My Son the Hero (April 5, 1943)
Released on April 5, 1943: A penniless con man who lies to everyone saying that his son is a war hero discovers that his son really is a war hero, and he convinces his vagrant friends to help him borrow a mansion and put on the ritz when his son comes to visit.
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Written by Doris Malloy, Sam Newfield and Edgar G. Ulmer.
The Actors: Patsy Kelly (Gerty Rosenthal), Roscoe Karns (Big-Time Morgan), Joan Blair (Cynthia Morgan), Carol Hughes (Linda Duncan), Max 'Slapsie Maxie' Rosenbloom (Kid Slug Rosenthal), Luis Alberni (Tony), Joseph Allen (Michael Morgan), Lois Collier (Nancy Cavanaugh), Jeni Le Gon (Lambie), Nick Stewart (Nicodemus), Hal Price (fight manager), Al St. John (Gus the night clerk), Elvira Curci (Rositta), Isabel La Mal (Mrs. Olmstead), Maxine Leslie (girl reporter), Sam Flint (Sam Duncan), John Merton (hoodlum).
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If you are ready for a rousing war time comedy made by some of the best burlesque comedians of the day, you are in luck, because this comedy will have you smiling from ear to ear from opening to the final scene. We first meet Big-Time Morgan, a slick but out of luck con man and his side-kick Kid Slug Rosenthal, a big good-hearted lug that is a sandwich short of a picnic. Just as Big-Time is about to get thrown out of his cheap hotel, he gets a telegram saying that his son, a war hero, will visit him for the weekend. Now Big-Time was always bragging about his hero son, but no one believed him. We learn that Big-Time was actually married to a Philadelphia rich girl, and actually had a son who is now a WWII hero. When asked about his wife, and when they were divorced, things get foggy - we are left thinking that maybe they are still married. But it has been many, many years since Big-Time saw either his son or his wife. Anyway, Big-Time doesn't want his son to find out that old Pop is a penniless hustler, so he gets his also-broke friends to help him put on his biggest con ever. They borrow a mansion, and all his friends agree to be part of the scheme. He manages to get a pretend wife, young step-daughter, and servants to complete the picture of a successful dad for the weekend visit of his son.
Now let's get this thing even more complicated than you know it will get with this set-up. Son Michael shows up and is duly impressed with Dad and his home, and especially with the young step-daughter that Dad seems to have now. We see a romance budding, but this is too easy - we must toss in some more complications. Soon we learn that Big-Time's wife and Michael's mother is in town, and shows up to join this party. Now old wife Cynthia thinks that Big-Time is married to Gerty, who is acting as his wife, but we think that Cynthia still has the hots for Big-Time. This will get much stickier before we get to the end, though. We need even more tangles for this funny mess, so the young daughter of the owner of the mansion shows up, and plays along with the gag. She also falls for Michael, the war hero, and will tell him that everything is a scam if they don't let her have her way. So we have two girls after Michael, Big-Time's wealthy wife that he hasn't seen in many years, Michael the war hero and his two young lady suitors, and the rest of the characters that will combine to make this funny story interesting to the end.
Did I mention the masquerade party, or the pile of money that is mysteriously given to Michael, or the war bonds that Michael must sell before the weekend is over, or the long shot horse that Big-Time wants to bet on? Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn, with lots of melted butter drizzled on, and enjoy a feel-good comedy from 1943 when the world was at war, and everyone needed and enjoyed an hour of fun and feeling wealthy.