So when a Moose suggests you review a movie about a squirrel, what other choice does a guy have? I didn't remember having ever seen this film before, but I was able to locate a copy on Netflix! As far as I can tell, this film has fallen off the wagon of X-mas classic faves, and it's not so much a X-Mas movie, but more a movie that just happens during the Christmas season!
So, without further adieu, put your hands together, and let's hear a loud round of applause for George Pal's "The Great Rupert"!!! (The crowd goes crazy!)
Things weren't always so rosy for Rupert. At the beginning of the film, Rupert and his pal and trainer Jimmy (Dick Tracy's Dilemma) Conlin as vaudeville performer Joe Mahoney, are getting kicked out of their apartment for never having paid rent for six months! Their agent's girlfriend is totally bored as he tells them there's no work for a squirrel! It ain't box office, and she's got more important things to do!
Joe leaves the apartment and releases Rupert in the park, when he runs into another group of performers he knew from the good old days, The Amendolas!! It's almost Christmas, and the Amendolas don't even have a roof over their head, so even though they have no money, they head on over to the apartment that Joe just vacated! Louie Amendola is played by the amazing Jimmy (Strictly Dynamite) Durante, his wife is Queenie (The Snake Pit) Smith, and their beautiful daughter Rosalinda is played by Terry (Death Dimension) Moore! The Amendola's act consisted of them stacking up as a human pyramind with Rosie on the top dressed as an angel, and Pop on the bottom juggling! It became increasingly difficult as Rose matured into a woman, gained weight, and Momma broke her arm! Rosie's feet are killing her, she hasn't got a new pair of shoes in years, and she's outgrown the one pair she does have.
The landord is Frank (Boston Blackie) Orth as the very uptight Frank Dingle! He's joined in this scene by his loving wife, Sara (She-Wolf Of London) Haden as Mrs. Dingle, and their unemployed tuba-playing songwriter of a son, Tom (The Cyclops, The Beginning Of The End) Drake as Pete Dingle! The Dingles live in the nice house above the dingy apartment where the Amendolas dwell! "The Great Rupert" is a movie about the haves and the have nots!
One thing for certain, they absolutely don't make characters like Jimmy Durante anymore! In this scene he tries to chisel Candy (The Phantom Tollbooth) Candido as Molineri the Florist, out of 60 cents, by bidding $1.00 on this little disaster of a X-Mas tree, when he only has 40 cents, and tells him he'll pay him the rest later!
The funniest thing is that with all his top billing, Rupert himself has a very small part in this film! Here's the whole deal in a nutshell! Shortly after the Amendolas moved in, Dingle suddenly has $1500.00 a week coming in from an old gold mind investment, and he doesn't trust the bank, so he squirrel's in off into the wall, not knowing that Rupert resides there too. Mrs. Amendola happened to be praying to God at the same time, when from out of the sky and through the broken skylight drops 15 one hundred dollar bills courtesy of Rupert and the unknowing Mr. Dingle. Next thing you know, she's praying every Thursday at the same time that he's making his deposits, and the Amendolas are suddenly becoming very wealthy! Like Jesus in a tortilla, they think it's just a miracle!!
Terry Moore is cute as a bug! At one point when they See Mr. Dingle in front of the bank, Rosalinda remarks that she has never been in a bank. That's how poor they were!
When Momma got the first bits of cash, she went out and bought a huge Christmas tree, and surprised Poppa and Rosie with a big turkey dinner to boot!!
Jimmy Durante performs a rollicking number he wrote himself with the help of Harry Crane, "Isn't It A Shame That Christmas Comes But Once A Year?" Harry Crane must have had a great sense of humor, since he was the main writer on TV shows like "The Jackie Gleason Show," and "The Dean Martin Comedy Hour!"
Since Rosalinda was a harpist, Peter Dingle wrote a song for her and him to perform together entitled "Melody For Two Orphan Instruments." In real life, it was written by Fred (Girls, Girls, Girls) Spielman, Buddy (I Dream of Jeannie) Kaye, and Eden (The Boy With Green Hair) Ahbez!
When juggling walnuts go up, but don't come back down, Rosalinda starts getting suspicious!!
In an attempt to impress Rosie, Peter Dingle actually goes out and gets a job as a soda jerk, but it's not before long that he smashes a banana split in a wisecracking customer's face!
Rupert delivers the goods right on time each and every week, and the Amendolas just keep getting richer!
This looks like a charcoal portrait of the master of comical disaster, Jimmy Durante! What a guy, here's a short list of character's Jimmy's portrayed on the big screen, Daffy, Schnozzle, O.O., Curly, Jimmy, Ptomaine, Knobby, Happy, Fingers, Jeeper, Banjo, and Moxie!
The Amendola's are spending and loaning money like there's no tomorrow, and it's not long before the I.R.S. and the F.B.I. show up with a lot of questions that need some answers, like, where's the money coming from?
The whole place burns down when Rupert retrieves a lit cigarette, and when Rosalinda hears bits of information, she suddenly understands where all the money came from! Nobody else figures it out. The Amendolas help rebuild the Dingle's house, Pete gets his song published, so him and Rosie can get married, and Joe comes back to reunite with Rupert!
Joe is given a chance to take Rupert's act out on the road, and before you know it, "The Great Rupert" is getting top billing!
Although it would be considered juvenile by today's CGI standards, what George Pal was doing in 1950 was cutting edge animation! After "The Great Rupert," George Pal would go on to produce some of the best Sci-Fi films ever made, like "Destination Moon," "When World's Collide," "The War Of The Worlds," "Conquest Of Space," "The Time Machine," and "7 Faces Of Dr. Lao!" So there you go, Jimmy was right, Christmas can come more than once a year!!!