Beloved animation producer George Pal fled the Nazis but made good at Paramount with his Technicolor Puppetoon
short subjects, which won him seven Academy nominations and one Honorary Oscar. Pal made the leap to live-action feature productions with The Great Rupert
(1950), a low-budget fantasy that offered comedian Jimmy Durante the sentimental role of Louie Amendola, the impoverished paterfamilias of a family of vaudevillians that can no longer do their human pyramid act - he's too old, his wife (Queenie Smith) is too fat, his daughter Rosalinda (Terry Moore) has grown too big to play an angel. Mrs. Amendola's prayers are answered by money that seems to fall out of nowhere. As roughly $1500 a week continues to appear out of the wall, Louie helps his poor neighbors and invests it in local businesses. Then the secret of the 'miracle' is revealed: the money belongs to the miser upstairs, (Frank Orth). He's been stuffing it into the wall for hiding, not realizing that a mischievous squirrel named Rupert has been pushing it right out again, into the room below. George Pal's animation background comes to the fore with the title critter, which is animated by stop-motion - it even dances in one scene. A happy ending ensues, even after the building is badly burned. Jimmy Durante sings two songs and another is saved for comic Jimmy Conlin, as a squirrel trainer. Despite being about 'praying for money,' the unpretentious film generates warmth and charm, an opinion that was echoed by Variety:
"It aims at the family trade and hits the target right on the Schnoz." George Pal cleared enough money to immediately put his dream project Destination Moon
(1950) into production. Always the most loyal of filmmakers, Pal rehired his Rupert
director Irving Pichel to direct what became the first blockbuster hit of the science fiction boom of the 1950s.
Producer: George Pal
Director: Irving Pichel
Screenplay: Laslo Vadnay (screenplay); James O'Hanlon, Harry Crane (additional dialogue); Ted Allen (story)
Cinematography: Lionel Lindon
Music: Leith Stevens
Film Editing: Duke Goldstone
Cast: Jimmy Durante (Mr. Louie Amendola), Terry Moore (Rosalinda Amendola), Tom Drake (Peter 'Pete' Dingle), Frank Orth (Mr. Frank Dingle), Sara Haden (Mrs.Katie Dingle), Queenie Smith (Mrs. Amendola), Chick Chandler (Phil Davis), Jimmy Conlin (Joe Mahoney), Rupert (Himself the Squirrel), Hugh Sanders (Mulligan).
by Glenn Erickson
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