Just a gorilla who can’t say no


Look, I made it a gif! It depicts Kay Kyser being violated by a stuffed gorilla. Yes, I *am* proud of myself. Why do you ask?

YOU’LL FIND OUT (1940) is worth resenting slightly because it unites Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre but is nothing but a silly comedy with not very good comedians. Kyser tries way too hard and isn’t funny. Sidekick Ish Kabibble tries less and is almost funny. On the other hand, Kyser also stars in John Barrymore’s last film, PLAYMATES, so we should be lenient on this one. And none of the ghouls is embarrassing, in fact all get to do their accustomed stuff and do it well. They are the reason to watch.


There’s also some fun stuff with electronic voice effects, Sparky’s Magic Piano style, which play a big role in the plot. I want to use this feature to decode the film’s writing credits. Director David Butler and James Kern are credited with the story, which is nothing much — an old dark country house spookshow with Scooby Doo explanation. Kyser and his band are playing a gig at this joint, so it’s like THE GANG’S ALL HERE with ectoplasm. Butler directed a lot of “zany” films which aren’t good like HELLZAPOPPIN. He worked with Kyser and with El Brendel and Eddie Cantor and did ROAD TO MOROCCO. Jerome Kern, a former attorney and singer wrote the script itself — I guess they needed someone with an education.


But three more schmoes are credited with “special material.” Monte Brice seems like a real Pat Hobby character, a silent era hanger-on with lots of vague credits for “story construction” or “special material,” mainly in comedy. One title intrigues: the lost WC Fields version of TILLIE’S PUNCTURED ROMANCE. We can assume it’s lost because it has an IMDb review by our old friend F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre. I suspect Brice may be responsible for the more visual-comedy material, such as the ape assailant above, and maybe the film’s one real inspired gag, the dog playing fetch with a stick of dynamite. Comedy with real terror, as whenever the petrified comics hurl the high explosive away from themselves, the playful pooch brings it back.

Andrew Bennison is also credited, and also has silent movies on his CV, but mainly as a titles writer, so I expect he was writing cheesy quips for Kay and Ish.


And then there’s the mysterious R.T.M. Scott, who has no other screen credits at all. But I think I now who he is. Musician Raymond Scott worked with early electronic music. He also contributed tracks to David Butler’s earlier ALI BABA GOES TO TOWN. So I suspect he came up with the electronic vokes. I have no idea what the TM stands for though. Scott’s real name was Harry Warnow.

The guy credited for providing the film’s “Sonovox” equipment, however, is someone called Gilbert Wright, so that confuses things. But my theory is that Scott knew of the Sonovox and suggested it to Butler as a plot device. This is of no importance whatsoever. Thank you for your time.


13 Responses to “Just a gorilla who can’t say no”

  1. The concept of the “Bad Humor Man” must have sounded so great on paper, but in the hands of Ish Kabibble… well.

    It makes sense that RTM Scott would be Raymond Scott (unless someone stole a line from obscure Canadian author RTM Scott’s boys’ books) but why would he use a sorta-kinda pseudonym? I suppose he could have been under contract with 20th Century Fox at the time.

  2. I think you’ve cracked it — according to this French-Canadian Wikipedia page, RTM Scott the elder (there are two!) worked in radio and wrote crime stories as well as being interested in psychic investigation. That makes him a likelier candidate that Raymond Scott, so it’s just a wild coincidence.

    Another coincidence: screenwriter James V Kern is no relation to Kay Kyser, whose true name was James King Kern Kyser.

    The College of Musical Knowledge is deliberately trying to confuse me!

  3. There’s no excuse for Kay Kyser.

    I quite like Hellzapoppin

  4. I did not know there was an elder RTM Scott! Oops. I suppose that’s what I get for doing 27 seconds of research on the internet.

  5. I’m crazy about Hellzapoppin’ — especially the jive!

  6. Stacia, your 27 seconds of research blew this whole case wide open!

  7. Randy Cook Says:

    Speaking of gorillas, what’s all that stuff hanging on the walls in YOU’LL FIND OUT, courtesy of the RKO prop department? The population of the lost Spider Pit of Skull Island, that’s what.

  8. Oh. My. God.

    You’re forcing me to look at this film again, damn you!

  9. Randy Cook Says:

    I take pity on you

  10. “Butler directed a lot of “zany” films which aren’t good like HELLZAPOPPIN”

    Reading it to quickly I thought you were dissing HELLZAPOPPIN. I would’ve had to set all Olsen’s lower half on to you. But generally “zany” is poison, now more than then

    The dog with the dynamite is a loveable old chestnut. Slightly topically I can remember a Channel 4 short starring Peter Capaldi, It was framed as this dark tragedy, with a scarred dead-eyed Cap but in flashbacks it was revealed to be the same old wheeze, only this time faithful dynamite dog had killed a family he was trying to help. You could see the ending coming early on, when the dog kept fetching things. Chekhov’s exploding dog.

    Quite a few short films are just simple 2 minute gags stretched to 10-20 minutes. I guess it gives them a structure.

  11. Shorts that are glorified tall tales, gags, or twist endings = not good. Like short stories, the best short films do something much harder to define, and have structures that are not so simple — like Un Chien Andalou or Two Men and a Wardrobe.

  12. chris schneider Says:

    You might mention, among the writers for YOU’LL FIND OUT, the creators of its songs Johnny Mercer (words) and Jimmy McHugh (music). They even got a “Best Song” nomination for their efforts — for “I’d Know You Anywhere” (sung by Ginny Simms). The song lost, though, to “When You Wish Upon A Star.”

  13. It's lovely -- but I think the right song won.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: