Fit For a King (1937)

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Virgil Ambrose Jeremiah Christopher “Scoop” Jones (Joe E. Brown) is the go-fer at the New York Daily Blade newspaper. Scoop has big dreams of becoming the star reporter for the Blade, but is having trouble reaching those dreams despite the fact that his uncle owns the newspaper. The editor, Hardwick (Russell Hicks), has absolutely no faith in Scoop and will let him do nothing but deliver sandwiches to the staff.

With no confidence that Scoop can tackle a real, hard-hitting story, Hardwick sends him off to cover the potential assassination of Archduke Julio (Harry Davenport), which he believes is a completely phony story. Scoop follows Julio to Europe along with a rival reporter, Briggs (Paul Kelly).

While on the trail of the story, Scoop meets and quickly falls for Jane Hamilton, unaware that she’s actually Princess Helen, the soon-to-be Queen of Julio’s homeland. Scoop continues to pursue “Jane” (whose identity is eventually uncovered by Briggs), all the while trying to get the scoop on the big story and competing with Briggs every step of the way.

Edward Sedgwick (1928’s The Cameraman, 1927’s West Point) directs Fit For a King, the 1937 comedy based on Richard Flournoy’s original script.

Joe E. Brown is remembered for his supporting roles, the most memorable of which is certainly his portrayal of Osgood – the man who falls in love with Jack Lemmon’s “Daphne” – in 1959’s Some Like It Hot.

In Fit For a King, he is able to shine in a top-billed role. He’s perfectly capable of carrying this film. He’s absolutely hilarious (as usual), and gets the chance to do more than just show off his comical, ultra-expressive face.

Fit for a King is packed with quite a few great slapstick moments, in addition to some very humorous dialogue. And funnily enough, we get to see Joe in the opposite position of his famous Some Like It Hot role; Here, he dresses in drag for a short while as he is working on the big story and is pursued by a man.

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In addition to Joe’s great performance and character, the film is paced very well. There are a few dull moments in the beginning, but it picks up very soon and moves along steadily (though not quickly) throughout the rest of its fairly short, 73 minute running time.

The plot is nothing particularly unique, and not terribly inspired. We’ve seen dozens of rookie reporters sent out on wacky assignments in films over the years. However, this one does pack a couple of surprises and many, many laughs – some of which left this viewer cackling like a hyena, such as the great attempted escape by Scoop when he gets “locked” in a cellar. Many of the funniest scenes occur near the film’s end, and the ending itself manages to not only be funny but also leave the viewer feeling like all of the film’s earlier action got wrapped up nicely.

Joe is obviously the star of the show here, but leading lady Helen Mack does give him a bit of a run for his money. She’s beautiful and gives a very effective performances, even managing to pull a bit of real emotion out of the viewer in the midst of all of the laughs. As a pair, Joe and Helen are pretty cute. They have good chemistry, but it’s mostly the way that the character are written that makes them endearing as a couple. In one scene, Princess Helen tells Scoop how she feels about him while giving him “info” for the big story — and he takes notes the entire time, practically oblivious to the fact that she’s spilling her heart to him.

Overall, Fit For a King is a funny film that does a pretty good job of showcasing Joe E. Brown’s immense comedic talents.
The score: 3.8/5

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