Wonder Man (1945)
What’s better than one Danny Kaye?
Two I suppose. If your a fan like me. Add in his frequent leading lady, the beautiful Virginia Mayo and we have a fun filled technicolor extravaganza highlighted by dance numbers featuring Vera-Ellen.
This Goldwyn production by way of RKO begins with Danny playing the star comedian at The Pelican Club. He’s always “on” and bursting with energy when chatting with backstage members and cab drivers. Vera-Ellen is his dancer girlfriend and the woman he intends to marry. Things are about to go awry for Danny when local hood Steve Cochran makes bail. Danny is scheduled to testify that Cochran did indeed commit a murder.
Cochran sends in a couple of “the boys” to take him for a ride. Allen Jenkins and Edward Brophy do just that dumping the bullet riddled body of Danny off a bridge into a river below.
With our leading man killed shortly after the film’s opening we can take solace in the fact that Danny’s star comedian has a super identical twin played by Danny. Who else? The only thing is, he’s a rather quiet bookworm who is scared to death of women. Still he does attract the blonde haired librarian played by Miss Mayo. (I don’t recall any librarians looking like Virginia when I was a frequent visitor in my researching film books growing up)
Our quiet and shy Danny begins to hear music and otherworldly noises that lead him to the bridge where our first Danny took a dive. With the use of some slick F/X, Danny appears opposite himself as the smooth talker convinces the mopish version that he is indeed dead. A ghost who needs his live brother to take his place and see to it that he is avenged and Cochran locked up.
In order to pull off much of the ruse, funny man Danny enters the body of his brother leading to some major hi-jinks when Cochran and his cronies find out that Danny is still alive. Or so they believe.
The major laughs occur when our shy Danny is abandoned by the spirit of his brother and must fend off not only the gangsters but Vera-Ellen who believes she is to be married very shortly to Kaye. All this while poor Danny would like nothing better than to court Miss Mayo who is beginning to think Danny is “nutty as a fruitcake.”
With all the plot devices here, Danny Kaye is given a wide berth to run wild with this role ranging from crashing the stage and singing opera to driving S.Z. Sakall crazy down at the local butcher shop. Along with Sakall, Jenkins and Brophy there are a few other faces one is sure to recognize. Huntz Hall turns up as a sailor who gets caught between Spirit Danny talking to Live Danny getting totally confused as to the conversation which seems aimed at his girl. Ray Teal of Bonanza makes an appearance as does Otto Kruger as the D.A. and Natalie Schafer, better known as castaway Mrs. Howell.
Kaye has always reminded me somewhat of Robin Williams. Turn him loose and begin laughing at his antics. This comedy adventure gives Danny plenty of opportunity to do just that as he takes to the stage at the Club in the movie. Listen close to catch the many nods to stars of the day when Danny is running at the mouth. Miss Mayo and Danny would have a run of successful romantic flicks mixed with music and adventure over the next few years under the guidance of Samuel Goldwyn before going separate ways in the decade ahead.
Vera-Ellen is probably more recognizable then Mayo as a Danny co-star to the general public nowadays due to the multiple showings of White Christmas on TV every year.
A fun time to be had here and thanks to the Warner Archive Collection, a set of Danny’s titles has been made available in a set package.