Cast & Crew
While washing dishes at a small roadside diner in Texas, Frederick Winthrop Clopp reflects on his long friendship with the enterprising Augustus "Geechy" Cheevers: As privates fighting in the South Pacific, Geechy convinces Freddy to undertake a risky maneuver, then wins medal for it himself. Geechy, who worships the robber barons, tells Freddy that his fondest desire would be to have "old money." After the war, the two friends drift apart. Freddy returns to Texas and marries his sweetheart Emily, has two children, and goes to work as a mechanic in Lorgan's garage. One day, Geechy shows up at the garage and insists that Freddy join him for coffee. Still a charming hustler, Geechy regales his friend with stories of his adventures over the past six years, distorting the facts to make himself sound more successful. When they return to the garage, Lorgan reproaches Freddy for neglecting his work, and Geechy's blustering interference gets Freddy fired. While standing in line at the unemployment office, Geechy sees the stunning Beverly Ambridge and tries to flirt with her. Geechy moves in with the Clopps, and although Emily resents his freeloading, he assures her that he has big plans for her husband. After mortgaging Freddy's house, the friends open a service station. Business is slow until Geechy has the idea to put up stop signs at the nearby intersection. One day, a shifty man named Mr. White drives in with Beverly and questions Freddy and Geechy about their operation. Several weeks later, White's Circle Star gas station opens directly across the street, featuring discounted fuel and the curvaceous Beverly as attendant. Freddy and Geechy's business promptly dries up, and Freddy despairs over the financial hardship on his family. One afternoon, Geechy happens to speak with some linemen for the Magnagold Oil Company, and is amazed to learn that there is a major gasoline pipeline just six feet underground. Geechy persuades Freddy to dig a tunnel under the station and tap into the pipeline, and they run a hose from the pipe into their own gas tanks. With a free source of high-octane gasoline, Geechy and Freddy begin a price war with the Circle Star, despite threats from White, and eventually drive their competitor out of business. Freddy then proposes disconnecting their secret gas supply and running their business honestly, but Geechy refuses, citing capitalist principles to justify their actions. Geechy hires Beverly to work at their station, attracted by both her beauty and her passion for money. The partners then expand their business by supplying gasoline to other service stations, transporting the fuel in an old pie wagon hitched to a tow truck. Profits increase, and Geechy and Beverly become engaged. One night, however, while Geechy and Freddy are filling the pie wagon with gas, Beverly discovers the secret pipeline and angrily breaks the engagement. After Beverly leaves, two men rob the station at gunpoint, and one of them flicks his cigarette near the pie wagon, causing an explosion. With their station destroyed, Geechy and Freddy flee, but eventually run out of money and go to a police station to turn themselves in. The buddies stand trial, but because no single act of theft was big enough to qualify as grand larceny, they are given light sentences. While Freddy and Geechy are in the county jail, Emily and Beverly pool their resources and open a diner. When the men are released, they are given lowly jobs in the diner, and Geechy continues to work on schemes to make them all rich.
Nancy Lee Davis
William "bill" Phillips
A. Cameron Grant
A. Arnold Gillespie
Alfred E. Spencer
Edwin B. Willis
A Slight Case of Larceny
They play old Army buddies who team up to open their own gas station. Rooney is the overly self-confident brains behind the operation, and Bracken plays along with his schemes. Their new business turns out to be a success, but trouble looms when a big oil company opens a competing station directly across the street. The only solution, as far as Rooney can see, is to try to siphon gas from the other guys' pipelines, which, in a stroke of dumb luck, run right beneath our heroes' lot. That turns out to be a bad idea.
Rooney and Bracken were a fitting screen team, but they had more in common than their nerdy, unglamorous screen characters. Both actors began their careers at very young ages, and hit their strides early in life, although Rooney was by far the bigger star of the two. In light of that, it's surprising that Bracken wound up coming to Rooney's aid in the 1970s. At the time, Rooney was at a low-ebb, up to his neck in divorce settlements and virtually un-hirable as an actor. In his autobiography, Life Is Too Short, he says he knew he had hit the bottom when he supplied narration for a soft-core porn documentary called Hollywood Blue (1970).
Rooney was utterly broke, having less than $100 in his bank account, when Bracken unexpectedly came to visit him in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Bracken asked his old acquaintance if he would appear in a play with him called, if you can believe it, Three Goats and a Blanket. As Rooney wrote in his book, Bracken said, "We can't pay you what you're worth, Mick, but we'd love for you to do it. It's going to start in about ten days, and we'd like to go into rehearsal in the next two or three days." Rooney goes on to say that he wanted to kiss Bracken on the lips.
Not surprisingly, Rooney aced his role as a man who's shelling out the vast majority of his income on alimony payments. The play became a regular part of his career for the next decade, keeping him in decent money whenever he needed it. Bracken even returned once in a while to re-join Rooney for a few performances.
Later, Rooney's screen career would also pick up again. He would eventually garner appreciative reviews for his work in Carroll Ballard's The Black Stallion (1979), and even received a well-deserved Emmy award for his role as a mentally challenged man in Bill (1981). Bracken, for his part, is probably best known to younger viewers as the owner of the Disney-like Wally World in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983).
Who says American lives don't have second acts?
Producer: Henry Berman
Director: Don Weis
Screenplay: Jerry Davis (based on the story by James Poe)
Cinematography: Ray June
Editor: Ben Lewis
Art Design: Cedric Gibbons and William Ferrari
Principal Cast: Mickey Rooney (Augustus "Geechy" Cheevers), Eddie Bracken (Frederick Winthrop Clopp), Elaine Stewart (Beverly Ambridge), Marilyn Erskine (Emily Clopp), Douglas Fowley (Mr. White), Robert Burton (Police Captain), Charles Halton (Willard Maibrunn), Henry Slate (Motor Cop), Rudy Lee (Tommy Clopp), Mimi Gibson (Mary Ellen Clopp).
by Paul Tatara
A Slight Case of Larceny
The working title of this film was My Pal Geechy, which is also the title of the unpublished short story on which it was based. The film includes a running voice-over narration spoken by Eddie Bracken as his character, "Frederick Winthrop Clopp." According to pre-production news items in Hollywood Reporter, Carleton Carpenter was originally cast as Freddy. Hollywood Reporter news items also include Elaine Mahnken (Mickey Rooney's then wife) and Russ Saunders' acrobatic troupe in the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. After completing A Slight Case of Larceny, Eddie Bracken (1915-2002) left Hollywood and worked exclusively on the stage, except for a few bit parts in Italian films. After a thirty-year absence, he returned to Hollywood for a role in the 1983 film National Lampoon's Vacation.