Cast & Crew
Edna May Oliver
Determined to prove to his sweetheart's disapproving guardian aunt, Minnie Van Arden, that he is not a stupid do-nothing but a man with a future, Wendell Graham invests his $100,000 inheritance in a revolution that is to take place in the kingdom of El Dorania. Unknown to Wendell, his old friend from Brooklyn, Zander "Zup" Ulysses Parkhurst, runs a casino in El Dorania. While Wendell, his girl friend, Betty Harrington, and Minnie, who owns a sugar plantation in El Dorania, discover each other on board the same ocean liner, Zup is tricked into winning the crown of El Dorania in a crap game. To avoid assassination, the current monarch, King Oscar, informs Zup that whoever owns the crown of El Dorania becomes king. Soon after his coronation, Zup learns from Queen Carlotta, the ambitious widow of all of his many royal predecessors, that he is the country's thirteenth king in as many months. As Wendell nears the beleagured El Dorania, he is told by his fellow "revolutionaries" that he will be made king upon arrival. Zup, however, refuses to give up his crown, even when General Bogardus, the mastermind behind the revolution investment scam, threatens him with his revolutionary army. Although anxious to be crowned so that he can win Minnie's approval and therefore Betty's hand, Wendell balks when Bogardus announces that he must assassinate Zup that afternoon or be killed himself. During Zup's "final luncheon," Wendell confesses his mission and, while drinking heavily with his friend in a wine cellar, tries to concoct a counter plan. Bogardus, however, forces Wendell's hand, but agrees to allow Zup to be killed in modern fashion using bombs dropped from an airplane. On the day of Zup's assassination, which has been declared a festival holiday, Wendell confides in Zup that he had spent the previous night removing the explosive caps from all of the bombs. Unaware that "Cross-Eyed" Ben, his executioner, has replaced the bomb caps, Zup sits confidently on his throne in the middle of the designated "danger zone." As the bombs explode around them, Zup and Wendell begin to panic but are saved when one of the bombs sets off an oil gusher. Zup and Wendell, having made El Dorania a rich country, declare that the kingdom will be a republic and that Zup will be its new president. Then, while Minnie watches in horror, Wendell and Betty marry.
Edna May Oliver
Raymond B. Egan
Hugh Mcdowell Jr.
Cracked Nuts wasn't the first film to spoof revolutionary politics. There were numerous silent features on the subject - like Douglas Fairbanks' His Majesty, the American (1919) and Harold Lloyd's Why Worry? (1923). And the talkie The Love Parade (1929), directed by Ernst Lubitsch, delightfully conjured up a fictional kingdom. But Cracked Nuts was the earliest sound film to combine the revolution-meets-imaginary-country storyline. The idea, however, would soon take off. W.C. Fields made the similarly themed Million Dollar Legs in 1932. And the next year came the Marx Bros. landmark satire Duck Soup.
Plot wasn't the only similarity between Cracked Nuts and Duck Soup. The Marx Bros. working title for the film was Cracked Ice, much closer to the Wheeler-Woolsey title (the actual working title for Cracked Nuts was Assorted Nuts). The two films also shared a musical motif. The song "El Manicero" (The Peanut Vendor) plays under the opening credits in Cracked Nuts. And in Duck Soup Groucho sings a few bars of the tune. Cracked Nuts' co-writer Al Boasberg would also go on to write gags for the Marx Bros. A Night at the Opera (1935) and A Day at the Races (1937).
There are two other notable comedic comparisons to make in Cracked Nuts. First, the boys perform a "What" and "Which" routine about the town that plays like a comic precursor to Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First?" skit. Also, Wheeler's opening scene in Cracked Nuts is dialogue-free and reminiscent of a Harold Lloyd scenario. Wheeler is forced to find an alternate way into his girlfriend's apartment after he is wrongly accused of damaging an elevator door and ejected from the building. An additional note about this scene: to achieve Wheeler's slide across the floor when he's thrown out of the building, the floor was heavily polished and roller skates were sewn into his pants.
Cracked Nuts was Wheeler and Woolsey's sixth film together (all for RKO). But oddly, the team doesn't meet up until Cracked Nuts is halfway over. RKO was considering splitting up Wheeler and Woolsey for solo projects. Cracked Nuts seemed to be a test of sorts - to see if each could carry a part of the film alone. Apparently they passed. Wheeler and Woolsey each made a solo film in 1931 - Wheeler appeared in Too Many Cooks; Woolsey in Everything's Rosie. But the split was short lived. After a single solo film for each, it was back to teamwork in a string of Wheeler-Woolsey pictures in the '30s. They made over twenty films together, starting with Rio Rita in 1929 through High Flyers (1937). And no doubt, the successful pairing would have continued ¿ but unfortunately Woolsey's life was cut short. He died in 1938 at the age of 49.
While watching Cracked Nuts look for the young Boris Karloff. Though he had already appeared in dozens of films, Karloff was not yet a known name. That all changed later that year when Karloff played The Monster in Frankenstein (1931). Another interesting note - director Edward F. Cline made a second film called Cracked Nuts in 1941. It was a sci-fi robot comedy and completely unrelated to the 1931 Wheeler-Woolsey version.
Producer: William LeBaron
Director: Edward F. Cline
Screenplay: Al Boasberg, Douglas MacLean (story), Ralph Spence (story)
Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
Film Editing: Arthur Roberts
Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Bert Wheeler (Wendell Graham), Robert Woolsey (Zander Parkhurst), Dorothy Lee (Betty Harrington), Edna May Oliver (Aunt Van Varden), Leni Stengel (Queen Carlotta), Stanley Fields (General Bogardus).
by Stephanie Thames
Your majesty...next week you will get your face on all coins of the realm!- Carlotta
Never mind gettin' my face on 'em--what I want to do is get my hands on 'em!- Zander Ulysses Parkhurst
Have you never thought seriously of marriage?- Carlotta
Certainly! That's why I'm single.- Zander Ulysses Parkhurst
Ah--love--love is intoxication...- Carlotta
Yeah, and marriage is the hangover!- Zander
I have an idea you broke into this apartment.- Minnie Van Arden
No man with any sense would do a thing like that!- Wendell Graham
How do you know what a man with any sense would do?- Minnie
Well, you've got me there.- Wendell
Don't stand there acting like a fool!- Minnie
I'm not acting.- Wendell
The working title of this film was Assorted Nuts. Motion Picture Herald reviewed it under that title. In the film, Wheeler and Woolsey perform a comedy routine over a map of El Dorania that closely resembles Abbott and Costello's famous "Who's on First" routine. The exact origin of this routine, whether it pre-dates Cracked Nuts or is original to the film, is not known. According to modern sources, producer Douglas MacLean, a former silent film comedian, contributed to the film's script.