Always Leave Them Laughing
Cast & Crew
Roy Del Ruth
Outside the television studio where the popular Kip Cooper Show is in progress, an aspiring comic begs Monte Wilson, Kip's agent, to help him get to the top, and Monte tells him the story of Kip's rise to fame: One hot night, while entertaining at a hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Kip hogs the stage, to the disgust of the other performers on the bill. Later, at the train station, Kip makes a pass at Fay Washburn, one half of the "McGraw Sisters" act. She agrees to date him, but when she mentions marriage, Kip backs off. Later, Kip confronts Monte at his hotel and demands better bookings. Monte responds by advising Kip to develop an original act rather than copying other comedians. The next morning, Monte and Kip unsuccessfully make the rounds of the clubs. Later, Kip pretends to run into Fay accidentally outside the business school that she attends. She quickly lets him know that she sees through his ruse and invites him to dinner with her parents, who formerly had a vaudeville act. Kip remembers them and proceeds to demonstrate his mastery of their entire act. Kip then persuades Fay to leave business school and resurrect the act with him. After a rehearsal, Kip attempts to seduce Fay at Monte's apartment, and insulted, she tells him to find a new partner, but quickly forgives him. When Kip and Fay demonstrate the new act for Monte, however, he bluntly tells them it is outdated and offers Kip a single at a "smoker." Kip drops the act without a second thought. At the club, he struggles to entertain the rowdy audience, but is attacked by the crowd and cheated out of his fee. The next morning, Fay tells Kip about a casting call for the comic lead in an operetta. The stage manager's brother-in-law gets the part, but tells Kip that he plans to leave the show in Minneapolis and suggests that Kip take a minor part so that he will be ready to step into the lead when that happens. Kip takes the small part, but tells Fay and her parents that he was hired as the lead. His lie is almost exposed when the Washburns attend the opening night performance, but Kip accidentally knocks out one of the actors and does an impromptu comedy routine. His shenanigans during the performance get him fired, however. Later, Fay takes a part in the chorus of a new musical comedy starring Eddie Egan, an old friend of the Washburns'. The famous comedian is married to the much younger Nancy, the female star of the show. When Eddie has a heart attack during a performance, Kip's familiarity with the material comes in handy, and he is hired to replace Eddie until he recovers. Kip is a big hit in the part, and when Nancy cultivates his friendship, Kip unthinkingly ignores the faithful Fay. After Kip demonstrates his performance for Eddie, Eddie reminds him that the great clowns are able to touch the hearts of their audience, not just tell jokes. Kip is hoping that Eddie will not recover until after the New York City opening of the show, but to his disappointment, Eddie announces his intention to return. The night before the show moves to New York, Kip invites Eddie onstage to do a number with him, and Eddie collapses and dies. Fay angrily accuses Kip of killing Eddie, and although the doctor assures him that he was not the cause of Eddie's death, Kip still feels responsible. Nancy then offers Kip the lead on a permanent basis, explaining that she must continue to work because Eddie did not leave her any money. Realizing that it is time to stop performing others' material, Kip turns down her offer and soon becomes successful with his own act. Later, on his program, Kip and Fay announce their marriage.
Roy Del Ruth
O'donnell And Blair
George Offerman Jr.
B. G. De Sylva
Fred E. Farrell
Oliver S. Garretson
Arnold B. Horwitt
Always Leave Them Laughing
Always Leave Them Laughing stars Milton Berle as Kip Cooper, a comedian with a brash demeanor, unquenchable energy, and a weakness for using other comics' material. The movie begins with Kip knocking himself out for a tough audience, and when an eager new talent accosts his agent in hopes of getting signed, the agent decides to cool the young man down by telling the story of Kip's hard-won rise to fame. This introduces the main body of the film, which follows Kip from his start in low-rent nightclubs to his triumph on the Broadway stage. He follows an upward path, but he can't help feeling uneasy about a difficult question: whether he should keep riding on material created by more seasoned performers, or put success at risk by taking chances with original ideas. The main subplot centers on Kip's longtime courtship of Fay Washburn, the daughter of old vaudevillians who's going to business school but would rather be in show biz. Another storyline shows Kip's relationship with Eddie Eagen, a veteran comic whose illness gives Kip a huge break, and with Eddie's wife, Nancy, who seems ready to connect with Kip if her husband's health keeps going downhill. As played by Bert Lahr and Virginia Mayo, the Eagens give the movie a dramatic edge as well as a major touch of class.
