Series: ZaSu Pitts & Thelma Todd

Director: Marshall Neilan
Producer: Hal Roach
Photography: Art Lloyd
Editor: Richard C. Currier
Sound: Elmer Raguse

Stars: ZaSu Pitts, Thelma Todd, Guinn Williams
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 22 August 1931
Length: 2 reels
Production No.: A-1
Filming dates: May 18-25, 1931
Rating: 6/10
Catch-As Catch-Can

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ZaSu and Thelma are switchboard operators at the Empire Hotel and their shift begins with a drunken guest (Al Cooke) being kicked out of a party and bringing his telephone down to the front desk. The girls discuss an upcoming wrestling match involving Strangler Sullivan (Guinn Williams), whom is managed by Thelma's boyfriend Harry (Reed Howes), all whilst navigating the calls coming in. In their hotel room, Sullivan confesses to Harry that he is having second thoughts about the match and that he cares more about his farm than in winning the championship. Back in the lobby, the drunk tries to make a phone call from a booth but a woman with a bunch of flowers who had used the booth before him had attracted a wasp which has settled in the ear-piece of the telephone. Every time the drunk attempts to make a call he gets the buzzing in his ear. A beautiful woman ('Miss Russell' - actress unidentified) calls up to Harry, which is overheard by a jealous Thelma through her headset before going up to the wrestler's room. Manager Harry tells the woman, and two others who have joined her, to try and make the Strangler feel good and take his mind off being homesick. It has no effect, and Strangler goes downstairs to ask ZaSu to connect a long-distance call to Kansas. The two end up in a long, affectionate conversation which borders on flirting when Harry comes downstairs to see Thelma. The Strangler asks Thelma how he could win ZaSu's affections and she tells him about the hat ZaSu has been eyeing up in the French store across the way. The Strangler pulls his manager out of the phone booth and demands to know, "where can I buy a hat?"!
It's the night of the wrestling match and the girls arrive at the venue and try to find seats. A fat man (Frank Alexander) in the crowd restricts the girls from sitting down, whilst Thelma pulls a wig off a spectator's head and places it on a delighted bald man! In the ring, of the wrestlers is piledriving his opponent into the mat, when a spectator places his walnuts underneath the guy's head to crack them open. ZaSu, proudly wearing her new hat, gets told off by the guy sitting behind her (Edward Dillon) as it obstructs his view. Meanwhile, in the ring the preliminary match is getting dirty; biting, hair-pulling and tickling each other, not to mention some knot-tieing!
The main event arrives and Billy Gilbert introduces the match in his usual loud manner. The usher (Ham Kinsey) hands ZaSu a note from Strangler, telling her to wear the hat he bought for her as a sign of her love for him. But the guy behind keeps complaining about her wearing it and takes it off. The hat is then thrown and kicked around all over the place and ZaSu has to chase after it. The match is momentarily stopped when the nuisance man stands up and asks for a doctor. The crowd pelt the man with cushions as the fight continues [see favourite bit]. When a mouse runs up ZaSu's leg, she jumps up and screams, catching Strangler's attention who then turns the fight around and throws his opponent (Ivan Linow) out of the ring and onto the floor, wining the match. The girls rush into the ring to congratulate him but everybody quickly disperses when the mouse joins them!
Favourite bit
Thelma Todd shielding herself with an umbrella as the guy behind her is pelted with seat cushions. The look on her face reveals it to be genuine laughter.

Trivia
Copyrighted July 29, 1931.
This was the second film in the Pitts/Todd series.
The shop window seen at the very beginning of the film is "La Loie" - Articles De'Paris.
The three women assigned to make Strangler feel better are referred to as Mary Russell (woman who phones the room), Irene (blonde haired, looks like Estelle Etterre) and Sally (dark-haired).
The hallway with the elevator is the same one used by Laurel and Hardy in "Come Clean" - filmed around the same time.
When the Strangler and ZaSu are discussing Kansas, he asks here where she is from. She tells him Missouri. In actual fact, ZaSu was born in Kansas (which is right next to Missouri).
The note handed to ZaSu by the usher reads, "My Missouri Rose, if you are wearing the hat tonight I will know that you love me. I will be looking, Strangler. P.S. - Wear the hat."
When the crowd pelt Edward Dillon with seat cushions, Thelma protects herself with an umbrella. Where on earth did the umbrella come from? Also, it looks as though her reaction is of genuine laughter.
After ZaSu's encounter with the mouse, the film is sped up until the end of the fight. Two points here: the film was already well into its 22nd minute, so was over-running, and secondly, it was getting as boring as hell watching it by this stage!
SPOILER: The Strangler wins the wrestling match by way of a count-out.

What the experts say
"Decent enough." ~ Lord Heath.

ZaSu Pitts
ZaSu
Thelma Todd
Thelma
Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
Strangler Sullivan
Reed Howes
Harry, Strangler's manager
Dorothy Layton
Woman in phone booth with flowers
Frank Alexander
Fat man in audience
Sammy Brooks
Bald spectator
Al Cooke
Drunk
Edward Dillon
Wrestling match spectator
Billy Gilbert
Ring announcer
Buster Brodie
Bald spectator who receives wig
Bud Duncan
Referee
Estelle Etterre
Irene
Ivan Linow
Strangler's wrestling opponent
Ham Kinsey
Usher at wrestling match
Gordon Douglas
Hotel clerk
Dick Gilbert
Opponent's cornerman
  Kit Guard
[unidentified character]
   
 
UNIDENTIFIED

CREDITS

INTERIOR SHOT

PRODUCTION SHEET

Acknowledgements:
Jesse Brisson (identification of Buster Brodie and Bud Duncan)
George R. Dey (identification of Dorothy Layton)
The identification of Ham Kinsey, Estelle Etterre and Dick Gilbert are my own.

This page was last updated on: 09 November 2018