Who Done It? (1942)
When Thomas Gomez’s radio president is murdered on air during a live broadcast of Murder at Midnight it’s up to Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to play detective and solve the crime. Even if this means stepping on the toes of real detective William Bendix who just might be slower than Lou on spotting clues.
Bud and Lou play a couple of soda jerks who are looking to get in the radio industry as writers. Lou is forced to romance Mary Wickes at Bud’s urging. She just happens to be Gomez’s secretary. By the time of our on air murder Bud and Lou are in the studio and seize the opportunity to play Holmes and Watson.
Between the boys running around the studio and uncovering another murder victim and real copper Bendix turning up we have Patric Knowles as a real writer who is himself piecing the mystery together with girlfriend Louise Allbritton. Knowles decides to reenact the show that was intended to air during the murder which should lead to the guilty party incriminating him or herself.
As is customary with Bud and Lou films, the stories are secondary. The point of the movies are to give Bud and Lou a pedestal to deliver their vaudeville skits. This one has Lou being constantly bested by a bellhop and a play on words with Volts and Votes. Lou can’t quite understand the difference. The best gag just might be when they throw an in joke on their famous Who’s On First gag into the frenetic pace.
Tough guy Bendix was just starting out on his film career in 1942 and makes a great foil opposite Lou in a does he or doesn’t he have handcuffs on skit. All I can say is be careful Lou. Mary Wickes also does well opposite Lou as a girl he isn’t overly excited about but with Bud pushing him he enters into a fun flirtation.
Erle C. Kenton directed this fun feature with the boys. At this point in his career Erle was going back and forth between Bud and Lou films and the Universal Monster series. He directed The Ghost of Frankenstein and both House of Dracula and Frankenstein. In the early thirties he also directed one of the great horrors. Island of Lost Souls.
Leading man Patric Knowles was a jack of all genres during this time. He appeared in films from the monster series like The Wolf Man and it’s first sequel to some of Errol Flynn’s features over at Warners. He would mainly move into television during the fifties.
Whether you love Bud and Lou or just want to check out some of their films, this is a good one to sit in on.