Saturday, June 19, 2010

GHOST CATCHERS - Olsen & Johnson - "High Spirits" (1944)

I was recently lamenting the lack of quality comedy team duos in the present day, it used to be such a common thing, but as far as I'm concerned, the last great comedy team to work in the movies was Cheech & Chong, followed by Penn & Teller. In the old days, they used guys who either had radio shows like Amos & Andy, or it was just an extension of an already existing vaudeville, or Broadway act, like tonight's stars, those not so common household names in this day and age, but they should be, Ole Olsen & Chic Johnson!!

No, Olsen & Johnson have not exactly withstood the test of time popularity like Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, or Martin & Lewis, but boy, did they make a couple of movies that should be in the Comedy Hall of Fame of all time, like tonight's especial feature brought to you courtesy of Professor Grewbeard & Huckleberry Margaritas, "Ghost Catchers"!!!

Martha Driscoll as Susanna Marshall and her sister have been brought out from Georgia by their Dad to perform in New York, and they are staying in a mansion that is believed to be haunted!

The family is awakened on their first night by loud noises and a mysterious message by what seems to be a ghost!!

Susanna gets so scared by all the commotion that she books it out of the house, and heads on over to the neighbors to ask for help and consolation, and after being nicely greeted initially, the next thing she knows is, she's gagged and bound, and sitting in an electric chair!

The following year Martha O'Driscoll would play Miliza Morelle in the classic House of Dracula. After having a run of 39 films in 10 years, Martha decided to get married and breed thoroughbred horses!

"Three cheers for the customer, the customer is always right!"

Susanna Marshall had no idea that the next door neighbor was actually Olsen and Johnson's club. Even in real life Ole and Chic were known for their wild Hellzapoppin' act! By the way, "Hellzapoppin'" is also the name of another one of their freakin' amazing movies we will be discussin' in the future!

Sight gags, sound gags, explosions, midgets, phony guns and knives, Olsen & Johnson were irrepressible and unstoppable! They were both former musicians, Olsen played the violin and Johnson was a ragtime pianist, so their act and their films were both insanely funny and full of music!

Morton Downey was one of the featured musicians in this film, doing an excellent job of playing himself!

So after that wild beginning, Susanna is joined by her father, Walter Catlett as Colonel Breckinridge Marshall, and her sister, Gloria Jean as Melinda Marshall, in an effort to root out the ghost! Goria started her career at 13 in "The Under-Pup," and Walter was usually typecast as a Colonel or a Mayor!

The Marshalls elicit the help of Olsen & Johnson and a bunch of jitterbuggin' teenagers to help them find, and get rid of the ghost!

Somewhere in the midst of all this krazy ghost chasin' jitterbuggin' is 19 year old ultimate Dungeon Hero, Jerry Warren, dancin' his ass off, in his first film ever! Yes, THAT Jerry Warren!

More arcane and cryptic messages!

A good part of the reason that the work of Olsen & Johnson is different than the aforementioned duos is they didn't have a straight man, they were both insane, so a lot of time the humor is just zany non-stop madness.

The quality of the talent associated with "Ghost Catchers" is evidenced by the presence of heavies like Andy Devine as "Horsehead" and Lon Chaney Jr, as "Bear!"

There is just no way to go wrong with a good water gag!

In most of the 'Haunted House/Ghost' comedy flicks of the 40's, there weren't really any ghosts, but usually hoodlums or nazi spies, making the place seem like it was haunted to keep people away, and this one does have the underlying crime tale, but there also is a real ghost too!!

Ole Olsen's Son-in-law was William Lear, who invented the Lear Jet, but more importantly, he also invented the 8-track player, so they we could all rock out in our cars in the 1960's and 70's!

Director Edward F. Cline made scores of slapstick comedies from 1916 to 1951 featuring some of the best comics of all time, including names like Slim Summerville, Ben Turpin, Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, Wheeler & Woolsey, and The Ritz Brothers, and a lot of them are Shorts, so you'd be wise to try and see all 171 of them if you can!!


prof. grewbeard said...

who knew Andy Devine could be so scary?...

word verification- "dingship"

Christopher said...

Its a real crime there isn't a Set of Olsen and Johnson dvds out by now!The Marx Bros. aint got nothing on Hellzapoppin'and Crazy House for sheer lunacy!If only Chic and Ole had met Frankenstein!
and I agree about Eddie Cline,his body of work in silents alone is staggering.He needs to be more recognized.
hey..I love THE CREEP guys! :o))

Karswell said...

Man I need to see this, like NOW!

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

Somebody needs to petition Universal!!

Greg Goodsell said...

The customer is always right!

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

Dingship! So you know you're at the right place!

Paul Castiglia said...

Hey, don’t forget that the Frankenstein Monster actually did make a cameo in Olsen & Johnson’s “Hellzapoppin!” I’m writing a blog-to-book project on classic horror-comedies and “Ghost Catchers” is one of a handful of films I’m covering that not only add some unique twists to the genre, but in the case of “Ghost Catchers” actually turn the genre on its head. And really, would you expect anything less from Olsen & Johnson? Check out my project at

Ray Faiola said...

Eddie Cline also directed HELLZAPOPPIN'. His Academy billing is "Director of additional musical and comedy sequences". But the cutting and setups are all his, not a doubt. Plus, I have a studio recording of the Jane Frazee Calypso where the songwriters declare "Poor Mr. Potter never knew what it was all about". Looking at Potter's other films, it is mind boggling to imagine that he was ever considered to direct HELLZAPOPPIN'!

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