The working title of Always Leave Them Laughing was "The Thief of Broadway," referring to Kip's good-natured pilfering of other people's material. That's highly ironic, since Berle had been charged with the same offense; his large stake in this production - he had "every kind of star approval you could have on a picture," according to his autobiography - was probably the reason for the title change. Berle claimed that he'd started the gag-stealing rumor himself, to milk attention from a feud with comedian Richy Craig, Jr., in the newspaper columns. (Judging from Craig's subsequent obscurity, this is a feud Berle definitely won.) Yet he was ticklish about the issue as late as 1975, when his memoir was published. Remarking on a Bert Lahr sketch that he reprised in the RKO musical New Faces of 1937, Berle stressed that the producer had bought rights to the routine from its author. "I said words that Bert Lahr had first said on a stage," Berle wrote, "but they were David Freedman's words, and their use had been paid for. Yet I heard grumblings and lousy remarks that Bert Lahr was making about me for stealing the sketch from him." Maybe so, but gag larceny has been part of Berle's reputation for ages, prompting columnist Walter Winchell to dub him The Thief of Bad Gags and leading Jack Benny to say that taking a joke from Berle wasn't stealing but "repossessing." Bob Hope sometimes joked that Berle "never heard a joke he didn't steal," and Always Leave Them Laughing itself reprises a frequent Berle gimmick whereby someone else would crack wise, Berle would mumble, "I wish I'd said that," and the other would say, "You will!"
The story for Always Leave Them Laughing was cowritten by Max Shulman, who later created the Dobie Gillis character of movie and sitcom fame. Berle was able to score major-star treatment during the production because of his huge success in NBC's pioneering TV show Texaco Star Theater, which began its eight-year run (under various titles) in 1948. In addition to owning 25 percent of the picture, Berle claimed that he supervised Lahr's biggest dramatic scene when director Del Ruth took sick. He also said he penned the film's music and lyrics with ace songwriter Sammy Cahn, although this was actually limited to two numbers, "You're Too Intense" and the title tune. (Other songs are by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and others.) Berle later said the production had been rushed to cash in on his sudden TV popularity, but he gets plenty of chances to please his fans, appearing in almost every shot. Rushed or not, he was delighted with the movie's "first-rate cast" and the "A-picture polish" the studio bestowed on it.
Berle was right about the cast, and the movie gets additional zing from specialty acts sandwiched into the story; the best is the Fountain Pen Sketch taken from a Broadway revue called Make Mine Manhattan and showcasing Max Showalter, later known as Casey Adams, in his first screen appearance. Rarely laugh-out-loud funny but often likable and lively, Always Leave Them Laughing affords an interesting glimpse at TV's first superstar in a big-screen vehicle that was made for him.
Director: Roy Del Ruth; musical numbers staged and directed by LeRoy Prinz
Producer: Jerry Wald
Screenplay: Melville Shavelson and Jack Rose; from a story by Max Shulman and Richard Mealand
Cinematographer: Ernest Haller
Film Editing: Clarence Kolster
Art Direction: Robert Haas
Music: Ray Heindorf; special music and lyrics by Sammy Cahn
With: Milton Berle (Kipling "Kip" Cooper), Virginia Mayo (Nancy Eagen), Ruth Roman (Fay Washburn), Bert Lahr (Eddie Eagen), Alan Hale (Sam Washburn), Grace Hayes (Mrs. Gracie Kennedy Washburn), Jerome Cowan (Elliott Montgomery), Lloyd Gough (Monte Wilson), Ransom Sherman (Henry "Hank" Richards), Iris Adrian (Julie Adams), Wally Vernon (self), Cecil Stewart & His Royal Rogues (specialty act), O'Donnell & Blair (specialty act), Max Showalter (Comet Pen Salesman), The Moroccans (specialty act).
