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Dance Hall Racket (February 20, 1953)

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Dance Hall Racket

Released on February 20, 1953: The owner of a dance hall smuggles diamonds in this low budtet 1950's independent exploitation movie.

Directed by Phil Tucker

The Actors: Timothy Farrell (Umberto Scalli), Lenny Bruce (Vincent), Bernie Jones (Punchy, Swedish Sailor), Honey Bruce Friedman (Rose - Lenny Bruce's real life wife), Sally Marr (hostess), Bunny Parker (dance hall girl), Joie Abrams (dance hall girl), Ronald Lee (unknown), Bill King (unknown), Mary Holiday (dance hall girl), Frankie Mann (dance hall girl), Harry Keaton (unknown), Joe Piro (henchman).


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This is a bad movie . . . the acting is atrocious, the dialogue is dumb, and the plot is juvenile. Are there any good reasons to watch this movie then? You bet your sweet bippy! Every movie is a grand stew - a blend of different people, ideas and motivations, putting themselves on film for all to watch and evaluate. On top of that, we get a fascinating and personal look at one of the most famous, or should I say infamous stand-up comics of the 1960's, who had a terribly tragic life, and died of an overdose of drugs in 1966, a broken man. The cable television network Comedy Central lists him as the number three greatest stand-up comedian of all time. Let me tell you about him.

Leonard Alfred Schneider (Lenny Bruce) was born to Myron Schneider, a shoe clerk in New York City. His mother Sadie was a dance hall girl using the name Sally Marr. Her show business career influenced Lenny all of his life, and you can see it clearly in this movie, written by and starring Lenny Bruce as a punk gangster named Vincent. Lenny Bruce was doing stand-up comedy in small nightclubs when he somehow met movie producer George Weiss, who specialized in making 'exploitation' movies. Most movies are created to tell a story, hopefully a compelling story that will grab the minds and hearts of the audience. Exploitation movies are created with a different purpose . . . the story and plot lines are of secondary importance. For George Weiss, he enjoyed bringing beautiful girls to the screen in as little clothing as the law would allow. Lenny probably met Weiss in a dance hall or strip club where his mom was working. In any case, he wrote a script that Weiss decided to produce called Dance Hall Racket. The purpose for Weiss was to put scantily clad women on screen and rake in the big bucks from the guys that wanted to watch. I'm betting that Lenny's purpose was different and two-fold - I think that he probably wanted to take a stab at becoming a screen idol, and I think that he probably wanted to give all of the girls and guys in the skin game of 1953 some 'exposure' - pardon the pun. Taxi dance halls, like the one portrayed in this movie, were rare and getting rarer in 1953. It was becoming very difficult for girls to make a decent income from merely dancing with lonely guys. So Lenny Bruce wrote a script that put him in one of the lead parts. His stripper wife who danced under the name Honey Harlow is Rose, one of the beauties that doesn't show off much of her body. His mother is also in this movie, but is not credited, so I am not sure which gal she is. My hunch is that the character 'Maxine' the older lady giving the girls advice is possibly his mother. Unfortunately for us, the director didn't include many close-up shots of Lenny or anyone else, so he remains a bit of a mysterious and intriguing character.

Lenny Bruce, became famous for using very raw language filled with swear words in his comedy routines. After being arrested in 1964 in New York during his comedy routine for swearing in public during a nightclub performance he spent several months in prison. When the prosecuting attorney read some quotes from his act into the court record, Lenny pleaded with the judge to allow him to perform the act for the court so that they could understand the comedy context of the words, but the three judge panel refused and Lenny was convicted. Following this his career was pretty much over, because if he was booked into any club in the country the local police would threaten to arrest the club owner if Lenny was allowed to perform. In 1964 speech inside a building full of consenting adults was not 'free' in America and using swear words in that room could land you in jail. Two years later in August of 1966, with his career in a shambles, Lenny Bruce was found dead of a drug overdose in his home. This movie remains one of the only places you can meet, see and hear this American comedian a few years before he became so infamous that he lost not only his career, but his life.

Bernie Jones
Bernie Jones, a stand-up comedian, tries to get a free drink from the bartender
Bernie Jones
Bernie Jones does a stand-up sketch during the party for the ex-con Victor Papas
Cat fight on the dance hall floor
Two dance hall girls get into a fight
Honey Bruce Friedman
Honey Bruce Friedman, born Hariet Jolliff, wife of comedian Lenny Bruce, in the dance hall after giving a customer a drugged drink
Lenny Bruce and heckler
Lenny Bruce, on the left, is ready to punch a heckler beside him when the heckler makes a crude remark about his wife, Honey Bruce
Lenny Bruce and Timothy Farrell
Lenny Bruce and Timthy Farrell
Lenny Bruce with a dance hall girl
Lenny Bruce with a dance hall girl
Timothy Farrell
Timothy Farrell in Dance Hall Racket
Victor Papas with Honey Bruce Friedman
Victor Papas with Honey Bruce Friedman