|J. Pinkham Whinney
|Mrs. K. Rumford
|Released by Paramount | Directed By Leo McCarey
Proof That It’s Pre-Code
- Not a whole lot, except that one of the subplots is about how desperate Charles Ruggles and Mary Boland are to get it on.
Six of a Kind: A Full House of Wackiness
“We can’t hurt her feelings.”
“We can try!”
While most people remember the examples of early 1930s high-profile prestige films that matched a large number of big stars with bigger dramatic arcs– see Grand Hotel or Dinner at Eight as needed– fewer movie lovers fondly recall the many lowbrow attempts to do the same with comedies.
MGM tried it with the nightmarish Hollywood Party, and here’s an example from the much more comedy-heavy Paramount: Six of a Kind, which takes a sextuplet of performers and more often than not puts them in the same room to see what madness results.
The eternally befuddled Charles Ruggles (Murders at the Zoo, Trouble in Paradise) this go-around plays J. Pinkham Whinney, the put upon spouse of Flora (Boland). They’re planning a cross country trip for a second honeymoon. Flora is really cheap, though, and advertises for another couple to come along and split expenses.
This turns disastrous when the other couple arrives. Gracie Allen and George Burns were vaudeville and then radio staples by the time this film came out, and found their success in one particular schtick: George was the straight man and Gracie was some kind of crazy simpleton. A typical Gracie-ism: “My name is Grace, but people call me ‘Gracie’ for short!”. Oy.
Gracie isn’t just dumb, but maliciously so: one rest stop sees her encouraging Boland to walk off the edge of a cliff. Later she refuses to believe a road sign is correct and instead summons a pair of highway robbers to get directions. To cap that incident off, she helpfully points out that they missed Ruggles’ watch.
Things come to a head when they reach Nuggetville, Nevada. One subplot has involved Ruggles possessing a briefcase full of embezzled money without his knowledge, and once in Nevada he comes acquainted with the local sheriff, Honest Hoxley (Fields). Hoxley is less honest and more of a shambling drunken mess whose uncoordinated spurts and larcenous attitude get him far– if you’ve seen a W.C. Fields short, you’ve seen what he’s doing here.
Six of a Kind is a slight comedy, very amusing in spurts and a pleasant time all around. The deepest message it tries to convey is that even middle aged couples need to knock boots every once in a while. Your entire enjoyment will probably derive from whether you find a majority of Ruggles’ buffoonishness, Allen’s cluelessness, and Fields’ maliciousness endearing or grating. And that, my friends, is solely up to you.
Trivia & Links
- On a far distant spectrum to my reaction, Film Fanatic.Org asks the rhetorical question if viewers should catch it, and responds, “Definitely not.”
- On a far distant spectrum from Film Fanatic is Mordaunt Hall’s original take from The New York Times, who helpfully notes, “All those connected with this farce do excellent work, including the Great Dane.”
- Director Leo McCarey’s prior movie to this is the slightly-better-remembered Duck Soup and he followed this with the better left forgotten Belle of the Nineties.
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Awards, Accolades & Availability
- This film appeared in the Wikipedia List of Pre-Code Films.
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