It's in the Bag! (1945)

87 mins | Comedy | 21 April 1945

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Fickle Fortune . Morrie Ryskind's onscreen writing credit reads: "We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Morrie Ryskind to this photoplay." After the film's title card, Fred Allen appears onscreen and, while addressing the audience, delivers the following commentary: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Fred Allen. I'd like to ask you a simple question. Why is it when you folks come into a theater like this to see a picture, before you could see the picture, you have to sit there and look at a list of names for twenty minutes? Now for example, the first name you see is Jack Benny." This statement is followed by a series of offscreen comments, spoken by Allen as the credits appear onscreen: "Who needs Jack Benny, a little radio actor, in a picture like this when we have Don Ameche, an outstanding personality, William Bendix, a three-fisted he-man, Victor Moore, grandma's glamor boy, and Rudy Vallee, fresh from Yale....On top of Benny you have to look at a long list of names like this. [Supporting cast.] Who knows who these people are? Who cares? You can find names like these in any phonebook....Screen treatment and screen play. These four people are now out of work. You'll see why in just a minute....Ryskind's contribution. In one scene, the family is eating dinner. Ryskind loaned us a half a pound of butter so the bread would look yellow in the close ups....Look at that top name--associate producer. He's the only man in Hollywood who would associate with the producer....Get a load of this mob. [Crew ... More Less

The working title of this film was Fickle Fortune . Morrie Ryskind's onscreen writing credit reads: "We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Morrie Ryskind to this photoplay." After the film's title card, Fred Allen appears onscreen and, while addressing the audience, delivers the following commentary: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Fred Allen. I'd like to ask you a simple question. Why is it when you folks come into a theater like this to see a picture, before you could see the picture, you have to sit there and look at a list of names for twenty minutes? Now for example, the first name you see is Jack Benny." This statement is followed by a series of offscreen comments, spoken by Allen as the credits appear onscreen: "Who needs Jack Benny, a little radio actor, in a picture like this when we have Don Ameche, an outstanding personality, William Bendix, a three-fisted he-man, Victor Moore, grandma's glamor boy, and Rudy Vallee, fresh from Yale....On top of Benny you have to look at a long list of names like this. [Supporting cast.] Who knows who these people are? Who cares? You can find names like these in any phonebook....Screen treatment and screen play. These four people are now out of work. You'll see why in just a minute....Ryskind's contribution. In one scene, the family is eating dinner. Ryskind loaned us a half a pound of butter so the bread would look yellow in the close ups....Look at that top name--associate producer. He's the only man in Hollywood who would associate with the producer....Get a load of this mob. [Crew credits.] They're all relatives of the producer. In Hollywood, all the producer produces is relatives....Here's Mr. Skirball's name again. He's in twice you see. Well, it's his picture....This is Mr. Skirball's father-in-law. [Director credit.] Another relative." Allen concludes the credit sequence with the following statement, spoken onscreen: "That's what I mean. Why should you folks have to sit out there and have to look at all these names? You know some day I'm going to get my own relatives and produce my own picture. And my picture will start with the story. Like this. One night last November, an eccentric millionaire sat in his den making out a new will..."
       Although no literary work is listed onscreen or in reviews, the SAB notes that the idea for the screen treatment is "from another source." Modern sources credit the 1928 Russian novel Twelve Chairs by Elia Ilf and Evgenii Petrov as the source of the film. It's in the Bag! resembles the novel only in that it features a fortune-laden chair the whereabouts of which must be discovered by the protagonist. The popular novel was the source for many other films, including the 1936 British picture Keep Your Seats Please and the 1970 American-Yugoslavian film Twelve Chairs , directed by Mel Brooks and starring Frank Langella and Dom LeLuise. According to an Oct 1944 NYT article, producer Jack Skirball got the idea for the film's chase sequence from Alfred Hitchcock, with whom he made the 1943 film Shadow of the Doubt .
       It's in the Bag! was Fred Allen's first film after a four-year hiatus. The radio star's previous film, Love Thy Neighbor , also starred Jack Benny and was a send-up of the two comedians' much-publicized on-air feud. The Oct 1944 NYT article states that Allen's and Ryskind's contracts allowed them to participate in the film's profits and gave Allen full story and director approval. Minerva Pious also portrayed the chatty "Mrs. Nussbaum" on Allen's radio show. It's in the Bag! marked Don Ameche's first film appearance since leaving Twentieth Century-Fox, the studio at which he worked for many years. According to an Aug 1944 HR news item, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were scheduled to appear in the picture. Although a HR news item announced that Frank Sinatra would be performing a song in the picture, only a few seconds of a Sinatra recording are actually heard. Gloria Pope made her screen acting debut in the film. HR production charts and news items add Marek Windheim and Charles Judels to the cast; Judels was not in the released film, but the appearance of Windheim has not been confirmed. Windheim may have provided the offscreen bass voice in the barbershop quartette scene.
       On 17 Feb 1950, the Hallmark Playhouse broadcast a radio adaptation of the story, starring Fred Allen. In Aug 1951, public hearings of the U.S. Senate's Crime Investigating Committee revealed that Abner "Longy" Zwillman, an ex-bootlegger and New Jersey racketeer, had a six percent interest in It's in the Bag! , along with his attorney and trustee Arthur Garfield Hays. Zwillman made $12,000 on the picture, according to a Var news item. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Feb 1945.
---
Daily Variety
8 Feb 45
p. 3.
Film Daily
13 Feb 45
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 44
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 44
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Aug 44
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 44
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 44
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 44
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 44
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 44
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 44
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Feb 45
pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 45
p. 12.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Dec 44
p. 2230.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Feb 45
p. 2317.
New York Times
15 Oct 1944.
---
New York Times
11 Jun 45
p. 12.
Variety
14 Feb 45
p. 14.
Variety
22 Aug 1951.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Scr trmt
Scr trmt
[Contr wrt]
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Int decorations
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus score comp
SOUND
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Curse of an Aching Heart," words by Henry Fink, music by Al Piantadosi.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Fickle Fortune
Release Date:
21 April 1945
Production Date:
mid Sep--24 Oct 1944
Copyright Claimant:
Manhattan Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
21 April 1945
Copyright Number:
LP13221
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
87
Length(in feet):
7,330
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
10575
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

