Yellow Cab Man The (1950)
Directed by Jack Donohue this slightly above average comedy features Red Skelton in the title role. Though I’m not a big fan of this comedian’s mugging and frequently goofy on-screen persona I have to admit that this film’s story (by Devery Freeman who co-wrote the screenplay) kept me interested if not laughing until its end. Perhaps the fact that the cast is filled with several recognizable and competent character actors like Walter Slezak Edward Arnold James Gleason Paul Harvey Guy (Herbert) Anderson and even Polly Moran (in her last film) had something to do with it. Charles Lane also appears uncredited as a casualty company executive who denies Skelton’s character coverage for being a bad risk.
Skelton plays ‘Red’ Pirdy an accident prone inventor who meets Ellen Goodrich (Gloria DeHaven) an insurance adjuster for the Yellow Cab Co. after he’d been hit by Mickey Corkins’s (James Gleason) cab. Naturally Ellen tries to get the victim to unwittingly sign a document absolving her company from any responsibility for the accident. She visits him at his apartment which is rigged with inventions he’s created per his lifelong study of and expertise in safety. Red more than aware of his ‘reckless’ tendency is all too willing to sign the paper until an ambulance chasing lawyer Martin Creavy (Arnold) whose name is alternately mispronounced Greedy and/or Creepy stops him. Ellen wonders how Creavy always seems to arrive at her claimant conferences during the course of which Red inadvertently demonstrates his elastic glass invention. Ellen is then able to get Red to sign the document by promising a demonstration of his invention to her cab company’s owner Mr. Hendricks.
Creavy who had backed out of Red’s apartment with an idea is then seen in the Yellow Cab Co. office of Willis Tomlin (Anderson) who’s been being bribed by Creavy for giving inside information to the lawyer about claimants’ cases. Creavy who’d instantly realized the value of Red’s elastic glass tells Tomlin that he must sabotage the demonstration to Mr. Hendricks (because he needs time to “unlock” the secret formula from Red’s brain). Tomlin switches Red’s elastic glass windshield for a regular one so that when Red throws a baseball at Mr. Hendricks (Harvey) sitting behind it the owner is beaned. Ellen who’s demoted to the “Lost & Found” department and Mickey sympathize with Red before convincing him to become an employee of the company in order to get another chance to demonstrate his invention.
A scene which should be funnier than it is follows: it begins with Mickey mentoring Red on the fine art of cab driving and ends with Red totaling Mickey’s cab. Moran plays the mother of the bride who along with the groom become oblivious kissing passengers in the back of the ill-fated cab. However somehow Red becomes a full fledged member of the cab company. Meanwhile Creavy has one of his men (John Butler) fake an accident by throwing himself in front of Red’s cab in hopes of gaining leverage over him. Creavy also schemes to learn the secret of Red’s invention by utilizing phony Dr. Byron Dokstedder (Slezak) to hypnotize it out of him. Though neither of these plans work fortunately for Creavy (and for no other reason than to foreshadow a later event and introduce a place for it to occur) Red & Ellen go to a home show. Once there Red recognizes the man who he’d hit with his cab when he buys a refrigeration product from “Dr.” Dokstedder and “smells a skunk”. Later one of Creavy’s heavies Hugo (Jay Flippen) takes a fare during which he bops Red on the head; a unique dream sequence follows. When Red awakes he finds himself being held captive by Dokstedder & Hugo but successfully escapes his own apartment by using his own inventions.
Ever since being hypnotized by Dokstedder Red conveniently hears the Doctor’s voice in his head which leads him to later suspect that he’s killed Tomlin who was about to double cross Creavy by spilling the beans about the unsuccessful invention demonstration. However the fact that Red’s pitcher made of elastic glass was used as the murder weapon and that Creavy somehow knew it had water in it eventually works its way from Red’s subconscious to help him figure out what’s going on. Events lead Red recaptured by Creavy and company (which now includes another heavy played by John Indrisano) as well as Ellen & Corkins back to the home show after hours for a crazy slapstick ending including a convoy of taxicabs large balloons with bows & arrows … and of course another demonstration of Red’s elastic glass windshield to Mr. Hendricks with predictable results.