Cast & Crew
In a fifteenth century English town, Bert, a poor kleptomaniac, pilfers the carriage of the coach on which he and his partner Bob have been sneaking a ride. Bert and Bob are caught and are locked in the village stocks. There, they are pelted with vegetables, until Mary Ann, a young commoner who has disguised herself as a stableboy in order to avoid marriage to the aging Duke of Weskit, rides by and helps them to escape. The trio arrive at an inn where the duke's boar-hunting nephew, the Baron, is dining. Penniless, Bob and Bert concoct a plan to eat without paying, but are pleasantly surprised when Mary Ann announces that she has one hundred sovereigns. Made generous by Mary Ann's cash, Bob and Bert treat all of the inn's customers to food and drink. As they are about to pay, however, Bert is overcome by his kleptomania and steals not only Mary Ann's money, but the innkeeper's as well. To flee from the innkeeper and Andrew the Jailer, who has tracked them from the stocks, Bob and Bert overwhelm two wealthy men and exchange clothes with them. In the men's coach, Bob and Bert discover a letter that identifies their counterparts as the king's physicians. Although Mary Ann is dismayed when the coach delivers them to the duke's estate, Bob happily introduces himself to the Baron's beautiful wife, Lady Genevieve, and proceeds to administer to the duke, who has been suffering from insomnia brought on by Mary Ann's humiliating disappearance. In spite of their ignorance, Bert and Bob "cure" the duke and ingratiate themselves in his household. That night Mary Ann kisses Bert impetuously and reveals her disguise and her predicament. While Bert dedicates himself to Mary Ann, Bob flirts with Genevieve until intimidated by the threatening growls of the Baron's dog, Brutus. The next night, however, Bob forces Brutus to accept him, unaware that the Baron has trained the dog to reveal, by his friendliness, any man who has become intimate with his wife. When the Baron returns the next day from his boar hunt, Bob's flirtation with Genevieve is thus exposed by Brutus. Although furious, the Baron stifles his violent jealousy out of respect for the king. Later, at the duke's betrothal party, Mary Ann overhears the duke threatening her father with money demands and, to save him, sheds her disguise and accepts the engagement. During the party, Black Devil, a wild boar whom the Baron has been stalking fanatically, is spotted in the area. The Baron offers 5,000 sovereigns to anyone who catches the boar, but as Bert nobly accepts the challenge, the king's physicians arrive and reveal the duo's ruse. After a prolonged chase involving both the Baron and Black Devil, the duo finally capture the boar and win Mary Ann's freedom.
Alfred P. James
Pandro S. Berman
P. J. Faulkner Jr.
Van Nest Polglase
The comic duo plays a couple of 16th century ne'er-do-wells who keep landing in prison and the stocks because of Wheeler's kleptomania (it's so bad that he even finds himself having to deny the crime when he hears a gossip say a woman's face has been lifted). The two find themselves posing as the king's physicians and insinuating themselves into a story involving a runaway bride-to-be disguised as a boy. The film is notable for a scene spoofing the Greta Garbo cross-dressing classic Queen Christina (1933) and the riotous boar hunt, a sequence achieved through some masterful trick photography.
The alluring screen comic Thelma Todd, here making her second picture with the duo as the sassy and philandering Lady Genevieve, would probably be nearly forgotten today if not for her mysterious and untimely death (ruled a suicide but suspected by many to have been murder). Her career lasted only two more years, but her popularity was such that she managed to appear in nearly 20 more films in that short time.
Todd's husband, the pompously brutish Baron, is played by Noah Beery, brother of Academy Award® winner Wallace Beery, and father of character actor Noah Beery, Jr., who appeared in a number of well-known films and as James Garner's father on the TV series The Rockford Files.
The other lead female, Dorothy Lee, practically built her career on Wheeler and Woolsey movies. She made her second picture with the team in their screen debut, Rio Rita (1929), a part she was awarded after Wheeler spotted her in her first film Syncopation (1929). She appeared with them 15 more times, usually as Wheeler's sweet but spunky love interest, before retiring from acting in the early 1940s. In an interview late in her life, Lee said Cockeyed Cavaliers was her favorite picture with the duo, along with Hips, Hips, Hooray! (1934), which also starred Thelma Todd. She also said she got along well with the rather happy-go-lucky Wheeler but found Woolsey to be a bit domineering and insistent on having things done his way.
Mark Sandrich went on to direct five Astaire-Rogers musicals and the multiple Oscar®-nominated women-at-war drama So Proudly We Hail! (1943). He died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 44 while directing his last picture Blue Skies (1946).
Although some viewers assume Wheeler and Woolsey were a longstanding vaudeville team, the two were actually teamed for the first time in the stage production of Rio Rita. They quickly moved to motion pictures and worked together until Woolsey's early death of kidney failure at the age of 50 in 1938. Prior to shooting Cockeyed Cavaliers, the team was scheduled to make a college spoof entitled Frat Heads, but because of the success of Laurel and Hardy's 18th century comedy The Devil's Brother (1933) and Eddie Cantor's Roman Scandals (1933), set in ancient Rome, RKO decided on a costume period comedy. A few publicity stills are all that remain of Frat Heads.
Director: Mark Sandrich
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay: Grant Garett, Ben Holmes, Edward Kaufman, Ralph Spence
Cinematography: David Abel
Editing: Jack Kitchin
Art Direction: Carroll Clark, Van Nest Polglase
Original Music: Roy Webb, songs by Val Burton and Will Jason
Cast: Bert Wheeler (Bert), Robert Woolsey (Bob), Thelma Todd (Lady Genevieve), Dorothy Lee (Mary Ann), Noah Beery (The Baron), Robert Greig (The Duke).
by Rob Nixon
You blew your nose!- Bert
I did not blow my nose. It was your imagination!- Bob
Oh, no. My imagination doesn't make a noise like that.- Bert
Get that silly look off of your face! Every time you do that I know you're ready to lift something--and you promised me you weren't gonna steal another thing!- Bob
You know I can't help lifting things. It's a disease! Y'know, the doctor says that I'm a kleptomaniac.- Bert
Yeah, well why don't you take something for it?- Bob
I've taken everything. But you know, I don't really steal.- Bert
Aw, no, you don't steal--you just find a lot of things that haven't been lost, that's all!- Bob
Hi there, Jen! Doggone, what a beautiful dress you have on!- Bob
My dressmaker says it's the coming thing.- Lady Genevieve
Heh! It must be coming--because there's a lot of it that hasn't arrived yet.- Bob
'Bert Wheeler' and Robert Woolsey were originally scheduled to star in a college spoof entitled "Frat Heads", but with the success of Laurel and Hardy's "Fra Diavolo" and Eddie Cantor's "Roman Scandals", RKO decided to make a costume period piece. All that remains of "Frat Heads" is a few publicity stills.
Reviewers commented that a scene from the 1933 M-G-M film Queen Christina, in which Greta Garbo, who has disguised herself as a man, reveals herself, is parodied in this film. Hollywood Reporter production charts add Cupid Morgan and Frank Baker to the cast, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed.