- Merton (Stuart Erwin) is a grocery delivery boy – and he’s pretty much the worst at it, ever. He secretly dreams of becoming an actor, & screwball townsperson Tessie (Helen Jerome Eddy) wholeheartedly believes in this dream of his, extremely inexplicably.
- One day, Mr. Gashwiler (Merton’s grocery store boss and landlord, played by Charles Sellon) discovers Merton’s stockpile of acting lesson records & facial expression suggestion booklets…and also finds Merton dressed in full-on cowboy garb. Mr. Gashwiler strongly recommends that Merton cut all this shit out. Because of, you know, real life responsibilities & all that.
- To teach Merton a lesson, Mr. Gashwiler sends him packing – and Merton winds up in (where else?) California.
Stop the presses, everyone! The Merton has arrived!!!
- Maurice Chevalier cameo, in front of one of the studios.
(This is thoroughly unexciting. Maurice Chevalier creeps me out.)
- Great news, ladies – “Merton Gill” is just his private name. His public name? “Ryder. Whoop Ryder.”
- Aw, poor Merton. After 2 months in Hollywood, he has holes in his shoes & has run out of both rent & meal money. He’s turning into a highly pathetic character, and it’s a bummer to watch.
- Woohoo! Apparently Joan Blondell (her character’s name is Flips Montague) agrees, and uses her star power to get Whoop Ryder some extra work (on Western star Buck Benson (George Templeton)’s set).
“A cowboy! Buck Benson. Gee!” says Merton, in response.
- Poor Whoop Ryder muffs his one line (“Hey boys – here’s somethin’ funny”) and gets fired on his very first day.
- Oh, Christ. “And you shouldn’t eat moldy beans. That’s bad, isn’t it?” Whoop Ryder asks Flips, when he laments that a prop table he’d stuffed a plate of beans into was taken away, never to be seen again.
- Get yourself a different job on the lot, man! If all acting is getting you are moldy beans, hidden in a prop desk – maybe you should rethink your life plans!
- In other news, Stuart Erwin’s got the pathetic dumbass bit down.
- Flips: If I get you a ticket back to Simsbury, will you go?
Merton: Oh, no!
Flips: For the love of Pete, why not?!
- Well, Flips comes up with a plan to get Whoop Ryder a starring role in a Western comedy – except let Merton think he’s acting in a drama, because he thinks all comedies are worthless and “degrading.”
- Mr. Baird (the director, played by Sam Hardy): Doesn’t he know he’s funny?
Flips: He doesn’t think anything in the world is funny.
- It’s kind of cute how the entire cast & crew bands together to make sure Whoop Ryder doesn’t find out they’re actually making a comedy.
- Flips is dying of guilt, though, for suggesting the whole thing. Director Baird is like, ‘Everything will be okay when it’s a smash hit & he’s given an ungodly amount of money & a lengthy contract.’
You make a decent point there, Mr. Baird. You really do.
- More cameos at the Special Preview of “Wide Open Spaces” – Charles Ruggles, Claudette Colbert, & Sylvia Sidney.
- Oh, the premiere is so sad! Everyone is laughing & poor WhoopMerton is sitting right in the middle of them, experiencing varying degrees of anguish the entire time.
- But like, also – everyone loves the film & thinks Whoop Ryder is brilliant in it! When he gets back to the house where he’s staying, all of the other residents tell him how genuinely wonderful he was in the movie & how very, very proud of him they are. If only he would wake the fuck up and appreciate the lemonade that has just been expertly crafted from his godawful batch of lemons! (Sigh.)
- Whoop Ryder begins looking at train schedules to determine when he can return to Simsbury. Except while drinking his coffee he overhears Buck Benson’s manager say this to Benson, about WhoopMerton:
“When you can turn on pathos, especially in farce, and make it stick – that takes genius, my boy. There isn’t one person in one hundred who really knows himself; it’s a relief to find somebody that’s perfectly satisfied to be exactly what heaven meant him to be. That’s being smart! Smart as the devil!”
- The scene where Merton attempts to prove to Flips that he was in on the joke (by semi-paraphrasing what he overheard Benson’s manager say – only in sad, jumbled order) is really well played by Stuart – it shows a surprising (& impressive) degree of depth!
- The movie ends with Merton forgiving Flips for her role in the trick comedy – and I suppose it’s left up to us to decide whether Whoop Ryder sticks around Hollywood & makes a career of it…or if he flees back to Simsbury & starts mixing up Zasu (Mrs. Scudder)’s orders of eggs & turnips again. (I’d like to think it’s the former. And Flips can be his Best Friend Forever!)
- Interesting movie – it definitely plays more like a drama than a comedy, which I did not expect, considering the cast. But – overall, a very worthwhile film. I recommend it.