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Excuse My Dust

Excuse My Dust(1951)

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teaser Excuse My Dust (1951)

By the time of Excuse My Dust (1951), Red Skelton's MGM contract was approaching expiration and he was already moving solidly toward television, where he would become a superstar. In the meantime, he turned out this charming and funny little Technicolor musical set at the turn of the century. Skelton plays an eccentric inventor whose idea of a horseless carriage may not be so wacky. This does not please neighbor William Demarest, who owns a livery stable, but it charms Demarest's daughter, Sally Forrest. By the end, the story has built to a climactic cross-country race of automobiles powered by steam, ether, and other pioneer fuels, all fighting for a $5000 prize. "A frantically funny affair, well worth the time given to it," wrote The New York Times of this sequence. "A socko comedy setup," raved Variety, "fully realized by Roy Rowland's direction which draws a lot of its humor from the sight of such incongruous carriages as compared to modern-day speed wagons.

Director Roy Rowland worked across genres, turning out decent titles like A Stranger in Town (1943), Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945), The Outriders (1950) and The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), but the race sequence in Excuse My Dust may have benefited from the helping hand of Buster Keaton. In the mid-1940s, Keaton had been reduced to working as a gagman at MGM. He took a liking to Skelton and wanted to team up with him, proposing to Louis B. Mayer that he and Skelton create their own stories and gags and handle all the writing and directing. "I'll guarantee you hits," Keaton told Mayer. "I won't take a cent of salary until they have proved themselves at the box office." Mayer said no, but Keaton still advised Skelton on some of his routines in his next few pictures, including Excuse My Dust.

Choreographer Hermes Pan was another masterly presence on the set, lending his imaginative wit to musical numbers like the one which evolves from a period piece into what its participants imagine the modern era will look like. The numbers gave actress Sally Forrest a chance to finally show off her musical talent. Even though she was a trained dancer and made her film debut in the musical Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), she was known mostly for film noirs and dramas, collaborating several times with Ida Lupino on such films as Not Wanted (1949), Never Fear (1949), Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951) and While the City Sleeps (1956). Forrest's singing voice in Excuse My Dust was dubbed by Gloria Grey.

Also in the cast is the venerable character actress Jane Darwell, Oscar®-winner for her portrayal of Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940).

Producer: Jack Cummings
Director: Roy Rowland
Screenplay: Buster Keaton, Stephanie Nordli, George Wells
Cinematography: Alfred Gilks
Film Editing: Cotton Warburton
Art Direction: Randall Duell, Cedric Gibbons
Music: Paul Dunlap, Arthur Schwartz
Cast: Red Skelton (Joe Belden), Sally Forrest (Liz Bullitt), Macdonald Carey (Cyrus Random, Jr.), William Demarest (Harvey Bullitt), Monica Lewis (Daisy Lou Shultzer), Raymond Walburn (Mayor Fred Haskell).
C-83m. Closed captioning.

by Jeremy Arnold

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