Knock on Wood (1954)

103 mins | Comedy | July 1954

Full page view
HISTORY

Norman Panama and Melvin Frank’s onscreen credit reads: “Written, produced and directed by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank.” The film opens with voice-over narration describing the French’s top secret project and the two enemy agents charged with stealing its plans. According to a 16 Nov 1952 NYT item, Panama, Frank and star Danny Kaye formed Dena Productions specifically to make Knock on Wood . Moira Shearer was mentioned as a possible co-star in the item, while Deborah Kerr was announced as a likely leading lady in a Nov 1952 LAT item. As noted in a Dec 1953 This Week Magazine article, Kaye finally chose Swedish film star Mai Zetterling after he saw her in a play in London. Knock on Wood was Zetterling’s first American film. According to a Jan 1953 LAT item, Panama and Frank traveled to London to cast members of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet company in the picture, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       Although early production news items announced that the film was to be made in Europe, only a few scenes with Zetterling and Kaye's double were shot abroad, the rest of the picture was filmed in Hollywood. A Mar 1953 HR item announced that the picture would be filmed in widescreen 3-D, but it was released only in widescreen. As noted in a 23 Jul 1953 HR news item, production shut down temporarily after Pat Denise, who plays Kaye’s mother in the picture, suffered “severe leg injuries” during filming. According to a Jul 1953 ... More Less

Norman Panama and Melvin Frank’s onscreen credit reads: “Written, produced and directed by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank.” The film opens with voice-over narration describing the French’s top secret project and the two enemy agents charged with stealing its plans. According to a 16 Nov 1952 NYT item, Panama, Frank and star Danny Kaye formed Dena Productions specifically to make Knock on Wood . Moira Shearer was mentioned as a possible co-star in the item, while Deborah Kerr was announced as a likely leading lady in a Nov 1952 LAT item. As noted in a Dec 1953 This Week Magazine article, Kaye finally chose Swedish film star Mai Zetterling after he saw her in a play in London. Knock on Wood was Zetterling’s first American film. According to a Jan 1953 LAT item, Panama and Frank traveled to London to cast members of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet company in the picture, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       Although early production news items announced that the film was to be made in Europe, only a few scenes with Zetterling and Kaye's double were shot abroad, the rest of the picture was filmed in Hollywood. A Mar 1953 HR item announced that the picture would be filmed in widescreen 3-D, but it was released only in widescreen. As noted in a 23 Jul 1953 HR news item, production shut down temporarily after Pat Denise, who plays Kaye’s mother in the picture, suffered “severe leg injuries” during filming. According to a Jul 1953 DV item, Kaye’s onscreen dummies were designed using photographs of Kaye as a child. The dummies were fitted with a full set of plastic teeth, installed by dental technician Glen Cargyle, and their toupees were made by Max Factor, according to the DV item. For their work on the film, Panama and Frank were nominated for an Academy Award (Writing, Story and Screenplay) and for a WGA award. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 May 53
p. 202.
American Cinematographer
Aug 53
pp. 382, 390-92.
Box Office
3 Apr 1954.
---
Box Office
10 Apr 1954.
---
Daily Variety
13 Jul 1953.
---
Daily Variety
31 Mar 54
p. 3.
Film Daily
31 Mar 54
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 1953
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jun 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1955
p. 1.
LAT This Week
6 Dec 1953.
---
Life
22 Mar 1954
pp. 133-34, 136.
Look
20 Apr 1954.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
7 Apr 1954.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Nov 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Jan 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
3 Apr 54
p. 2245.
New York Times
16 Nov 1952.
---
New York Times
15 Apr 54
p. 34.
Newsweek
12 Apr 1954.
---
Time
26 Apr 1954.
---
Variety
31 Mar 54
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Dances and mus numbers staged by
Asst dance dir
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Toupees for dummies
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Dental tech
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"All About You," "Knock on Wood" and "Monahan O'Han," words and music by Sylvia Fine.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1954
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 6 April 1954
New York opening: 14 April 1954
Production Date:
early June--late August 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Dena Productions
Copyright Date:
1 August 1954
Copyright Number:
LP3982
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
103
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16693
SYNOPSIS

