authenticity and Pop goes out and grabs struggling artist Tony to be the “fake” groom. The film’s funniest scene is actually a song which is sung during the ceremony in which the piano player weaves the sponsors’ information into his lyrics.
After the titled event Flip and Tony are surprised to learn that they’re really married! They flee the scene followed by most of the attendees who all run past Papadopoulos’s restaurant leaving him with huge expenses. Tony helps Flip hide from the crowd in his “apartment” a room over some stables. He’s willing to make the best of the situation and accept that they’re married whereas she wants to have their marriage annulled as soon as possible. Pop and Joe smarter than the rest of the crowd finds the “couple” in their “love-nest”.
The next morning when Flip learns that Pop has hocked Tony’s suit for breakfast food she throws her father-in-law and Joe out. While she embarks on selling Tony’s paintings to put money on the table Pop and Joe happen upon a former acquaintance of Joe’s – a blonde fan dancer named Tessie Schultz (Wilson). After rescuing Tess from a police raid they dress her in Flip’s wedding gown and figure out their next con. They convince Tess to pretend to jump from a building as a bride who’d been left at the altar hoping to make money with the publicity of her story (?). As luck would have it Flip reads the headline about the bride unaware that it was her father’s scam and decides to plant a story that Tony was the groom who jilted Tess. Under Flip’s direction who leases a fancy studio complete with an attractive receptionist (Borg) the scandal makes Tony the portrait artist of choice among society’s wealthy women (?).
Pop & Joe learn who has “stolen” their opportunity to exploit Tess about the same time that Tony expresses his dissatisfaction – his artistic integrity has been compromised – with Flip. However Flip has an idea to satisfy both parties: she’ll pay off Pop & Joe and help Tony to establish a foundation to help other struggling artists. Pop & Joe have one last scam in them that almost puts them all in jail but Flip saves the day while only Pop & Joe have to pay their comeuppance for their “deal” with Papadopoulos.