Cast & Crew
In 1895, amateur inventor Joe Belden, a resident of Willow Falls, Indiana, is scorned by almost everyone in town, except his mother, his best friend, Ben Parrot, and his sweetheart, Liz Bullitt. Joe's latest, and most ambitious, invention is a gasoline-burning horseless carriage he is building in his mother's barn. He is overjoyed when his "gasomobile" finally starts up, but his jubilation is short-lived as the barn soon catches fire. After the volunteer fire department, which is headed by Joe, finally puts out the fire, the worried pharmacist, Horace Antler, refuses to sell Joe more gasoline, and Harvey Bullitt, Liz's gruff father, angrily tells him to stay away from her. Liz stands by Joe, but urges him to go into her father's stable business so that they can marry. Visionary Joe can only see how different the future will be with inventions like his gasomobile. The next day, at a town social, Joe is ridiculed by his rival, Yale man Cyrus Random, Jr., but pretty visitor Daisy Lou Shultzer is impressed by Joe, and also Ben, who plays a new kind of music called Jazz. Later, on the way to a hayride, Joe sees a placard for a road race with a $5,000 prize and immediately leaves a furious Liz to work on his gasomobile. Three weeks later, after Joe's invention finally starts to work, he goes to Liz late at night and promises that he will marry her right away if he wins the race, but Bullitt interrupts them and sends Joe off. On the day of the town picnic, Liz is proud when Joe drives his beautiful car into the town square, but the gasomobile soon starts to sputter, prompting chants of "get a horse" from the townspeople. Liz and Joe then argue and she leaves in a huff with Cy. She feels sorry later, though, and is glad when Joe comes to the picnic driving his car. Despite the fact that the gasomobile winds up in the lake due to its lack of a proper steering mechanism, the local girls gush over Joe, causing Liz to become jealous. When Joe later bests Cy in a fistfight over Cy's "taking liberties" with Daisy Lou, Liz misinterprets his chivalry and becomes even more jealous. Some time later, despite the city council's plan to thwart progress by setting the speed limit for horseless carriages at three miles per hour, the town anxiously awaits the big race. Cy, who has bought an "autobug" that runs on ether, also plans to enter. On the day of the Fireman's Ball, as the town celebrates their two autopioneers, Liz bets a dollar on Joe after hearing town barber and bookie Nick Tosca raise the odds to twelve to one on Joe. Liz and Joe then make up, but when Bullitt offers to make Joe his partner and allow him time for inventing anything other than gasomobiles, Joe refuses, resulting in another argument with Liz. Joe then barges past Cy, who pretends that Joe hit him without provocation. Late that night, Bullitt has a change of heart and tells Liz he thinks that stables are no longer profitable and he and Joe should start a new business he has read about, a garage. On the day of the race, all types of horseless carriages arrive in town. Joe needs a push to start, but eventually is in second place behind Cy, who does everything in his power to thwart his rival, including switching road signs. The two men come so close to each other that they each break a wheel and Cy accidentally knocks out Joe, then drives away. A moment later, Liz arrives in her buggy and insists she drive because Joe is dazed, but he soon recovers and takes the wheel. As the finish line approaches, Cy is in first place, with Joe and Liz closing in. As they come closer to the finish, Joe tells Liz to jettison all of the tools and excess weight to help him win, and when she jumps out, the gasomobile wins the race, making everyone in town happy, except Cy.
Ray Linn's Male Quartet
J. Lewis Smith
Ed Peil Sr.
A. Arnold Gillespie
Ralph S. Hurst
Edwin B. Willis
Excuse My Dust
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
Excuse My Dust
According to M-G-M News, the title of George Wells's original screenplay was Horseless Carriage. The film opens with a voice-over narration by John Nesbitt, producer and narrator of M-G-M's Passing Parade semi-documentary shorts, delivered in the style of the popular M-G-M series. The picture includes three fantasy sequences: two are brief scenes in which "Joe Belden" imagines what life would be like in the future, when automobiles and other inventions are commonplace; the third features "Liz Bullitt" in a modern dance sequence which "Cy" imagines after hearing Joe predict that in the future people will wear fewer clothes. According to a January 1962 news item in Hollywood Reporter, Excuse My Dust was soon to be reissued.