On his last night performing in Paris, American ventriloquist Jerry Morgan insults his fiancée, ballerina Audrey Wood, through his dummy Clarence, then insists that he had nothing to do with it. Fed up with Jerry’s hostile, neurotic behavior, Audrey ends their engagement and leaves for London, prompting Jerry to slam Clarence onto his dressing room floor. Jerry’s longtime manager, Marty Brown, witnesses the attack and announces that he is quitting unless Jerry gets psychiatric help. Though apprehensive, Jerry agrees to fly to Zurich to see Dr. Kreuger and takes the broken Clarence and his twin dummy Terence to Maurice Papinek’s repair shop. At the same time, secret agent Brodnik steals the blueprints for two French-built weapons known as “Lafayette X.V.27” and eludes the police long enough to deliver them to his contact, Papinek. Papinek, who is patching up Clarence and Terence, stuffs the blueprints inside the dummies’ heads and instructs Brodnik to call Lazlo Gromek in Zurich about retrieving the documents. While sneaking home, Brodnik is shot by police but, before expiring, calls Gromek and reveals that the blueprints are arriving in Zurich with a “redheaded ventriloquist.” Unknown to Brodnik, the call has been overheard by agents representing master spy Godfrey Langston, an aristocratic but amoral Englishman. After the agents inform Langston about Brodnik’s conversation, Langston deduces that the ventriloquist must be Jerry and arranges to fly to Zurich with him. During the flight, Jerry, who is nervous about seeing Kreuger, irritates fellow passenger Ilse Nordstrom with his oafishness, then acts baffled when Langston, who assumes that Jerry is a rival agent, calls him to his side ... +


