The Fuller Brush Girl (1950)
This Frank Tashlin script starring Lucille Ball can best be described in a couple ways. Firstly it’s like a Jerry Lewis movie minus Jerry in the lead role. I say this with no nasty intentions. It’s just that Tashlin wrote and directed a number of Lewis projects including Cinderfella and The Disorderly Orderly the following decade. Secondly we could say it’s laying the groundwork for any number of episodes on the hit TV show I Love Lucy that followed in 1951 making the comedic red head a star around the globe.
This time out under the Columbia banner and director Lloyd Bacon, Lucy is paired with Eddie Albert for a series of jobs, mishaps, and murders as the duo play a young couple looking to make ends meet with enough left over to buy their first home and get married. Both work at a steamship cargo company.
She runs the switchboard (cue the comedy images) and Eddie is a grunt who needs a higher paying job. Fortunately for him, or so he thinks, their shady boss needs a pigeon to oversee an arriving ship with some illegal cargo. Eddie would make for the perfect fall guy.
Let the slapstick begin when Lucy gets fired from the switchboard and moves into door to door sales as The Fuller Brush Girl. Her first call is classic when none other then 1948’s Fuller Brush Man, Red Skelton answers the door. Seconds later he shuffles her back on to the street having sold HER some goods. Next up she gets coerced into a magazine subscription. Things aren’t working out for dear Lucy as one house call follows another. More so when she leaves a quartet of old girls with make overs and very little hair through no fault of her own.
Part of any slapstick farce is the mistaken identity gag and Lucy is about to find herself as the chief suspect in a murder case that all begins in Eddie’s office and his shady boss played by Jerome Cowan. Comical hijinks follow as Eddie and Lucy find themselves on the run and of course the only way out is to prove her innocence is to unveil the real killer and criminal gang they are soon to cross paths with. Kind of tough when another body is laid at their feet. The trail of thieves lead them to a burlesque joint where Lucy finds herself on stage to Eddie’s embarrassment and to John Litel as the company lawyer who may not be the savior they think him to be.
Shipboard shenanigans follow as Eddie and Lucy play hide and seek with a gang of cutthroats. Truthfully the ending is more than a little strained but a drunken Lucy shines amidst all the hijinks as the film comes to it’s “happy ever after” close.
This film offers a great opportunity to see two stars of the studio system before they would find everlasting fame on the small screen. Lucy on her own hit show with Desi Arnaz and for Eddie Albert, his role as Oliver Wendell Douglas on Green Acres. Both sitcoms were regularly shown on TV while I was growing up in reruns and while I think it safe to say that Lucy is forever identified with her own show, I think the same came be said of Eddie on Acres though his career was very long and diverse. I like him best when starring as a light leading man as he does here though in his later roles he could very easily play a nasty SOB on screen. Instantly recalling The Longest Yard as a great example. Much like Andy Griffith did after his long run on Mayberry came to a close.
I recently picked this title up in a 4 pacl of Lucy titles from the budget label, Mill Creek, should you be looking to acquire a copy.