AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Public Pigeon No. 1
Director: Norman Z. McLeod (Dir)
Release Date:   Jun 1957
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 17 May 1957; Los Angeles opening: 5 Jun 1957
Production Date:   late Apr--late May 1956
Duration (in mins):   79
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Cast:   "Red" Skelton (Rusty Morgan)  
    Vivian Blaine (Rita De Lacey)  
    Janet Blair (Edith Enders)  
    Jay C. Flippen (Lt. Ross Qualen)  
    Allyn Joslyn (Harvey Baker)  
    Benny Baker (Frankie Frannis)  
    Milton Frome (Avery)  
    John Abbott (Dipso Dave Rutherford)  
    Howard McNear (Warden)  
    The Seven Ashtons    
    James Burke (Harrigan)  
    Herb Vigran (Club manager)  
    Bud Wolfe (Bud Ashton)  
    Tom Kennedy (Guard)  
    Frank Hagney (Convict)  
    Lyle Latell (Sgt. Ryan)  
    Danny Dowling (Bank clerk)  
    Max Wagner (Detective)  
    Jan Stachowski (Cigar clerk)  
    John Silver (Marvin)  
    Torben Meyer (Waiter)  
    Sidney Melton (Tony)  
    Maurice Manson (Mr. Forbes)  
    Babe London (Heavy woman)  
    Mary Treen (Mrs. Bates)  
    Eddie Baker (Mr. Glover)  
    Fred Aldrich (Heavy truck driver)  
    Charles Davis (Brady)  
    Scotty Beckett (Photographer)  

Summary: When Bumbler Rusty Morgan and his fiancée, Edith Enders, set up a joint bank account that consists mainly of her life savings, they commiserate that Rusty’s history of bad investments have left them too poor to marry. Rusty returns to work at a café, where his boss, Avery, complains about his constant tardiness. Con man Harvey Baker overhears and immediately identifies Rusty as an easy target, and so decides to swindle him. Pretending to be a rich man who discovers his uranium stock certificates are useless, Baker gives them away to Rusty. Baker’s cohorts, Frankie Frannis and Rita De Lacey, then enter the café and convince Rusty that the stock is worth $10,000. When Baker returns later, Rusty admits he has learned that the stock is valuable, and Baker “generously” allows him to buy it, using his and Edith’s entire savings. Baker takes Rusty to a bank, where Frankie pretends to be bank president Harper and vouches that the stock is good. Later, however, bunko squad Lt. Ross Qualen visits Rusty at the café and explains that the stock is fake, and there is a $10,000 reward offered for the swindlers. Disgusted by Rusty's stupidity, Avery fires him. Rusty offers to take Qualen to Harper, but when they reach the bank they are told that there is no Harper, and Qualen leaves in a huff. Edith is distressed to hear that Rusty has been fired, and grows more upset over the next few days, as his incompetence causes him to lose job after job. One day, Rusty recognizes Rita while she is performing at a dance hall, and follows her back to Baker’s office. There, he pretends to be a salesman to gain entrance to the office, and then, once recognized, lies that he is a government agent. Pushing a pencil into Baker’s back, Rusty claims it is a gun and nearly has the gang out the door when Rita knocks him out. When Rusty awakens, Baker convinces him that they are actually FBI agents infiltrating the racketeers, and, promising to return Rusty’s money, “hires” him as a secret agent. They send him off to collect monies from other dupes, but one victim provides the police with Rusty’s description. Without realizing it, Rusty evades Qualen and the police and deposits the money he has collected into a safe-deposit box. He returns to Baker’s office, where the gang, who know the police are on to them, “promote” Rusty to head of their company and sneak out the back door. The police enter, but Rusty, sure that Baker has precedence over the local law enforcement, refuses to talk and is arrested. After he is receives a five-year sentence, the crooks, certain that no one could be so gullible, assume that Rusty has stolen their money and is using prison as a refuge while he launders the cash. While they plan a jailbreak to get Rusty back into their custody, Edith visits him and forces him to confess the whole story. When he refuses to reveal Baker’s name, Edith informs Qualen and the district attorney, who agrees to allow Rusty to break out and then have him followed. Although the warden does all he can to let Rusty escape, the law-abiding prisoner barely notices, and must be helped out the door by the entire prison staff. Even then, he hops on a truck that drives back into the prison, after which the police hijack the truck and drive it to Edith’s house. When Rusty calls Baker, however, the