On his last night performing in Paris, American ventriloquist Jerry Morgan insults his fiancée, ballerina Audrey Wood, through his dummy Clarence, then insists that he had nothing to do with it. Fed up with Jerry’s hostile, neurotic behavior, Audrey ends their engagement and leaves for London, prompting Jerry to slam Clarence onto his dressing room floor. Jerry’s longtime manager, Marty Brown, witnesses the attack and announces that he is quitting unless Jerry gets psychiatric help. Though apprehensive, Jerry agrees to fly to Zurich to see Dr. Kreuger and takes the broken Clarence and his twin dummy Terence to Maurice Papinek’s repair shop. At the same time, secret agent Brodnik steals the blueprints for two French-built weapons known as “Lafayette X.V.27” and eludes the police long enough to deliver them to his contact, Papinek. Papinek, who is patching up Clarence and Terence, stuffs the blueprints inside the dummies’ heads and instructs Brodnik to call Lazlo Gromek in Zurich about retrieving the documents. While sneaking home, Brodnik is shot by police but, before expiring, calls Gromek and reveals that the blueprints are arriving in Zurich with a “redheaded ventriloquist.” Unknown to Brodnik, the call has been overheard by agents representing master spy Godfrey Langston, an aristocratic but amoral Englishman. After the agents inform Langston about Brodnik’s conversation, Langston deduces that the ventriloquist must be Jerry and arranges to fly to Zurich with him. During the flight, Jerry, who is nervous about seeing Kreuger, irritates fellow passenger Ilse Nordstrom with his oafishness, then acts baffled when Langston, who assumes that Jerry is a rival agent, calls him to his side and obliquely discusses buying the documents from him. At both the London airport and the hotel, Gromek tries to make contact with Jerry by whispering his own name, but the American assumes that “Gromek” means thank you in German and dismisses him. In the middle of the night, Jerry is half-awakened by hissing radiators and stumbles into a neighboring suite, thinking it is Marty’s. Jerry falls asleep in the nearest vacant bed, only to discover the next morning that he is in Ilse’s room. After Ilse throws him out, Jerry accidentally enters the women’s bathroom and unknowingly showers in the stall next to Ilse’s. Upon being discovered by an irate Ilse, Jerry stammers more apologies, then encounters Gromek in the hallway. When Gromek suddenly mentions Papinek, Jerry tells him about the condition of his dummies, giving Gromek an idea. Sometime later, Gromek sneaks into Jerry’s room, removes the blueprint from Clarence and leaves, unaware of the second blueprint’s existence. At the same time, Langston learns about Gromek and Papinek and plots to steal the blueprints from Jerry. At his office, Dr. Kreuger, meanwhile, introduces Jerry to his psychiatric colleague, who turns out to be Ilse. Ignoring his flirtations, Ilse injects Jerry with truth serum and listens as he describes how his parents’ frequent fights upset him, and their vaudeville act entranced him. After Ilse concludes that Jerry’s fear of marriage stems from his unhappy childhood, Kreuger declares that Jerry must go with Ilse to London to continue his treatment. Ilse and Jerry fly to London on Langston’s private plane, and Jerry continues to be impressed by Langston’s apparent kindnesses. Later, during his first session with Ilse, Jerry notices a photograph of an American officer on her desk and jealously begins questioning her about it. Ilse admits that the officer was her sweetheart and was killed in combat, then kicks Jerry out. The next day, however, he follows her around town and confronts her about the guilt she feels for surviving the war. Jerry’s astute assumptions melt Ilse’s resistance, and they end up in each other’s arms. Meanwhile, Gromek and Papinek, both of whom have flown to London, meet at Gromek’s hotel, where Papinek orders Gromek to retrieve the other blueprint. Gromek enters Jerry’s hotel room at the same time as one of Langston’s agents, and after tossing a knife into the agent, Gromek shoves the body into a closet and hides when Jerry walks in. Bubbling with love, Jerry soon heads over to Marty’s room, and during his absence, Gromek tears apart the dummies. Gromek then is interrupted by the arrival of another Langston spy, who forces him at knifepoint to telephone Papinek and make arrangements to turn over the second blueprint. Moments later, Jerry returns and, upon discovering the first agent dead in the closet, runs for the police after pocketing Gromek’s dropped room key. While hysterically trying to explain things to the police, Jerry opens another closet door, and Gromek’s body falls out. Suspected of both crimes, Jerry flees the police, ending up in a pub, where a group of Irishmen are having a party. To blend in, Jerry pretends to be Irish and soon passes out with drink. Finding Gromek’s room key in Jerry’s pocket, the Irishmen take him to Gromek’s hotel. The following afternoon, Jerry, unaware that Chief Inspector Wilton is with her, phones Ilse, who agrees to come to the hotel. Jerry hides his face when the hotel clerk brings him some food, but his cover is blown as soon as he opens the closet and Papinek’s body tumbles out. Jerry again flees, ending up at a car dealership, where he impersonates both a customer and a salesman and steals a sports car. Ilse, meanwhile, tells Wilton that Jerry will probably go to Langston’s, and Langston is notified. As predicted, Jerry races to Langston’s estate, but is grabbed as soon as he arrives. Jerry breaks free and hides under a table just as Langston and Brutchik, the spy to whom Langston is selling the blueprints, sit down to discuss the transaction. Jerry eavesdrops until his presence is discovered, but manages to escape by throwing his voice and impersonating the police. In the sports car, Jerry tears back to town and takes refuge in a theater where Audrey is about to perform a ballet. To elude the police, who have been summoned by a frightened Audrey, Jerry dons a costume and joins the other dancers on stage. When Langston’s men try to kill him from the wings, however, Jerry gives himself up, but implicates Langston as a murderous spy. Wilton refuses to consider his claims until Langston inadvertently reveals the weapon’s secret name. Wilton arrests Langston, and later, a just married Jerry and Ilse look forward to a happy, sane honeymoon. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.