Laughing at Life (July 12, 1933)
Released July 12, 1933: McHale is on the run from the law, and winds up in South America leading a band of rebels that plan to kill him when the rebellion is over.
Directed by Ford Beebe
Written by Ford Beebe, Prescott Chaplin and Thomas J. Dugan.
The Actors: Victor McLaglen (Dennis P. McHale / Burke / Captain Easter), Conchita Montenegro (Panchita), William 'Stage' Boyd (Inspector Mason), Lois Wilson (Mrs. McHale), Henry B. Walthall (President Valenzuela), Regis Toomey (Pat Collins / McHale), Ruth Hall (Alice Lawton), Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams (Jones), Dewey Robinson (Smith), Ivan Lebedeff (Don Flavio Montenegro), Mathilde Comont (Mamacita), Noah Beery (Hauseman), J. Farrell MacDonald (the prison warden), Tully Marshall (Stone), Henry Armetta (fruit vendor), Edmund Breese (cabinet officer), Frankie Darro (Chango), Otis Harlan (businessman), Buster Phelps (young Pat 'Denny' McHale), Arthur Hoyt (businessman), Pat O'Malley (detective agency official), William Desmond (Military Cabinet Officer), Lloyd Whitlock (WWI Commanding Officer), Philo McCullough (Captain Valdez), George Humbert (beverage vendor), Irving Bacon (construction Engineer surveyor), Charles Brinley (soldier), Gino Corrado (Don Flavio's associate), Joe Dominguez (revolutionist), Paul Ellis (officer), Emilio Fernandez (revolutionary), Charles Giblyn (Presidente's secretary), Bob Kortman (construction worker), Fred Malatesta (Captain Garcia), Frank Meredith (prison Corporal), Pat J. O'Brien (firing squad officer), Manuel Paris (conspirator), Rolfe Sedan (hotel clerk), Carlos Villarias (conspirator).
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"Laughing at Life" - I'm not sure how they came up with this title, and I'm not sure that it fits. But in any case, you are in for a treat when you watch this movie. Did you ever play 'cops and robbers' when you were a kid with cap guns and pirate swords? What if you grew up and got to play cops and robbers in a movie? If you remember when you were a kid, the cops were not especially honest, true, dedicated servants of the public, they were the kids next door. And the robbers were not evil villains that needed to be stopped at any cost, they were the neighbor kids on the other side. And when you were finished playing, you all went into the house and had some milk and cookies together. Remember? Well, pop some corn, grab a soda and enjoy those days again!
McHale is a civil engineer on a construction job. It seems that as a side job he smuggles guns into South American countries. Just as he is about to be arrested, he escapes, says a quick good-bye to his wife and young son, and heads off to escape the U.S. police. Now, let me stop for a minute and explain something. McHale does not look like Cary Grant, he does not display the wisdom and wit of William Powell, and he's a bit overweight. You might describe him a big Irish Galoot. He's a good old boy, always smiling, and somehow always staying one step ahead of the police. I am reminded of the old saying that 'Angels watch over children and fools,' and if that is so, McHale is no child. But you just gotta love this guy. Everyone tries to betray him or take advantage of him, and many do, but somehow he comes out on top.
After a chase around the world, McHale, now known as 'Captain Easter,' is in a South American country and has become the leader of rebels that want to overthrow the President, who they see as 'not for the people.' Now as I was watching, the President seemed like a nice enough fellow that really wanted to bring about a better country. And the rebels were some of the unfortunate citizens that always get the raw end of the stick. Neither side seems evil or angelic, just human. Just like playing cops and robbers with your best friends.
So the battle rages on, the rebels trying to build enough forces to one day take over the country, and the President and a peace officer from the states trying to keep peace, and capture Easter, after many years of trying. Well, there is a young American (Regis Toomey) that has joined the rebels, and he becomes Easter's second in command. And it turns out that this young fellow is Easter's long lost son, who he hasn't seen since he was a toddler. I won't go into too much detail, you need to enjoy this one as it plays out, but you know that things will come to a head - mano a mano - the good guys against the rebels against Easter and his boy. Yup, even some of the rebels want to do away with Easter. So you got this big ugly-lovable Irishman, against the world, with only what wits he has. And when push comes to shove, you never saw a pirate or Robin Hood or any other bad guy that you know handle the situation any better. You just have to smile and think, "Wow, he pulled it off! How in the world did that happen?"
How did it happen? Eat your popcorn and watch and find out. By the end of this adventure, you will be Laughing at Life! Oh, and if you think of it, watch for some of the 'future' stars that adorn this one - like Frankie Darro, who went on to star in a series of his own movies as a kid detective. And Noah Beery, the great character actor. Of course the famous Regis Toomey as Easter's grown son. And Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams. And the list goes on. Ok, now you may go back to enjoying the popcorn and movie . . .