International House (1933)

A. EDWARD SUTHERLAND

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

USA, 1933. . Screenplay by , , from a story by , . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by , , . Costume Design by .

can’t get a train out of Shanghai to his destination of Wu Hu, China because the rains have flooded the tracks (the town’s name is the kind of pun that star was fond of in his comedies). He decides to drive instead, and is pressed by a beautiful blond heiress (socialite playing a good-natured parody of herself) to take her along. When he arrives at his destination of the International Hotel, his girlfriend is unimpressed by his traveling companion, but things get dicier when the hotel doctor () and his daffy nurse assistant (, who, of course, steals the show) mistake the rash on Erwin’s face for contagious measles and the hotel is placed under quarantine. Erwin is actually there to meet Dr. Wong ( in yellowface), who has created the invention of a “radioscope”, an early television prototype that allows the viewer to snoop on anything happening around the world, which he plans to buy for his company.

Among the sights that he catches on the radioscope are a series of delightful musical numbers featuring the talents of (making love to a megaphone), “Baby” and , as well as the sight of an eccentric drunken millionaire (Fields, of course) who takes off from Juarez in his flying gyroscope; it’s not long before Fields arrives in Wu Hu despite meaning to go to Kansas. Meanwhile, Russian diplomat is there to buy the radioscope for his own country, and hotel concierge is being driven crazy by the amount of people who keep knocking his shelves over. Slapstick comedy, action sequences enlivened by some pretty impressive special effects (both photographic as well as some cool models), witty verbal humour and clever misdirects are all thrown into the pot and what comes out is a zippy, hilarious comedy bursting with peppy, delightful performances.

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