Released in 1930 by (RKO) Radio Pictures, this pre-code musical sex comedy is set during World War I; an uncredited Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle contributed to the script full of risque double-entendres written by James Ashmore Creelman- who went on to write the screenplay for KING KONG (1933). Wheeler & Woolsey star as two AWOL doughboys in 1918 France. Teen flapper DOROTHY LEE co-stars as the jailbait daughter of their commanding officer George MacFarlane- who is married to Edna Mae Oliver, but cheating with Leni Stengel; the sexy Tiller Sunshine Girls also appear.
Vaudeville comics paired in 1928 by empresario Florenz Ziegfeld for the hit Broadway musical "Rio Rita," BERT WHEELER (Patterson NJ; April 7, 1895- Jan. 18, 1968)
and ROBERT WOOLSEY (Oakland, CA.; Aug. 14, 1889 - Oct. 31, 1938)
then moved to Hollywood to make the film version. It was to be Radio Picture debut release - but the lavish production ending up being released second. They were the studio's leading comedy stars- up until the bespectacled Woolsey's diagnosed terminal illness in 1937 and subsequent death from kidney failure in 1938.
They worked with top comedy directors Edward Cline, Norman Taurog, Mark Sandrich, as well as William A Seiter, Fred Guiol, and twice with George Stevens! Among their films, Diplomaniacs, co-written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz from his original story, can be considered a companion piece to the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup (also 1933); the films even shared urbane bad guy Louis Calhern.
Their films are surprisingly racy; the aforementioned contains a musical number with showgirls outfitted in thigh high stockings and french maid uniforms that would satisfy anyone today with the fetish. So This is Africa, a one-shot for Columbia, was heavily censored by local authorities upon its release; consequently, it's not sure whether a print exists today in it's complete form.
DOROTHY LEE (L.A., CA; May 23, 1911 – June 24, 1999) was their favorite and frequent good-girl love interest; she appeared with the team 14 times, and once more with Wheeler alone. In the first of their sexually charged pairings, Wheeler was 35 romancing on screen the 17 year old good-time party girl, Lee.
Apparently, Betty Grable was 15 when she appeared in Hold em Jail- Wheeler was 37; and Marjorie Lord was just 18 when she shot her love scenes in On Again, Off Again- opposite a 42 year old Wheeler.
THE FILMS OF WHEELER & WOOLSEY:
features (all for RKO Radio Pictures except where noted):
01. Rio Rita (1929) w/ Bebe Daniels, Dorothy Lee
02. The Cuckoos (1930) co-starring Dorothy Lee
03. Dixiana (1930) w/ Bebe Daniels, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Dorothy Lee
04. Half Shot at Sunrise (1930) w/ Edna Mae Oliver, co-starring Dorothy Lee
05. Hook, Line, and Sinker (1930) co-starring Dorothy Lee
06. Cracked Nuts (1931) co-starring Dorothy Lee
short The Stolen Jools (Paramount/National Screen Service1931) all-star w/ Dorothy Lee
07. Caught Plastered (1931) co-starring Dorothy Lee
short Oh! Oh! Cleopatra (1931)
08. Peach O'Reno (1931) co-starring Dorothy Lee
09. Girl Crazy (1932) w/ Eddie Quillan, co-starring Dorothy Lee
10. Hold Em Jail (1932) w/Betty Grable, Edna Mae Oliver, Edgar Kennedy
11. So This Is Africa (Columbia; 1933)
12. Diplomaniacs (1933) w/ Louis Calhern, Edgar Kennedy, Hugh Herbert, Vernon Dent
13. Hips Hips Hooray (1934) w/ Thelma Todd, co-starring Dorothy Lee
14. Cockeyed Cavaliers (1934) w/Thelma Todd, co-starring Dorothy Lee
15. Kentucky Kernals (1934) w/ George "Spanky" MacFarland, Noah Beery, Margaret Dumont, Willie "Sleep n Eat" Best
16. The Nitwits (1935) w/ Betty Grable, Arthur Treacher
17. The Rainmakers (1935) co-starring Dorothy Lee
18. Silly Billies (1936) co-starring Dorothy Lee
19. Mummy's Boys (1936) w/ Barbara Pepper, Willie "Sleep n Eat" Best
20. On Again, Off Again (1937) w/ Marjorie Lord
21. High Flyers (1937) w/ Marjorie Lord, Lupe Velez, Margaret Dumont
Bert Wheeler alone:
short Small Timers (Warner Bros.-Vitaphone; 1929)
01. Too Many Cooks (Radio; 1931) w/ Dorothy Lee
02. Cowboy Quarterback (Warner Bros; 1939) w/Marie Wilson
03. Las Vegas Nights (Paramount; 1941) w/Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey and his band
short Innocently Guilty (Columbia; 1950) producer Jules White
short The Awful Sleuth (Columbia; 1951) producer Jules White
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