#CleanMovieMonth2020 Guest Article: “TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… The Naughty Nineties (1945)” by Neil “The Musical Man” Powell

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The below article was published on Thoughts from The Music(al) Man by Neil “The Musical Man” Powell on July 19 as his fourth entry in #CleanMovieMonth2020. See the original post here.

We’re back again today to help the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society continue celebrating the month of July as Clean Movie Month 2020, and we’ll start off today’s double-feature with the classic 1945 Abbott and Costello comedy The Naughty Nineties.In the 1890s, Captain Sam Jackson (Henry Travers) brings his traveling show boat The River Queen to Ironville along the Mississippi River. He introduces his new cast, which includes his daughter, Caroline Jackson (Lois Collier), and new leading man Dexter Broadhurst (Bud Abbott). At the same time, three gamblers, Bonita Farrow (Rita Johnson), Bailey (Joe Sawyer) and Crawford (Alan Curtis), are told by the sheriff to leave town that night. Before they leave for St. Louis, the three gamblers plan a party for Captain Sam when he arrives there. In St. Louis, Dexter and his buddy Sebastian Dinwiddle (Lou Costello) try (and fail) to stop Captain Sam from gambling at the party. Soon, they find the gamblers now have a share in the River Queen, and decide to make use of Captain Sam’s reputation for honesty in putting in some gambling rooms while Captain Sam tries to earn enough to pay them back. Obviously, Captain Sam doesn’t like this arrangement, and even Crawford finds it distasteful after someone is shot for accusing him of cheating (that, and his growing interest in Caroline). Dexter and Sebastian try to help, but it all comes down to one quick hand of poker to determine who maintains full control of The River Queen.

Ok, let’s get it out of the way. This movie is mainly known for having the complete “Who’s On First?” comedy routine done by Bud and Lou (as compared to the partial routine used in One Night In The Tropics). Reportedly, the director had trouble filming it, as the boys caused the crew to burst into laughter every time they tried to film it, and so that laughter ended up being left in. Now, personally, I can’t claim to have heard it, but for good reason: I’m just as prone to cracking up every time I watch them do it myself, so it’s hard for me to hear anything in the background over my own laughter! “Who’s On First?” was later inducted into the National Baseball Hall Of Fame, and it is this version from The Naughty Nineties that has been playing there on monitors continuously ever since.

But “Who’s On First?” is hardly the only reason to watch this movie. The boys also have a few other routines, including “Higher/Lower” (a.k.a. “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean”) and “Feathers In The Cake.” And I certainly get a kick out of watching them deal with a sleepwalking Bailey (as played by Joe Sawyer), when he constantly attacks Lou and then pauses to say “I Must Tell This To The General” (sure, it’s not exactly politically correct, since he believes he is fighting Indians, but it’s still a fun scene, just the same). And then there’s Lou with the “catfish burgers” (or maybe I should say “cat”)! Just many wonderful moments!

I can’t deny that this movie reminds me of the 1936 Show Boat. And well it should, considering they re-used the river boat from that film as the River Queen in this one. Admittedly, The Naughty Nineties doesn’t compare to that movie. While my ratings are the same between the two, my opinion of Show Boat is reflective of what I think of that movie as a whole, while my rating of The Naughty Nineties is based on the goodwill garnered from watching Bud and Lou, ESPECIALLY with their “Who’s On First?” routine, as the music and romance of this movie are not its strengths.

Still, it’s a good Code movie. All the violence is very comical in nature, whether it be in some of Bud and Lou’s routines, or their fight with the bad guys to end the movie. Obviously, there’s no swearing, with Lou’s line “I don’t give a darn” from “Who’s On First? being as close as it gets. And while we do see the gamblers in charge for a while, it’s obvious that they will be caught by the end of the movie. But I do enjoy this movie a lot! To see Bud and Lou do one of their best-known routines is well worth it, and it’s very easy to recommend this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of the 28-film The Complete Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection, and is one hour, sixteen minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

Happy #CleanMovieMonth2020!

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