Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bob Hope, Marilyn Maxwell, Lloyd Nolan, Jane Darwell, Andrea King, Fred Clark, Jay C. Flippen, William Frawley, Harry Bellaver, Sid Melton, Ben Welden, Ida Moore, Francis Pierlot, Charles Cooley, Salvatore De Lorenzo, Harry Shannon, Tor Johnson, Bernard Szold, Tom Dugan
Written by: Edmund L. Hartmann, Robert O'Brien, Frank Tashlin, Irving Elinson, based on a story by Damon Runyon, Edmund Beloin
Directed by: Sidney Lanfield
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 91
Date: 03/08/1951

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Sweet and Sour

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I'm surprised this halfway decent Bob Hope movie hasn't become a Christmas classic. It's silly and fun, with just the right combination of big city-savvy and sentimental sweet. Hope plays an in-debt gambler -- very loosely based on a Damon Runyon character -- who must swindle a huge pile of cash during the holidays, so he sets up a fake old-folks home ("The Nellie Thursday Home For Old Dolls")! A range of delightful character actors either helps or hinders. Hope is pretty stressed throughout the movie, and it's a delightful break when "Silver Bells" comes on, showing Christmastime in the city at its best. Apparently co-writer Frank Tashlin directed a chunk of the movie without credit. Future Plan 9 from Outer Space star Tor Johnson appears as (not much of a stretch) a Swedish wrestler.

Though difficult to find for a very long time (I first saw it on television), Kino Lorber has at last released a Blu-ray in the summer of 2017. That gives everyone six months to grab a copy before the holiday season begins. The picture and sound are above-average, although no extras are included.

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