The Incredible Inman: James Cagney's 'Public Enemy' began as beer fetcher for Dad
Question: We saw a movie with a scene where a kid goes down the street to get some beer. He returns with the beer in a bucket (growler). Do you know what movie that was?
Answer: Well, the first one that comes to mind is the 1931 film “The Public Enemy,” which made James Cagney a star. At the beginning, his character, as a child, goes to the neighborhood saloon to get a growler for good old dad.
Q: In the 1950s, I saw a movie about a nightclub entertainer and his female assistant. This takes place in Germany during World War II. Hitler sees their show, and somehow the entertainer becomes Hitler's valet. One night, he kills Hitler and assumes his persona. The entertainer then makes a number of bad decisions which costs Germany the war. Two questions — what is the name of the movie, and is it available anywhere?
A: That's the 1951 film “The Magic Face,” with Luther Adler as the entertainer and Patricia Knight as his wife. Alas, it isn't on DVD.
Q: I recently watched an episode of “Vegas” from last October and I heard a song with the words “thin line, walking a thin line.” Unfortunately, we erased the show after watching, and now I don't know how to find the artist. Can you help?
A: The song is called “Thin Line,” and it's by the group honeyhoney.
Q: There were two short-lived sitcoms in the early 1960s that my dad used to watch. Could you tell me anything about “Guestward Ho” and “Many Happy Returns”?
A: “Guestward, Ho!” ran on ABC from 1960 to 1961. It was about the Hooten family — dad Bill (Mark Miller), mom Babs (Joanne Dru) and son Brook (Flip Mark) — who moved from New York City to take ownership, sight unseen, of a dude ranch in New Mexico. Once there, they met Hawkeye (J. Carrol Naish), a cynical Native American who sold trinkets made in Japan.
Despite a nice time slot on Thursday nights, right before “The Donna Reed Show,” “Guestward, Ho!” lasted only a season.
“Many Happy Returns” ran on CBS from 1964 to 1965, and starred John McGiver as Walter Burnley, the picky but good-hearted manager of the complaints department at a Los Angeles department store. Daughter Joan was played by Elinor Donahue and son-in-law Bob was played by Mark Goddard. The cast include Elena Verdugo and Mickey Manners as store employees.
“Many Happy Returns” had a really good time slot, right after “The Lucy Show” on Monday nights. But apparently, after watching Lucy, everyone in America turned their dials to “The Andy Williams Show” on NBC and “Many Happy Returns” bit the dust.
Q: Years ago, we watched a series about bomb-removal squads in England. I believe it was set during World War II. Can you tell me the title and if it's on DVD?
A: That's “Danger UXB,” and it ran on PBS's “Masterpiece Theatre” from 1980 to 1981. The cast included Anthony Andrews, Judy Geeson and Maurice Roeves, and it's on DVD.
Q: This is a question about the actress who plays Charlie Sheen's ex-wife on “Anger Management.” If I'm not mistaken, she played a dizzy blonde on another sitcom a few years ago. Can you tell me the name of the show?
A: Shawnee Smith, who plays Jennifer on “Anger Management,” played Linda on “Becker,” which ran on CBS from 1998-2004.
Q: We are trying to find the title of a movie. It is in black and white, and the setting is somewhere in the mid-1940s or early '50s. The male lead might be a young Vic Morrow. The movie is about a young blonde woman that is down on her luck and is roaming the streets of a city. It is a rainy night, and she tries to take shelter in a concrete staircase leading to a basement apartment. A man (maybe Vic Morrow) takes her in. He feeds her and gives her shelter, but keeps her trapped. She finally escapes by taking her shoe and hits him in the eye with the long heel. She opens the door to leave and is outside but she slows and seems to think things over. She makes her way back and the next part of the movie shows a happy scene with the man holding and playing with a baby toddler and the lady smiling. The end. Can you help?
A: Methinks the movie is the 1961 film “Something Wild,” with Ralph Meeker as the man and Carroll Baker as the woman. In smaller roles you have Jean Stapleton (later Edith on “All in the Family” and Doris Roberts (later Marie on “Everybody Loves Raymond”). The movie's on youtube.com, so check it out.
Q: Many years ago, my husband and I watched an old black-and-white movie that might have been made in the 1930s or '40s. It was about a father with teenage daughters who tested his patience. After interactions with the girls, he would raise his leg like he was tempted to give them a good swift kick in the behind when they turned to walk away from him. We enjoyed this movie so much but don't have a clue what the name of it was. My husband says that William Demarest (Uncle Charlie in “My Three Sons”) played the father. All I remember is there was a lot of slapstick and silliness. I'd love to see it again. Can you help?
A: Sounds a lot like one of my favorites, the 1944 film “The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.” Demarest played town constable Kockenlocker, who was driven to distraction by daughters Trudy (Betty Hutton) and Emmy (Diana Lynn). The trouble is that Trudy married a GI at a wild party, and is now pregnant by him, but she can't remember his name. So, the family gets local yokel Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken), who's always loved Trudy, to marry her.
The movie was one of several screwball comedies written and directed by Preston Sturges, and Demarest was a member of the director's unofficial stock company, also appearing in films such as “The Lady Eve,” “Sullivan's Travels” and “Hail the Conquering Hero,” all worth watching, and almost all on DVD.
When you think about it, Demarest had a pretty remarkable career. He was in the first talking picture, 1927's “The Jazz Singer,” and stayed busy in the movies up until a six-season run on “My Three Sons.” Then, in the late 1970s, he was a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” telling old Hollywood stories.
Write David Inman in care of The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal, 525 W. Broadway, P.O. Box 740031, Louisville, KY 40201-7431; or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions of general interest will be answered; personal replies are not possible.