Tuesday, December 31, 2013

POP ALWAYS PAYS (1940) – A Review

The always enthusiastic Leon Errol plays the titular character here, “Pop” Henry Brewster, an overly protective father who refuses to let his daughter Mary (Effie Anderson) marry Jeff Thompson (Dennis O’Keefe) unless Jeff proves he’s left his spendthrift ways behind by saving up $1000. If Jeff does that, Pop also promises to give the young couple $1000 to help them get started in their life together.

Of course, Pop doesn’t believe Jeff will ever be able to save that much money up – but he does, and catches Pop short personally and financially. This sets in motion a fine little farce that involves a “stolen” bracelet, a bad check, and a great deal of empty oyster cans.

Let’s be honest: Nothing in the script here is particularly original or inspired. (The script is by Charles E. Roberts, who would go on to write a number of the Mexican Spitfire scripts – a series that also featured Errol. Leslie Goodwins, who directed this, also directed that series.) But, even though Pop’s plot and many of the gags are familiar, the script does include some nice characterizations and a lot of laughs within the film’s 67 minute running time.

Much credit for this must be given to the cast, who do uniformly good or better work. Errol, never one to underplay, is a little over the top here, but always interesting to watch. O’Keefe, who usually struggles and often stumbles with comedy, is in fine form here. Dependable supporting players like Marjorie Gateson, Tom Kennedy, and the always amusing Walter Catlett also do their part to raise this B picture up closer to an A in laughs.

Though B movies like this were essentially cranked out without a great deal being expected of them, every so often, the system worked to produce a little gem like this one. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. And I was even more surprised the first time I saw it, because it was an unexpected second feature on a VHS tape of The Affairs of Annabel (1938 – also RKO) I had rented years ago. There was no mention of Pop on the cover anywhere, but when Annabel ended, Pop just started. It was the only time I ever had the experience of finding a whole second movie “hidden” on a VHS tape.

For the record, I thought The Affairs of Annabel was a very mediocre film, so Pop was a very welcome reward after having sat through that disappointing effort. Depending on what film Pop was paired with in its initial theatrical release, it may not have been the first time it “saved” another movie.
In any case, if you like any of the players here, or just enjoy comedies from the 30s and 40s in general, I recommend Pop Always Pays wholeheartedly. It manages to spin corn into gold – or something like that.

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