Keep "Dixiana" Back in Dixie!
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 11/10/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
""Dixiana" is perhaps the worst Wheeler & Woolsey comedy I have ever seen. The good news is, because it is so bad, rarely will you have to sit down and watch a movie as bad.
"Dixiana" is one of your typical RKO lavish musicals with big costumes and sets, a somewhat pleasant musical score, and a mixture of romance/comedy/musical. But the film fails to live up to the standard other RKO pictures have set.
First of all, I'm not the biggest Wheeler & Woolsey fan in the world. I have however seen 14 of their films together. Why? I like to collect rare films and Wheeler & Woolsey films are rare. If I see one I don't like to pass up the opportunity of collecting them.
I don't think Wheeler and Woolsey were as funny as some of the other comedians and comedy teams of their era. I find I'm much more involved in the work of Chaplin, Keaton, Fields, Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers. This is not to say I'm incapable of enjoying one of their films. I am. I have seen a few that I really enjoyed.
"Dixiana" takes place in the old south and tells the story of Carl Van Horn (Everett Marshall, whose mustache looks like it is about to eat him alive) he has fallen in love with a circus performer, Dixiana (Bebe Daniels) and plans on marrying her, which will break up her act with two comics, Peewee (Bert Wheeler) and Ginger (Robert Woolsey). Carl's father and stepmother however do not know about Dixiana's past and his stepmother will not allow Carl to marry the women fearing it will ruin her chance of getting into society, especially since Carl's father Cornelius (Joseph Cawthon, who appeared in the much funnier Wheeler and Woolsey comedy "Peach-O-Reno") has just inherited his family's Southern planation.
One of the film's biggest mistakes is not allowing Wheeler and Woolsey room for their comedy, even though it is pretty dated with Woolsey's stale one-liners. But, it is my opinion, the best Wheeler and Woolsey films were the ones that didn't concentrate so much on the plot but gave the comedy team plenty of room to do their stuff, that would include "Diplomaniacs" (their best film and one of the funniest comedies of all time), "Peach-O-Reno" and "Hips, Hips, Hooray". "Dixiana" on the other hand take too much time away from the team and injects too much romance. Over half the film involves the love story going on between Dixiana and Carl. We've seen this situation before, especially in Marx Brother comedies made after "Duck Soup" and Laurel and Hardy films of the 40's. It usually upsets fans of the comedy teams because they are mainly there to serve as comic relief, but the comedians usually have all the best parts. And that's pretty much true in the case of this film as well. While I admit, the film as a whole isn't very funny, the film's best moments are when Wheeler and Woolsey are on-screen.
Some people also complain the film is racist. I thought only the film's beginning moments, including the title song sung over the opening credits, showcased a kind of racist humor, that no doubt was seen as harmless in the day. I don't think a large number of people though would find the film offensive, in less of course you find unfunny films offensive.
Dorothy Lee has a very minor, and useless part in the film as Nanny, a dancer in a gambling casino Wheeler and Woolsey find themselves working in. Lee makes her appearance 50 minutes into the film, and the movie is only 99 minutes to begin with! Her character provides nothing to the story at all, despite the fact that I usually like her. I will in all fairness say her first appearance in the film gives Wheeler and Woolsey perhaps their best routine in the film as each man tries to go up to her room without the other one knowing.
"Dixiana" was directed by Luther Reed, a studio director whom had directed Wheeler and Woolsey's first film, "Rio Rita". "Rita" in my opinion was not a great film either, it suffered from this film's same problem of having Wheeler and Woolsey as comic relief, but it is more watchable than "Dixiana". Reed also wrote the film but it was based on a story by Anne Caldwell, who served as a writing source for Wheeler and Woolsey's next film, "Half Shot at Sunrise" (another far better Wheeler and Woolsey comedy). I mention this because Reed and Caldwell have worked with the team before so I find it odd how badly things went here. "Dixiana" was the team's third film (coming behind, in order, "Rio Rita" and "The Cuckoos", the latter being the better of the three) and proves to be lackluster and boring at best.
Bottom-line: The stale humor of Wheeler and Woolsey mixed with some racist undertones of the ol' south make "Dixiana" better left unseen. The comedy team is reduced to comic relief (and they barely provide any relief) and is plagued by bad joke after bad joke. Perhaps their worst film.
A very odd musical that grows on you
calvinnme | 03/24/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I had never seen the comedy team of Wheeler and Woolsey before I saw this movie, and at the very least they are an acquired taste. Apparently they were a successful Broadway act that made several movies together, all along the same style as this one. Wheeler plays the wide-eyed innocent to the more caustic Woolsey, whose comedy is very reminiscent of George Burns. "Dixiana" is basically a musical drama played out in the pre-Civil War south with comedy bits by Wheeler and Woolsey interspersed with the dramatic storyline. The problem is, this movie is just not big enough for the two of them. Wheeler and Woolsey's comedy really has nothing to do with the dramatic storyline, and the dramatic storyline is totally divorced from Wheeler and Woolsey's characters. It may be that scenes have been cut from this DVD version, since apparently at one point in time it has fallen into the public domain, but large parts of the dramatic storyline never get sewed up. For example, there is a scene where the villain says he had something to do with rigging a duel involving a relative of the hero of the dramatic storyline - and that's the last we ever hear of it. Also, somehow at the end the heroine, Dixiana, and her boyfriend are reunited, but there never is anything in the movie showing exactly how this was accomplished.
The music is pretty good, and the musical numbers have very lavish and in some cases unusual sets and costumes. The prime example is the opening number with Wheeler and Woolsey dressed up as dancing ostriches and Dixiana popping out of an egg to do her part of the musical number. Wheeler and Woolsey's comedy in this particular film falls flat by today's standards, but it is watchable enough. I'd say it's worth viewing just for the weirdness of it all."
I am your baby now...
croonin' | 03/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Recently at the Silent theatere in L.A. 30's style singer Janet Klein revived a song from Dixiana "I am Your Baby Now". In the film Bebe Daniles sings it, and she sings it after being carried on stage by two giant Ostriches, and she pops out of an egg, so sing it! Great performance. The film is funny and faetures soem great vaudevillians. A cute film with loads of charm, and a nice roamntic comedy. Although I must admid my favorite part of the film is Bebe singing in the egg!!!"