In the beginning…
Fred Allen introduces IT’S IN THE BAG in his best pre-post-modern style.
Fred didn’t really make it to the UK — our loss, clearly. We did get Jack Benny, but only through his movies and live appearances, and the fame those brought him didn’t last much longer than their first release. It’s ironic, since one of his favourite jokes, trundled out again during his cameo in IT’S IN THE BAG (Rudy Vallee, Don Ameche and William Bendix also guest), is that his movies are terrible. Which isn’t true, as Lubitsch and Walsh fans can testify.
JB: “Twelve members for a Jack Benny fan club? Are you being too exclusive? Do you keep out the riff-raff?”
FA: “If we kept out the riff-raff we’d only have three members.”
JB: “What about my movies?”
FA: “Ah, even the riff-raff don’t go to see those.”
JB: “Have you tried giving away dishes?”
FA: “Yes, they threw them at the screen.”
JB: “Have you tried not giving away dishes?”
FA: “Yes. They bring their own dishes and throw them at the screen.”
(Benny’s jokes at the expense of his Walsh movie, THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT — and what a great title that is! — are echoed today by Jon Stewart’s dismissive references to his own efforts in DEATH TO SMOOCHIE — which is, itself, not an uninteresting movie.)
Anyhow, IT’S IN THE BAG is just about as entertaining as this opening suggests. Gags which break the third wall are used sparingly, so the film does have a little bit of reality left to disrupt. In general, no joke is too corny or too laborious to be included, but some of the worst ones are some of the best. Alma Reville, power behind the Hitchcock throne, co-wrote, which is fascinating: I don’t exactly know what to make of it, but it’s fascinating.
Here’s an earlier Fred short, just because.