The Big Show-Off (January 22, 1945)

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Arthur Lake and Dale Evans in The Big Show-Off

Released January 22, 1945: Dale Evans is a show-girl singer and Arthur Lake is a timid pianist in this musical romantic comedy.

Produced by Sydney M. Williams

Directed by Howard Bretherton

The Actors: Arthur Lake (Sanford 'Sandy' Elliott), Dale Evans (June Mayfield), Lionel Stander (Joe Bagley), George Meeker (Wally Porter, the club emcee), Paul Hurst (masked wrestling champ, The Devil), Marjorie Manners (Mitzi), Sammy Stein (Boris the Bulgar wrestler), Louis Adlon (Leopold Muckenfuss), Dan Tobey (wrestling announcer), Emmett Lynn (Franklin D. Ripbogle the hobo), Douglas Wood (Dr. Dinwiddle), Anson Weeks (himself, orchestra leader), Vince Barnett (the voice teacher's student), Sherry Cameron (dancer in the Cameron and Kirby team), James Carlisle (nighclub customer), Luther Crockett (wrestling spectator), Lew Davis (waiter with the trash), Harry Depp (G. Whitmore Peabody), Terry Frost (the friendly wrestling spectator), Jack George (Sashaw Kulhanek the voice teacher), Kit Guard (wrestling spectator), Frank Hagney (rude night club customer that Sandy beats up), Ariel Heath (Goldie, the Devil's fiancee), Lew Hicks (policeman), Robert Homans (police captain), Bert Howard (wrestling spectator), Milton Kibbee (Slaughterhouse Shannon, the Devil's manager), Klayton Kirby (dancer in the Cameron and Kirby team), Isabel La Mal (mother of the child violinist), Wilbur Mack (nightclub customer), Frank McClure (wrestling spectator), George Morrell (wrestling spectator), Pat O'Malley (policeman), Larry Steers (nightclub customer), Denny Sullivan (janitor), Leo White (Picasso Putschnik the violin teacher).

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This romantic comedy is just the ticket for a rainy afternoon of fun. Arthur Lake you will remember as the man that played the character 'Dagwood' in a series of comedy movies based on the popular newspaper comic strip, and Dale Evans was the famous wife and co-star of cowboy superstar Roy Rogers. The other actor that you may recognize is Lionel Stander, who plays nightclub owner Joe Bagley. If you enjoyed television of the early 1980's you might have watched the sexy detective show 'Hart to Hart,' where he played the gravel-voiced side-kick to Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, played by Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers. Now on to the movie . . .

Sandy (Arthur Lake) is a skinny milquetoast pianist in a nightclub owned by Joe Bagley. Joe's headline singer is beautiful June Mayfield (Dale Evans). Sandy is terribly in love with June, but it seems that June doesn't even know he is alive. Instead June is dating the suave and manly nightclub emcee Wally. Now it also seems that Joe Bagley has a strong admiration for Sandy, because he once saved the nightclub owner's life. So Joe takes it on himself to put Sandy and June together. First he orders June to go to Sandy's apartment to practice her music before the next show, and preps Sandy to make his feelings known to June. When June shows up to practice, there is so much noise in the building that they both put cotton in their ears, and it is with an ear full of cotton that Sandy tells June that he loves her, but she claims that she cannot hear what he is saying. She then quickly exits and meets Wally for a dinner date.

When Sandy tells Joe about his failure to let June know about his love for her, and worrying about Wally, his competition, Joe tells him that June must go for muscle-men instead of thinkers. So Joe arranges for a big gallute to come into the club that night and cause a rucus, and insult June while she is singing. Wally the emcee tries to shut the fellow up, but the fellow beats the tar out of Wally. Then Joe pushes Sandy over to the ruffian and when Sandy bumps into him, he falls to the ground. Sandy and the ruffian continue to battle, but the ruffian quickly runs away out the front door of the nightclub. June looks at Sandy with a new respect, and positively has a gleam in her eyes as she looks at Sandy. Joe meets the ruffian outside the club and pays him some money and thanks him for a wonderful performance. Next Joe goes into June's dressing room and explains to her that Sandy is actually a muscle-bound, masked and anonymous wrestler known as 'The Devil,' and he wrestles to support his large family of brothers and sisters in Michigan. June is immediately stricken with Sandy, and they walk home together, arm in arm. All looks good for Sandy, except that the next night when The Devil wrestles, his leg gets broken, so now Joe convinces a doctor to put a cast on Sandy's leg so that the deception can continue.

June's love for Sandy continues to grow, even as she is worried that Sandy has chosen a very dangerous side-job as a wrestler. Anyway, after the cast comes off of both Sandy and the real Devil, June is sitting ringside watching the Devil, thinking that it is her Sandy, who had just proposed to her, and she accepted. At the end of The Devil's fight, which he won, the ring announcer says that The Devil has a new fiancee who will join him in the ring. So June stands up and starts for the ring, but another blonde goes first, and is introduced as the Devil's fiancee, while June is dejected and leaves the fight, only to find Wally outside. So June goes off with Wally, mad as a hatter at Sandy. While June and Wally are sitting on a park bench talking, June tells Wally that Sandy is really The Devil, but he is sworn to secrecy.

Now things get really funny, because in The Devil's dressing room after the fight, he assaults a man with a club and disappears. So a police bulletin goes out for the capture and arrest of The Devil, who has vanished. When good ole' Wally hears about the search for The Devil on his radio, he immediately calls the police and tells them that milquetoast Sandy is really The Devil, so the cops arrest him and charge him with assault with a deadly weapon.

Of course everything will turn out all right in the end, we all know that. But the journey to that ending is a very pleasant one, and one that you will remember and enjoy long after your popcorn is finished.