con man explains that there is a detective tailing him, and persuades him to elude the policeman. Rusty meets with the gang, who hire alcoholic lawyer Dipso Dave Rutherford to acquire Rusty's power of attorney so the gang can access the safe-deposit box. Rusty recognizes Dipso Dave as one of the con men pointed out to him by the police, and finally realizes that the gang members are not FBI agents. They force him at gunpoint to sign away his rights, but he scribbles the name Peter Rabbit and runs out, followed by Baker and Frannis. Rusty sneaks back into the office and calls Qualen, who tells him to stay in the building until the police arrive. Rusty dons a series of costumes to confuse the gang, who chase him through the building but are easily distracted by his shenanigans. At one point, they capture him and drag him to the office, but after Dipso Dave knocks out Baker and Frannis, the police arrive and arrest the gang. With his $10,000 reward, Rusty is finally able to marry Edith the next day. Bumbler Rusty Morgan and his fiancé Edith Enders set up a joint bank account that consists mainly of her life savings, and commiserate that Rusty’s history of bad investments have left them too poor to marry. Rusty returns to work at a café, where his boss Avery complains about his constant tardiness. Con man Harvey Baker immediately identifies Rusty as an easy target, and starts a scam in which he pretends to be a rich man who discovers his uranium stock certificates are useless and so gives them away to Rusty. Baker’s cohorts, Frankie Frannis and Rita DeLacey, then enter the café and convince Rusty that the stock is worth $10,000. When Baker then returns, Rusty admits he has learned that the stock is valuable, and Baker “generously” allows him to spend he and Edith’s savings to buy it. The scam continues as Baker brings Rusty to a bank, where Frankie pretends to be bank president Harper and vouches that the stock is good. Later, however, bunko squad Lt. Ross Qualen visits Rusty at the café and explains that the stock is fake, and there is a $10,000 reward out for the swindlers. Avery overhears and fires Rusty, who offers to take Qualen to Harper, but when they reach the bank they are told that no Harper exists, and Qualen leaves in a huff. Edith is distressed to hear that Rusty has been fired, and grows more upset over the next few days, as he loses job after job for incompetence. One day, Rusty recognizes Rita’s photograph on the outside of a dance hall, and follows her back to Baker’s office. There, he pretends to be a salesman to get into the office, and then, once recognized, lies that he is a government agent. Pushing a pencil into Baker’s back, Rusty claims it is a gun and nearly has the gang out the door when Rita knocks him out. When he revives, Baker convinces him that they are actually Federal Bureau of Investigation agents infiltrating the racketeers, and, promising to return Rusty’s money, “hire” him as a secret agent. They send him off to collect monies from other marks, and one calls the police with Rusty’s description. Without realizing it, Rusty evades Qualen and the police and deposits the money he has collected into a safe-deposit box. He returns to the office, where the gang, who know the police are on to them, “promote” Rusty to head of their company and sneak out the back door. The police enter, but Rusty, sure that his bosses are superior to the local law enforcement, refuses to talk and is arrested. After he is receives a five-year sentence, the crooks, certain that no one could be so gullible, assume that Rusty has stolen their money and is using prison as a place to hide while he launders the cash. While they plan a jailbreak to get Rusty back into their custody, Edith visits him and forces him to confess the whole story. When he steadfastly refuses to reveal Baker’s name, Edith informs Qualen and the district attorney, who agrees to allow Rusty to escape and then have him followed. dAlthough the warden does all he can to let Rusty break out, the law-abiding prisoner barely notices, and must be helped out the door by the entire prison staff. Even then, he hops on a truck that drives back into the prison, and the police have to hijack the truck and drive it to Edith’s house. Once Rusty calls Baker, however, the con man persuades him to elude the detective tailing him. Rusty meets the gang, who bring in a fake lawyer, drunkard Dipso Dave Rutherford, to acquire power of attorney from Rusty so the gang can access the safe-deposit box. Rusty recognizes Dipso Dave as one of the con men shown to him by the police, and finally realizes that the gang are not FBI agents. They force him at gunpoint to sign away his rights, but he signs the name Peter Rabbit and runs out, followed by Baker and Frannis. Rusty sneaks back into the office and calls Qualen, who convinces him to stay in the office until the police arrive. Rusty dons a series of costumes to confuse the gang, who chase him through the building but are easily distracted by his shenanigans. At one point, they capture him and drag him to the office, but there Dipso Dave knocks out Baker and Frannis. The police enter in time to arrest the gang. With his $10,000 reward, Rusty is finally able to marry Edith the next day.  