After changing the terms of his will, bequeathing all of his fortune to his long-lost grandnephew, millionaire Frederick Trumble slips a packet of money inside a chair seat. He is then shot and killed by an unseen assailant. When Trumble's grandnephew, flea circus operator Fred F. Floogle, learns that he is Trumble's heir, he and his family move into the same fancy hotel at which his daughter Marion's fiancé, Perry Parker, lives. They then go on a spending spree, buying expensive items on credit. Feeling cocky, Floogle demands that Marion stop seeing Perry, because Parker, Sr., the "exterminator king," once insinuated that the Floogles were too lowbrow for Perry. At the reading of the will, however, Floogle and his wife Eve learn from Trumble's lawyer, Jefferson T. Pike, and Trumble's former associates, Arnold and Gardner, that because the eccentric Trumble had squandered his wealth, their inheritance has been reduced to five chairs. Now faced with enormous debts, Eve convinces Floogle to make amends with Parker before their poverty is exposed. Unknown to the Floogles, Parker is an ordinary exterminator, who has been given a free room in the hotel in exchange for his services. While pretending to be rich, Parker demonstrates Perry's latest invention, a better mouse trap, and talks Floogle into agreeing to co-invest $25,000 in its development. Later, Trumble's chairs arrive at the Floogles' apartment, and Floogle's young son Homer, a genius with a photographic memory, offers to sell them at an antique store. Moments later, police detective Sully informs Floogle that Trumble's death, which had been made to look like a suicide, has now been ruled a murder and ... +


