Cast & Crew
Barbara Drake, a "society horsewoman," arrives two hours late to a country club party held in honor of her engagement to the "noted gentleman rider," Denny Paine, because she rode in a van with her beloved horse "Playboy." Denny complains that her whole life revolves around the horse, and they have an argument. When the Ritz Brothers, who own a "Wild West" pony ride, overhear Braddock, an influential horseman, place a $1,000 bet on a horse named "Yankee," they hurry to the track, but mistakenly place a ten dollar bet on Playboy, rather than on Yankee. Playboy wins, and the brothers make over $3,000. After they purchase a convertible, the brothers learn that Playboy will be running again, so they call their bookie to place a $500 bet on him. Meanwhile, Denny demands that Babs either give up Playboy or him, and then challenges her to a bet: if Playboy does not win a stake race in the next three months, she must give him the horse and consent to marry him. Babs laughingly agrees, but Playboy does not win another race, to the dismay of the Ritz Brothers, and Babs gives the horse to Denny. As he is transporting the horse, his van gets a flat tire. Playboy escapes and stops to investigate the Ritz Brothers' ponies. Seeing that Playboy likes it there, Denny gives the brothers the horse with the stipulation that they do not sell or give Playboy to anyone else. The brothers soon find that Playboy is a natural jumper. When Babs learns that Denny gave her horse to a pony ride, she worries that Playboy will be beaten and kicked. Infuriated, she breaks her engagement to Denny and then locates the Ritz Brothers. When she learns about Playboy's jumping ability, she offers to pay the $1,000 entry fee, and they agree to give her twenty-five percent of the horse. Babs then cables her friend, Linda Tyler, and asks for a loan in return for allowing her to pursue Denny, in whom Linda has been interested. Linda, however, calls Babs's father, and Drake cuts off Babs's allowance. After Babs fails to get money from friends because of Denny's interference, Harry Ritz talks a wrestling promoter into paying him $1,000 to wrestle "Terrible Turk." Turk has Harry nearly pinned, but one of Harry's brothers switches off the lights, while the other knocks out Turk with a hammer. As the lights go on, Harry is on top of Turk, and he wins. On the day of the race, Denny, who now wants Babs to win, learns that the famous Russian Borukoff Brothers will ride. Fearing that one of them will win, Denny warns the Ritz Brothers and offers to ride Playboy himself. When the Ritzes overhear the Borukoffs' plan to use dirty tricks against Denny, they lock the Russians up, steal their uniforms and take their places in the race. Babs fears that Denny will make Playboy lose, but Linda convinces her that he is racing to prove his love for her. During the race, after two of the Ritz Brothers fall off their horses, Harry goes into the lead despite all his efforts to lose, including blindfolding the horse. When Harry sees that the horse loses ground every time he jumps, he makes the horse repeatedly jump during the stretch, and Denny wins. Denny kisses Babs for the photographers, while the Ritz Brothers convalesce in an ambulance.
Lon Chaney Jr.
Jack Lait Jr.
M. M. Musselman
Darryl F. Zanuck
Straight, Place and Show
The brothers, who were born Al, Jimmy and Harry Joachim, got their starts individually. Al, the oldest, entered the entertainment business first, doing extra work on movies and winning dance contests. Next came Jimmy and Harry who performed solo as singers and dancers. Soon the Joachim brothers decided to pool the family talent (with fourth brother George serving as their agent) -- and take a stage name. Now known as the Ritz Brothers, a name reportedly inspired by a passing laundry truck, they launched their act in nightclubs and on the vaudeville circuit. The Brothers soon made their way into featured spots on Broadway. And in 1934, Hollywood came calling.
The Ritz Brothers made their screen debut in a two-reel short called Hotel Anchovy (1934) and were promptly signed by Fox. Their first feature film was Sing, Baby, Sing (1936). By 1937, the Ritz Brothers were the stars of the picture -- they carried the show in Life Begins in College. Straight, Place and Show was made toward the end of their contract with Fox. They made just three more pictures with the studio after Straight, Place and Show, which included one of their all-time bests, The Three Musketeers (1939).
Appearing with the Ritz Brothers in Straight, Place and Show was the already legendary Broadway sensation Ethel Merman, who got her start playing nightclubs. It was her rendition of "I Got Rhythm" in the Gershwin musical Girl Crazy that first made her famous in 1930. Unfortunately, Merman seemed to have less luck in Hollywood. She was allowed to reprise her Broadway role in Anything Goes (1936), but more often her stage hits went to other actresses on screen - Betty Hutton, for example, in Annie Get Your Gun (1950) or Rosalind Russell in Gypsy (1962). Many of her 1930's films were minor musicals, like Kid Millions (1934) opposite Eddie Cantor. One exception was the lavish Irving Berlin showcase Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938). After Straight, Place and Show, Merman made few film appearances (a movie version of her stage hit, Call Me Madam (1953), an ensemble player in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1963), focusing instead on Broadway productions.
A few trivia tidbits about Straight, Place and Show: Look for Lon Chaney, Jr. playing a chauffeur. The story behind the movie's screenplay is also interesting. Fox paid $50,000 for the rights to the Damon Runyon-Irving Caesar play Saratoga Chips which was said to be the highest amount to date paid for an unproduced play.
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck
Director: David Butler
Screenplay: Irving Caesar (play), Damon Runyon (play), M.M. Musselman, Allen Rivkin
Cinematography: Ernest Palmer
Art Direction: Lewis H. Creber, Bernard Herzbrun
Music: Ray Golden, Sid Kuller, Lew Pollack, Louis Silvers, Jule Styne
Cast: Harry Ritz (Harry), Al Ritz (Al), Jimmy Ritz (Jimmy), Richard Arlen (Denny Paine), Ethel Merman (Linda Tyler), Phyllis Brooks (Barbara Drake).
by Stephanie Thames
Straight, Place and Show
The title card for this film in the opening credits reads, "Damon Runyon's Straight Place and Show." Runyon and Caesar's play was originally called Blue Plate Special, and it was based on Runyon's short story, "That Ever Loving Wife of Mine" in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan (Sep 1931). According to news items, in November 1936, Twentieth Century-Fox paid Runyon and Caesar $50,000 for the motion picture rights to their unproduced play Saratoga Chips. This was said to be the highest price paid to date for an unproduced play. It originally was to be used as a vehicle for Eddie Cantor, with Laurence Schwab producing and Leonard Praskins writing the screenplay. News items beginning in April 1938 reported that Darryl Zanuck was having the story rewritten for the Ritz Brothers. Robert Allen is listed as a cast member in Hollywood Reporter production charts, but his participation in the final film is doubtful. Paul Hurst is listed as a cast member in a Motion Picture Herald "In the Cutting Room" article, but his participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to a news item, a second unit shot for a week at Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, CA.