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A solid secondary comedy from RKO Pictures, Fight for Your Lady (1937) features a large cast and multiple overlapping storylines in its short running time. In London, wrestling manager 'Honest' Ham Hamilton (Jack Oakie) is trying in vain to duck bill collectors. To settle his tab and return to America he tries to convince wrestler Mike Scanlon (Gordon Jones) to throw a match. Sitting near the ring, however, is singer Robert Densmore (John Boles) with his upper crust fiance Marcia Trent (Margot Grahame). Marcia has a bet on Mike and, having caught his eye as he enters the ring, Mike has no plans to take a dive. Ham has to dodge creditors out of the stadium and uses Densmore's coat for concealment. Upon returning the coat, Ham takes a financial interest in Densmore's singing career and Mike continues his infatuation with Marcia. Marcia leaves with Mike upon learning that Densmore is broke, and Ham takes the singer to Budapest. There, reporter Jimmy Trask (Paul Guilfoyle) tells Densmore of Marcia's marriage. The singer drinks and threatens suicide; a drunk Jimmy suggests that Densmore flirt with ventriloquist Marietta (Ida Lupino), so that her beau Anton Spadissimo (Erik Rhodes) the greatest swordsman on the Continent - will kill him. Densmore cuts into a dance with Marietta, so Spadissimo challenges him to a duel. When Marcia reads of the European romance, she tells Mike to leave the house. The major characters converge in the countryside on the morning of the duel.
There are many more story points and characters than the truncated synopsis above indicates all for a film that runs barely over an hour. Fight for Your Lady is one of those globetrotting comedies in which the makers have assumed that more characters, relationships, and situational mayhem squeezed into a dialogue-heavy screenplay will only result in more laughs. It doesn't, and the viewer is only left more confused than amused.
Critics blasted the picture. In The New York Times, Frank Nugent called it "a fumbling, unoriginal and infantile farce [which] comes unpleasantly close to being the composite year's worst picture....John Boles plays it rather badly and Ida Lupino is hobbled by a witless script. Jack Oakie, Margot Grahame and Erik Rhodes accept the silliness for what it is worth." In addition to funnymen Oakie and Rhodes, Fight for Your Lady features a late-act appearance by the always welcome comedic actor Billy Gilbert, but it is too little, too late to save the proceedings. The film did nothing for the career of Ida Lupino, but she is a versatile enough actress to not seem out-of-place in the goings-on. In fact, she is very convincing in her opening scene, in which she takes to the stage to work a ventriloquist dummy.
Director Ben Stoloff began in silent pictures in the 1920s, helming several Tom Mix westerns and two-reel comedies at Fox Film Corporation. In the sound era, he never rose above second-feature status, but in that capacity he was able to turn out a few interesting movies, such as The Mysterious Doctor (1943), a peculiar ghost story set in an English village during World War II.
Executive Producer: Samuel J. Briskin
Producer: Albert Lewis
Director: Ben Stoloff
Screenplay: Ernest Pagano, Harry Segall, Harold Kusell
Cinematography: Jack Mackenzie
Film Editing: George Crone
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Costume Design: Edward Stevenson
Cast: John Boles (Robert Densmore), Jack Oakie (Honest 'Ham' Hamilton), Ida Lupino (Marietta), Margot Grahame (Marcia Trent), Gordon Jones (Mike Scanlon), Erik Rhodes (Anton Spadissimo), Billy Gilbert (Boris).
by John M. Miller