After changing the terms of his will, bequeathing all of his fortune to his long-lost grandnephew, millionaire Frederick Trumble slips a packet of money inside a chair seat. He is then shot and killed by an unseen assailant. When Trumble's grandnephew, flea circus operator Fred F. Floogle, learns that he is Trumble's heir, he and his family move into the same fancy hotel at which his daughter Marion's fiancé, Perry Parker, lives. They then go on a spending spree, buying expensive items on credit. Feeling cocky, Floogle demands that Marion stop seeing Perry, because Parker, Sr., the "exterminator king," once insinuated that the Floogles were too lowbrow for Perry. At the reading of the will, however, Floogle and his wife Eve learn from Trumble's lawyer, Jefferson T. Pike, and Trumble's former associates, Arnold and Gardner, that because the eccentric Trumble had squandered his wealth, their inheritance has been reduced to five chairs. Now faced with enormous debts, Eve convinces Floogle to make amends with Parker before their poverty is exposed. Unknown to the Floogles, Parker is an ordinary exterminator, who has been given a free room in the hotel in exchange for his services. While pretending to be rich, Parker demonstrates Perry's latest invention, a better mouse trap, and talks Floogle into agreeing to co-invest $25,000 in its development. Later, Trumble's chairs arrive at the Floogles' apartment, and Floogle's young son Homer, a genius with a photographic memory, offers to sell them at an antique store. Moments later, police detective Sully informs Floogle that Trumble's death, which had been made to look like a suicide, has now been ruled a murder and that he is the prime suspect. A bank official then gives Floogle a phonograph record entrusted to him by Trumble. Floogle is stunned to hear Trumble's voice, advising him that he had been swindled, but had placed his remaining $350,000 in one of the five chairs. Floogle immediately telephones the antique shop, but learns that all five chairs already have been sold. Unaware that Pike, Arnold and Gardner are the swindlers and are spying on him, Floogle demands that Finley, the dealer, make a list of the chairs's buyers. As Finley is turning the list over to Homer, however, the shop is set on fire by Pike. Homer is rescued, and although he managed to read the list before it was destroyed, the shock of the fire has caused him to forget all but one name. The one buyer, Mrs. Pansy Nussbaum, however, informs Floogle that she just sold the chair to Jack Benny. Posing as the president of the Nutley, New Jersey Jack Benny fan club, Floogle is invited into Benny's home and, after some haggling, convinces the star to rent him the chair. Floogle quickly discovers that the chair is empty and is nearly run down by thugs in Pike's employ. Later, Floogle and Eve take Homer to a psychiatrist, Dr. Greengrass, who they hope will be able to jog the boy's memory. While waiting for Homer, Floogle and Eve go to a nearby movie theater, where they spot another one of Trumble's chairs. Floogle and Eve trick their way out of the theater with the chair, but once again, find it empty. After the neurotic quack Greengrass moves in with the Floogles, Homer remembers another name--Phil's Naughty Nineties Café. Unable to enter the crowded café as a customer, Floogle poses as a bass singer, so that he can join the establishment's barbershop quartet. While singing with the group, which features "has-been" celebrities Don Ameche, Victor Moore and Rudy Vallee, Floogle sees two Trumble chairs in the audience, but in his zeal to get them, he instigates a brawl. The fight ends when a shot rings out, and Gardner, who was seated with Pike and Arnold, is found dead. As Sully finds Floogle next to the body, he is arrested for murder. Later, Floogle, whose lost fortune has been exposed, is visited in jail by Pike and finally deduces that the lawyer is the murdering swindler. Pike then arranges bail for Floogle, and Homer suddenly remembers the last name--Bill Bendix, the vitamin-popping leader of a gang of crooks. Watched by Sully, Pike, Arnold and Homer, Floogle breaks into Bendix' den and finds the chair, but has to hide under Bendix' desk when his cohorts enter. The thugs discuss their plot to murder Bendix by sending an electric shock through wires planted in the Trumble chair, which they are presenting to him as a birthday gift. While hiding, Floogle finds the money in the chair, but when the thugs shock then shoot Bendix, Floogle's noisy, terrified shaking gives him away. The thugs force Floogle to carry Bendix' body to the river, but on the way there, Bendix awakens, having only been stunned because he was wearing a bullet-proof vest. Just as Bendix admits to Floogle that he hates being a gangster, Arnold sneaks up on Floogle and attacks him. Homer dashes up and knocks out Arnold, and later, Bendix offers to torture Arnold and Pike into confessing. After Bendix gives them both "hot feet," Arnold admits in writing that he killed Gardner, while Pike confesses that he killed Trumble. Homer then reveals to Bendix that his chair is stuffed with money, and although he ends up losing most of his inheritance, Floogle is given enough money to pay his debts and bankroll his daughter's lavish wedding. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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