A former vaudevillian, the great comedian Fred Allen found his fame in radio but was unable to navigate a suitable transition to TV (“Television is a medium,” he once observed, “because it is neither rare nor well done.”). He made a few casual appearances in movies but only once, in 1945, did he take full advantage of that particular medium.
That film, one of the “lost” trailers featured in our Great Global Trailer Search, was, until its recent home video revival, very nearly a lost film in itself. More’s the pity because It’s in the Bag, Allen’s sole starring vehicle, is an overlooked comic gem.
A surreal-screwball farce fueled by Allen’s perpetually perplexed sad sack persona and out-of-left-field set pieces (like a nightmarish trip to the movies that predicts the vertiginous pitfalls of a crowded Imax theater), It’s in the Bag recalls the anything goes Paramount heyday of W.C. Fields and the Marx Bros. (an uncredited Morrie Ryskind, screenwriter for A Night at the Opera and Animal Crackers pitched in with Allen on the script).
Very loosely based on The Twelve Chairs, a comic Russian novel from 1928 (adapted in 1970 by Mel Brooks), Allen plays Fred Floogle, the unlucky ringmaster of a flea-bitten flea circus who lands a huge inheritance (memorably trumpeted in a newspaper headline, “Cootie Coach Cops Cash”.)
Crisply assembled by journeyman director Richard Wallace, It’s in the Bag is stacked with wonderful comedians and equally funny character actors including William Bendix, Don Ameche, Jerry Colonna, Robert Benchley, Victor Moore and, of course, Allen’s longtime “nemesis”, Jack Benny. TFH takes special notice of John Carradine as the potentially/almost certainly shady lawyer, Jefferson T. Pike.
Heretofore available in a sub-par vhs transfer and dull, greyed out TV broadcasts, It’s in the Bag has been given a new lease on life by Olive Films with their splendid new Blu-ray release.
So, if anybody out there knows the whereabouts of the trailer for this little treasure, stop by the Great Global Trailer Search page and spill the beans!