by David Sterritt
Always Leave Them Laughing
Virginia Mayo (1920-2005)
She was born Virginia Clara Jones in St. Louis, Missouri on November 30, 1920, and got her show business start at the age of six by enrolling in her aunt's School of Dramatic Expression. While still in her teens, she joined the nightclub circuit, and after paying her dues for a few years traveling across the country, she eventually caught the eye of movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn. He gave her a small role in her first film, starring future husband, Michael O'Shea, in Jack London (1943). She then received minor billing as a "Goldwyn Girl," in the Danny Kaye farce, Up In Arms (1944). Almost immediately, Goldwyn saw her natural movement, comfort and ease in front of the camera, and in just her fourth film, she landed a plumb lead opposite Bob Hope in The Princess and the Pirate (1944). She proved a hit with moviegoers, and her next two films would be with her most frequent leading man, Danny Kaye: Wonder Man (1945), and The Kid from Brooklyn (1946). Both films were big hits, and the chemistry between Mayo and Kaye - the classy, reserved blonde beauty clashing with the hyperactive clown - was surprisingly successful.
Mayo did make a brief break from light comedy, and gave a good performance as Dana Andrews' unfaithful wife, Marie, in the popular post-war drama, The Best Years of Their Lives (1946); but despite the good reviews, she was back with Kaye in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), and A Song Is Born (1948).
It wasn't until the following year that Mayo got the chance to sink her teeth into a meaty role. That film, White Heat (1949), and her role, as Cody Jarrett's (James Cagney) sluttish, conniving wife, Verna, is memorable for the sheer ruthlessness of her performance. Remember, it was Verna who shot Cody¿s mother in the back, and yet when Cody confronts her after he escapes from prison to exact revenge for her death, Verna effectively places the blame on Big Ed (Steve Cochran):
Verna: I can't tell you Cody!
Cody: Tell me!
Verna: Ed...he shot her in the back!!!
Critics and fans purred over the newfound versatility, yet strangely, she never found a part as juicy as Verna again. Her next film, with Cagney, The West Point Story (1950), was a pleasant enough musical; but her role as Lady Wellesley in Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951), co-starring Gregory Peck, was merely decorative; that of a burlesque queen attempting to earn a university degree in the gormless comedy, She¿s Working Her Way Through College (1952); and worst of all, the Biblical bomb, The Silver Chalice (1954) which was, incidentally, Paul Newman's film debut, and is a film he still derides as the worst of his career.
Realizing that her future in movies was slowing down, she turned to the supper club circuit in the 60s with her husband, Michael O'Shea, touring the country in such productions as No, No Nanette, Barefoot in the Park, Hello Dolly, and Butterflies Are Free. Like most performers who had outdistanced their glory days with the film industry, Mayo turned to television for the next two decades, appearing in such shows as Night Gallery, Police Story, Murder She Wrote, and Remington Steele. She even earned a recurring role in the short-lived NBC soap opera, Santa Barbara (1984-85), playing an aging hoofer named "Peaches DeLight." Mayo was married to O'Shea from 1947 until his death in 1973. She is survived by their daughter, Mary Johnston; and three grandsons.
by Michael T. Toole
Virginia Mayo (1920-2005)
According to a July 31, 1949 New York Times article, this film was originally titled The Thief of Broadway, a reference to "Kip's" use of other comics' material. Star Milton Berle was himself accused of the same habit, the article notes, although Berle protested that the "gag stealing reputation is a little thing I started myself," as part of a public feud with comic Richy Craig, Jr. The "Fountain Pen" sketch enacted in the film was taken from the Broadway revue Make Mine Manhattan. According to a July 5, 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, Audrey Meadows tested for one of the lead roles. An early staff roster includes Henny Youngman, Benny Baker, Red Buttons and Claudette Thornton in the cast. They did not appear in the viewed film. The Hollywood Reporter review notes that the film was cut from a preview length of 118 minutes to 108 minutes; copyright material dated November 9, 1949 gives the film's running time as 116 minutes. Actor Julius Tannen was known as "The Chatterbox" when he performed in vaudeville.
Released in United States 1949
Released in United States 1949