Bumbler Rusty Morgan and his fiancé Edith Enders set up a joint bank account that consists mainly of her life savings, and commiserate that Rusty’s history of bad investments have left them too poor to marry. Rusty returns to work at a café, where his boss Avery complains about his constant tardiness. Con man Harvey Baker immediately identifies Rusty as an easy target, and starts a scam in which he pretends to be a rich man who discovers his uranium stock certificates are useless and so gives them away to Rusty. Baker’s cohorts, Frankie Frannis and Rita DeLacey, then enter the café and convince Rusty that the stock is worth $10,000. When Baker then returns, Rusty admits he has learned that the stock is valuable, and Baker “generously” allows him to spend he and Edith’s savings to buy it. The scam continues as Baker brings Rusty to a bank, where Frankie pretends to be bank president Harper and vouches that the stock is good. Later, however, bunko squad Lt. Ross Qualen visits Rusty at the café and explains that the stock is fake, and there is a $10,000 reward out for the swindlers. Avery overhears and fires Rusty, who offers to take Qualen to Harper, but when they reach the bank they are told that no Harper exists, and Qualen leaves in a huff. Edith is distressed to hear that Rusty has been fired, and grows more upset over the next few days, as he loses job after job for incompetence. One day, Rusty recognizes Rita’s photograph on the outside of a dance hall, and follows her back to Baker’s office. There, he pretends to be a salesman to get into the office, and then, once recognized, lies that he is a government agent. Pushing a pencil into Baker’s back, Rusty claims it is a gun and nearly has the gang out the door when Rita knocks him out. When he revives, Baker convinces him that they are actually Federal Bureau of Investigation agents infiltrating the racketeers, and, promising to return Rusty’s money, “hire” him as a secret agent. They send him off to collect monies from other marks, and one calls the police with Rusty’s description. Without realizing it, Rusty evades Qualen and the police and deposits the money he has collected into a safe-deposit box. He returns to the office, where the gang, who know the police are on to them, “promote” Rusty to head of their company and sneak out the back door. The police enter, but Rusty, sure that his bosses are superior to the local law enforcement, refuses to talk and is arrested. After he is receives a five-year sentence, the crooks, certain that no one could be so gullible, assume that Rusty has stolen their money and is using prison as a place to hide while he launders the cash. While they plan a jailbreak to get Rusty back into their custody, Edith visits him and forces him to confess the whole story. When he steadfastly refuses to reveal Baker’s name, Edith informs Qualen and the district attorney, who agrees to allow Rusty to escape and then have him followed. dAlthough the warden does all he can to let Rusty break out, the law-abiding prisoner barely notices, and must be helped out the door by the entire prison staff. Even then, he hops on a truck that drives back into the prison, and the police have to hijack the truck and drive it to Edith’s house. Once Rusty calls Baker, however, the con man persuades him to elude the detective tailing him. Rusty meets the gang, who bring in a fake lawyer, drunkard Dipso Dave Rutherford, to acquire power of attorney from Rusty so the gang can access the safe-deposit box. Rusty recognizes Dipso Dave as one of the con men shown to him by the police, and finally realizes that the gang are not FBI agents. They force him at gunpoint to sign away his rights, but he signs the name Peter Rabbit and runs out, followed by Baker and Frannis. Rusty sneaks back into the office and calls Qualen, who convinces him to stay in the office until the police arrive. Rusty dons a series of costumes to confuse the gang, who chase him through the building but are easily distracted by his shenanigans. At one point, they capture him and drag him to the office, but there Dipso Dave knocks out Baker and Frannis. The police enter in time to arrest the gang. With his $10,000 reward, Rusty is finally able to marry Edith the next day.  