powered by AFI
The prolific Ray Enright, whose fast and furious style perfectly suited the many Warner Brothers pictures he made in the early-mid 1930s, had the best teacher: experience. Beginning as an assistant editor for Chaplin, he graduated to the Sennett studios as an idea man - before ascending to the position of studio supervising editor. His no nonsense approach to frenetic pacing and wall-to-wall action seemed tailor-made for the newly refurbished Warner Brothers company, where Enright's initial assignments were the popular Rin Tin Tin adventures - no small accomplishment, as prior to The Jazz Singer's Al Jolson, the famed German shepherd was the small Burbank organization's major star. Adapting to almost every genre, Enright proved extremely effective with musicals, helming the lavish (and now campy) all Technicolor talkie Golden Dawn in 1930. A variety of song and dance extravaganzas followed, highlighted by 1934's Busby Berkeley collaboration, Dames. Enright's gems, however, were the vigorous risque smart aleck comedy dramas such as Havana Widows (1933) and I've Got Your Number (1934). His expertise at obtaining quicksilver laughs made him an ideal director for Warner's house funnyman Joe E. Brown. Their seamless partnership in the charming 1935 adaptation of the Ring Lardner baseball rib tickler Alibi Ike (the final and best of Brown's "national pastime" trilogy, preceded by Fireman Save My Child and Elmer the Great) resulted in a re-teaming the following year for Earthworm Tractors.
Brown, whose penchant for the sport nearly won him a spot with the New York Yankees in the mid-1920s, had a clause in his contract that allowed him to form his own Warner Brothers studio team: the Joe E. Brown All-Stars. The satchel-mouthed comedian was also part owner of the Kansas City Blues, and his fanaticism to the game is evidenced by the casting of no less than 25 all-time greats throughout the picture, including Bob Meusel, Archie Campbell and Herman Bell. Enright's neat melding of howling guffaws with exciting last inning cheers (with a remarkably agile Brown doing all his own baseball action) delighted both critics and fans, and additionally served as an ideal showcase for young newcomer Olivia de Havilland, cast as Brown's sweetheart.
Upon its release, Alibi Ike's star became his studio's MVP when the New York Times' Frank Nugent likened Brown "...to Warners what Garbo is to Metro and Shirley Temple to Fox..." As for Enright, his frantic timing skills filled his future busy schedule with two other genres: the war movie (realistically utilizing his WWI tenure with the American Expeditionary Forces) and the Western. In the latter genre, he became a favorite director of Randolph Scott's after working with the actor on the 1942 remake of The Spoilers. Scott specifically requested the now tagged "action specialist" no less than a half dozen times - a successful on-going alliance ended only by the veteran director's retirement in the early 1950s.
Producer: Edward Chodorov
Director: Ray Enright
Screenplay: William Wister Haines, Ring Lardner (story)
Cinematography: Arthur L. Todd
Film Editing: Thomas Pratt
Principal Cast: Joe E. Brown (Frank X. Farrell), Olivia de Havilland (Dolly Stevens), Ruth Donnelly (Bess), Roscoe Karns (Cary), William Frawley (Cap), Eddie Shubert (Jack Mack).
BW-73m. Close captioning.
by Mel Neuhaus