Kid Millions (1934)
“A ridiculously right extravaganza”
GRADE: B (4/5 stars)
by Richard Rey
Anything goes in this ridiculously right extravaganza starring the bug-eyed fool of fools Eddie Cantor as Eddie Wilson, Jr., son to a rich professor who leaves him $77,000,000 in Egypt. Of course, Junior isn’t the only after the dough, also seeking the inheritance is Eddie’s own mama (Ethel Merman, 19 years old…Eddie is 25) and Col. Harrison Larrabee (Berton Churchill), an old crow who funded Pa Wilson’s Saharan expedition. Featuring the clowning talents and off-the-cuff delivery of the self-rescuing idiot Cantor, the ‘silver-voiced tenor’ delivers in this goofball parody, further chronicling Hollywood’s Depression-era and proving that back then moviegoers just needed to laugh. Co-starring a sheikh (Paul Harvey) that says Gesundheit after a sneeze and his 125 wives, a crooked uncle (Warren Hymer) that’s turned into a dog and an obnoxious group of mumbling, bumbling, fumbling dimwitted idiots make this 90 minutes of vaudeville slapstick worthwhile. With wordplay like ‘And these mummies? Dead. They all died standing up?’ and such one-liners as ‘A wedding is a funeral where you smell your own flowers’, the cheesy dialogue is well-crafted; queso it is but Velveeta it is not.
As a comedy, Kid Millions firmly holds its own and withstands the test of time (it’s nearly 80 years old for crying out loud!), but as a ‘30s musical it’s nothing extraordinary; in fact, many of the musical numbers feel a bit forced and out of place, some, like the opening number, “An earful of Music”, are there merely to draw more audiences in. There are, however, a few tunes that are especially catchy, and when accompanied by the right talents (such as The Nicholas Brothers who nearly tap themselves into another dimension alongside the 1934 Goldwyn Girls during “Mandy” ), the Broadway glitz and glam bring the elements together with fervent dynamism.
A word of caution to viewers is in order since racism is present, though never prevalent, in the film – the aforementioned tap dancing number, for instance, features a blackface Cantor dancing about as a stereotyped caricature of African-Americans. For me, the movie is not spoiled by such displays, but documents a certain era in American history that is equally educational as it is stirring; however, given that sensibilities are private and unique to the individual, it’s only right that the potentially offensive nature of the material be brought to light.
The movie is, at times, ambitious to a fault in its slapstick routines – some hitting harder than others – yet with writing as clever as this by duo Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin, it’s hard not to fall in love with the shenanigans put on by director Roy Del Ruth (Ziegfeld Follies, Broadway Melody of 1936). This black-and-white cinematic circus with a larger than life Technicolor finale is a hilarious over-the-top farce that never ceases to entertain.
TECHNICAL ASPECTS: This seventy-nine year old B&W musical comedy doesn’t suffer the same graininess of this generation of film, and with a finale that is highlighted by a vibrant 3-strip Technicolor sequence, you can’t go wrong with this buy. The one-disc release has not been restored or remastered, yet still has enough pic quality to keep the action moving forward with little or no distraction. The old time 1.37:1 aspect ratio is characteristic of the time, allowing for a full immersion into one of cinema’s greatest periods in history. The monaural Dolby Digital sound is also crisp, no big pops or mixing problems besides the occasional syncing of lips to musical numbers.
SPECIAL FEATURES: As with most aged cinema gems, there are no special features to be had in this release for Cantor fanatics which is the DVD’s biggest setback; the layout is completely skeletal, offering nothing more than a cover-art menu with the option to play the movie.
OVERALL:This DVD release of Kid Millions is definitely worth picking up and adding to your collection in large part due to the clowning comedy antics by Eddie Cantor as the boy whose ship finally comes in and takes him on an adventure you won’t want to miss.
Runtime: 90 min
Genre: Comedy, Musical
Director: Roy Del Ruth
Writers: Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin
Starring: Eddie Cantor, Ann Sothern, Ethel Merman
Theatrical Release Date: November 10, 1934 (USA)
DVD Release Date: April 9, 2013 (Warner Archives)