Bumbler Rusty Morgan and his fiancé Edith Enders set up a joint bank account that consists mainly of her life savings, and commiserate that Rusty’s history of bad investments have left them too poor to marry. Rusty returns to work at a café, where his boss Avery complains about his constant tardiness. Con man Harvey Baker immediately identifies Rusty as an easy target, and starts a scam in which he pretends to be a rich man who discovers his uranium stock certificates are useless and so gives them away to Rusty. Baker’s cohorts, Frankie Frannis and Rita DeLacey, then enter the café and convince Rusty that the stock is worth $10,000. When Baker then returns, Rusty admits he has learned that the stock is valuable, and Baker “generously” allows him to spend he and Edith’s savings to buy it. The scam continues as Baker brings Rusty to a bank, where Frankie pretends to be bank president Harper and vouches that the stock is good. Later, however, bunko squad Lt. Ross Qualen visits Rusty at the café and explains that the stock is fake, and there is a $10,000 reward out for the swindlers. Avery overhears and fires Rusty, who offers to take Qualen to Harper, but when they reach the bank they are told that no Harper exists, and Qualen leaves in a huff. Edith is distressed to hear that Rusty has been fired, and grows more upset over the next few days, as he loses job after job for incompetence. One day, Rusty recognizes Rita’s photograph on the outside of a dance hall, and follows her back to Baker’s office. There, he pretends to be a salesman to get into the office, and then, once recognized, lies that he is a government agent. Pushing a pencil into Baker’s back, Rusty claims it is a gun and nearly has the gang out the door when Rita knocks him out. When he revives, Baker convinces him that they are actually Federal Bureau of Investigation agents infiltrating the racketeers, and, promising to return Rusty’s money, “hire” him as a secret agent. They send him off to collect monies from other marks, and one calls the police with Rusty’s description. Without realizing it, Rusty evades Qualen and the police and deposits the money he has collected into a safe-deposit box. He returns to the office, where the gang, who know the police are on to them, “promote” Rusty to head of their company and sneak out the back door. The police enter, but Rusty, sure that his bosses are superior to the local law enforcement, refuses to talk and is arrested. After he is receives a five-year sentence, the crooks, certain that no one could be so gullible, assume that Rusty has stolen their money and is using prison as a place to hide while he launders the cash. While they plan a jailbreak to get Rusty back into their custody, Edith visits him and forces him to confess the whole story. When he steadfastly refuses to reveal Baker’s name, Edith informs Qualen and the district attorney, who agrees to allow Rusty to escape and then have him followed. dAlthough the warden does all he can to let Rusty break out, the law-abiding prisoner barely notices, and must be helped out the door by the entire prison staff. Even then, he hops on a truck that drives back into the prison, and the police have to hijack the truck and drive it to Edith’s house. Once Rusty calls Baker, however, the con man persuades him to elude the detective tailing him. Rusty meets the gang, who bring in a fake lawyer, drunkard Dipso Dave Rutherford, to acquire power of attorney from Rusty so the gang can access the safe-deposit box. Rusty recognizes Dipso Dave as one of the con men shown to him by the police, and finally realizes that the gang are not FBI agents. They force him at gunpoint to sign away his rights, but he signs the name Peter Rabbit and runs out, followed by Baker and Frannis. Rusty sneaks back into the office and calls Qualen, who convinces him to stay in the office until the police arrive. Rusty dons a series of costumes to confuse the gang, who chase him through the building but are easily distracted by his shenanigans. At one point, they capture him and drag him to the office, but there Dipso Dave knocks out Baker and Frannis. The police enter in time to arrest the gang. With his $10,000 reward, Rusty is finally able to marry Edith the next day.  

