Some great entertainers...and take the time to read about th
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 06/21/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Killer Diller is one of the hundreds of films Hollywood churned out in the Thirties and Forties with minimal budgets, usually limited skills with the behind-the-camera personnel and with all-black casts. As soon as the pictures were in the can they were sent out to play in the movie equivalent of the old vaudeville chitlin' circuit...movie theaters in the South that played to segregated black audiences and movie theaters in the north that played to almost exclusively black audiences. The movies might have been second rate but the artists seldom were. Hollywood might now be incessantly patting its back about how liberal and open-minded it is toward black actors (we won't get into the situation with Latinos), but a generation ago just about the only opportunity for talented and skilled black entertainers were in these unofficially segregated movies. If we want a better understanding of Hollywood movie-making, we need to see some of these films. For many of the entertainers featured, these films are the only record we have of what they could do. On the one hand, these movies make a sad and discouraging story. On the other, what wonders these artists could perform.
Killer Diller has the slightest of story lines, something about Mortimer Dumdone (George Wiltshire), the impresario of a theater who is presenting a variety show, somehow seeing his fiance, Lola (Nellie Hill) disappear in a magic trick with a string of expensive pearls around her neck. A fake magician (Dusty "Open the Door, Richard" Fletcher), pretending to be Voodoo Man, is responsible. Dumdone's secretary, Butterfly McQueen, calls in the cops, who turn out to be a quartet of bumbling, falling, sprawling incompetents. Now forget all that. The point of the movie is the variety show, and it's a lot of fun. Basically, the director set up his camera facing the stage and then took a long lunch break. Let's see...there's Andy Kirk and His Orchestra doing some great, driving swing numbers featuring jazz saxophones...vocalist Beverley White, a cross between Pearl Bailey and Ethel Waters, singing "I don't want to get married...
for when you're single you have so much fun.
I don't want to get married
'cause two don't live as happily as one.
Now I might want to stay out late some times all the way next day
And I don't want to be worried about what my husband's goin' to say."
There's Patterson and Jackson, two large and very round singers, one a first-rate tap dancer, who manage among their other bits to do a wonderful impression of the four Ink Spots...Moms Mabley, that rough-voiced, dry-witted comedienne, serves up laughs and a song...The Clark Brothers, two young men who are all fast taps and smooth moves, never let up in a long tap routine...The King Cole Trio performs three numbers. Nat Cole already is as stylish and distinctive a vocalist as he was a great jazz pianist. There's also a dancing chorus and a blow-'em-away finale that brings the Trio and the Andy Kirk Orchestra together in a big, flashy swing number.
Every now and then we check back to see how the plot line is going.
Dusty Fletcher, the fake magician, is a comic actor with great timing. He also, like so many black comedians way back when, uses all the black exaggerations in the book to get laughs, just as so many Jewish comedians have used all the stereotyped "Jewish" characteristics. It seems that when an ethnic comedian uses stereotypes to get laughs from his or her own ethnic group, it's accepted, even if uneasily at least by those not of the group. But a comedian not of the ethnic group using those same comedy lines and voice inflections just seems odious. It's an uncomfortable and understandable situation. We might make a joke about our Aunt Bertha, but we don't want to hear a joke about her coming from the neighbor down the block. Yet I still felt awkward seeing Fletcher saying and doing the kind of eye-rolling exaggerations that made Amos and Andy popular back then and which seem extraordinarily condescending now. The saving grace, I suppose, is that Fletcher may be playing an unschooled charlatan, but the man's as sly as a fox, as shrewd as a Washington lawyer and a heck of a lot funnier than either Amos or Andy.
The DVD is grainy, full of vertical, wavering lines and will probably never see any restoration efforts. Surprisingly, the audio isn't bad."
Great entertainment !!!
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 05/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I for one REALLY liked this movie. Oh, sure, these Hollywood musicals from the 1940s never had much of a plot--and this movie is no exception. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the singing and dancing in "the show" within the show even if the plot is razor thin!
The action begins in a theater on the day of an important show. The theater manager, Mr. Dumdom (George Wiltshire), gives a beautiful string of pearls to his fiancée, Lola (Nellie Hill). When Lola goes missing after Dusty Fletcher's magic trick goes bad, Dumdom calls in the police. The police play the equivalent of a black Keystone Cops group who are about as clueless as anyone could ever get. They follow Dusty Fletcher the magician all over the theater without much success at catching him and solving the puzzle of the whereabouts of Lola and the missing pearls.
Will the cops ever retrieve the missing pearls and Lola? Will magician Dusty Fletcher go to jail? What about the Mr. Dumdom's secretary, Butterfly (Butterfly McQueen), who is wooed by Dusty the magician? Will they marry? How does Jackie "Moms" Mabley manage to control the house when things go really wrong? No spoilers here--you'll just have to watch the movie to find out the answers!
Although there is a plot, it is razor thin as I mentioned before. The real value of Killer Diller rests in the show that Mr. Dumdom puts on for the crowd at the theater that evening. You get great entertainment that impressed me greatly! There's a rather young Nat "King" Cole playing piano and singing as part of the King Cole Trio; Moms Mabley does her standup comedy act; Beverly White belts out songs about being independent and free of marriage and The Clark Brothers do an awesome impersonation of The Ink Spots and they tap dance, too! The Andy Kirk Orchestra plays some great jazz and the show concludes with the beautiful Varietiettes young ladies dancing all over the stage. There's even more entertainment; but I'll leave the other parts out so you will get some very pleasant and entertaining surprises!
Overall, this movie gives us a rare look at how hard African Americans worked early on in the history of cinema. The acting may not always be the best; but the show stopping numbers rank a perfect score of 10 in my book! The image quality is not the best; apparently they did the best they could with film that had not been carefully preserved.
I highly recommend Killer Diller for persons who want to learn about the fine contributions African Americans made early on in motion pictures; and people who enjoy musicals with singing and dancing will enjoy this movie, too.
Great job, everyone!!!
Worth a look
Andre M. | Mt. Pleasant, SC United States | 03/23/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an interesting look at Black entertainment in the late 40s. Here, Dusty Fletcher (of Open the Door Richard fame) cuts loose and runs from the cops in a black theater. Along the way, Moms Mabley does some of her classic storyteling, Nat King Cole and his Trio provide some really good music, Butterfly MqQueen does a nice bit as a secretary, as well as a number of other acts who are largely forgotten today. However, the acting gets stiff at times and the Black Keystone cops try a bit too hard with the slapstick. But other than that, its good Sunday afternoon entertainment."