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KENTUCKY KERNELS (1934) **

Before George Stevens directed such classics as Gunga Din, Shane, and Giant, he did this hit or miss Wheeler and Woolsey comedy. 

 

A man tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge and lands in two starving magicians’ (Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey) fishing nets.  They decide to cheer him up by adopting Spanky from The Little Rascals from an orphanage ran by Margaret Dumont for him, but when he runs off to elope, the boys are stuck with Spanky.  The kid has a bad habit of breaking glass, but as it turns out, he’s also inherited a plot of land in Kentucky and W & W head down south to claim it.  Little do they realize that it lands them right smack dab in the middle of a Hatfield and McCoy style feud.    

 

While Kentucky Kernels isn’t nearly as funny as some of the duo’s other comedies, at least the budget was bigger than what the boys were normally used to.  Their material isn’t the best, but they’re still fun to watch.  Spanky steals all of their scenes from them and is quite a good comedian himself.  It’s also neat to see Dumont without the Marx Brothers for a change.  The songs are all fairly innocuous (the scene where Spanky serenades a dog is unmercifully cute), but doesn’t hamper the film’s momentum too much.  Some of the verbal repartee between Wheeler and Woolsey isn’t bad, but most of the sight gags (like the climax where a horse drinks a barrel full of moonshine) are pretty weak.   


Fans of the comedy team will want to check it out, but if you’ve never seen any of their flicks, I’d probably recommend you watch a better vehicle like Mummies’ Boys first.  Stevens also directed the duo in the next year’s The Nitwits.

Tags: comedy, k, wheeler and woolsey
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