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
  Val-Ritchie Corp.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Co., Inc.  
Director: Norman Z. McLeod (Dir)
  Ben Chapman (Asst dir)
Producer: Harry Tugend (Prod)
Writer: Harry Tugend (Scr)
  Devery Freeman (From a teleplay by)
  Don Quinn (Based on a story by)
  Larry Berns (Based on a story by)
Photography: Paul C. Vogel (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino (Art dir)
  John B. Mansbridge (Art dir)
Film Editor: Otto Ludwig (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Glen Daniels (Set dec)
Costumes: Bernice Pontrelli (Cost)
Music: David Rose (Mus comp and cond)
Sound: James S. Thompson (Sd)
  Terry Kellum (Sd)
Dance: Miriam Nelson (Choreographer)
Make Up: Harry Maret Jr. (Makeup supv)
  Larry Germain (Hairstylist)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs: "Don't Be a Chicken, Chicken" and "Pardon Me, Got to Go Mambo," words and music by Matty Malneck and Eve Marley.
Composer: Matty Malneck
  Eve Marley
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Teleradio Pictures, Inc. 31/12/1956 dd/mm/yyyy LP7515

PCA NO: 18009
Physical Properties: Sd: RCA Sound System
  col: Technicolor
  Widescreen/ratio: 1.85:1

 
Genre: Comedy
Sub-Genre: with songs
 
Subjects (Major): Bumblers
  Confidence games
  Confidence men
  Disguise
  Engagements
  False accusations
 
Subjects (Minor): Alcoholics
  Banks
  Costumes
  Dancers
  Detectives
  District attorneys
  Investments
  Jailbreaks
  Lawyers
  Naïveté
  Prison wardens
  Rewards
  Romance
  Safe-deposit boxes
  Stocks
  Unemployment
  United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation

Note: A version of the film’s story, written by Don Quinn and Larry Berns, adapted by Devery Freeman and starring Red Skelton, was first broadcast on the CBS television program Climax! on 8 Sep 1955. Although the viewed print ends with a statement that reads “Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures,” the film was actually released by Universal-International.
       According to a Jan 1956 HR news item, RKO production head William Dozier considered hiring Norman Taurog or George Marshall to direct the film. A Feb 1956 “Rambling Reporter” item in HR stated that real-life sisters Jayne and Audrey Meadows were to portray sisters in the picture, but neither appeared in the completed film. Another "Rambling Reporter" item, on 29 Mar 1956, stated that RKO wanted Jane Powell for the film.
       Although a Feb 1956 HR article noted that Red Skelton had formed a production company called Red Skelton Enterprises, Inc. to handle all his television and film business, with Public Pigeon No. 1 as the company’s first property, the Val-Ritchie Corp., along with RKO, is listed on the film. Val-Ritchie was a combination of the names of Skelton's two young children, Valentina and Ritchie; the film was the company's only production. Ritchie died of leukemia in 1958, after a long and highly publicized illness. Public Pigeon No. 1 was Skelton's last major film role, although he continued to appear on television. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   12 Jan 1957.   
Daily Variety   31 Dec 56   p. 3.
Film Daily   25 Apr 57   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jan 1956   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Jan 1956   p. 1, 13.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Feb 1956   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Feb 1956   p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Apr 1956   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   25 May 1956   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Dec 56   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   27 Apr 57   p. 353.
New York Times   18 May 57   p. 23.
Variety   14 Sep 1955.   
Variety   16 Jan 1957.   

Display Movie Summary
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