AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Whistling in Dixie
Director: S. Sylvan Simon (Dir)
Release Date:   1942
Premiere Information:   New York opening: week of 31 Dec 1942; release: Dec 1942--Feb 1943
Production Date:   Jun 1942
Duration (in mins):   73-74
Duration (in feet):   6,621
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Red Skelton (Wally Benton)  
    Ann Rutherford (Carol Lambert)  
    George Bancroft (Sheriff Claude Stagg)  
    Guy Kibbee (Judge George Lee)  
    Diana Lewis (Ellamae Downs)  
    Peter Whitney (Frank V. Bailie)  
    "Rags" Ragland (Chester Conway [/Lester Conway])  
    Celia Travers (Hattie Lee)  
    Lucien Littlefield (Corporal Lucken)  
    Louis Mason (Lem)  
    Mark Daniels (Martin Gordon)  
    Pierre Watkin (Doctor)  
    Emmett Vogan (Radio producer)  
    Hobart Cavanaugh (Panky)  
    Charles Lung (Brunner)  
    John Wald (Announcer)  
    Joseph Crehan (Deputy commissioner)  
    Hal Le Sueur (Sound effects man)  
    Norman Abbott (Attendant)  
    William "Buckwheat" Thomas (Black child)  

Summary: When writer Martin Gordon is shot and killed while roaming the grounds of a deserted Confederate fort in Dixon, Georgia, his sweetheart, Hattie Lee, witnesses the crime and hurries to summon help. Upon returning with her father, Judge George Lee, and her cousin, Ellamae Downs, Hattie discovers that Gordon's body has disappeared. Unknown to her, Gordon had been conducting simultaneous affairs with both Hattie and Ellamae, and later that night, Ellamae mails off a package to her former sorority sister Carol Lambert in New York. In a New York broadcasting studio, meanwhile, Carol is working with her fiancĂ©e Wally Benton, a radio sleuth known as "The Fox." Wally, who goes into spasms at the mere mention of murder, asks the producer of his show for a vacation so that he and Carol can get married and go on their honeymoon. When Carol receives Ellamae's package containing a Japanese beetle, though, the signal of a sorority sister in distress, she insists upon leaving for Georgia immediately. In Georgia, the prospective newlyweds discover that they must wait five days for a marriage license. They are met at the airport by the judge and his chauffeur, Chester Conway, who has a twin brother with a criminal bent named Lester. When Wally sees a picture of Lester, whom he helped send to jail, accompanied by a newspaper story detailing his escape from prison, he mistakes Chester for Lester and tries to arrest him, but is apprised of his error by the judge. That night, Ellamae takes Wally and Carol to the fort and there they discover a partially dug grave and Gordon's briefcase containing his notes for a history of the fort. Soon after, Corporal Lucken, the old confederate soldier who acts as the fort's caretaker, appears with his parrot, who whistles the tune of "Dixie." When Wally points out a circled passage in Gordon's notes concerning a Colonel Longfellow and the 96th infantry, the corporal replies there must be a mistake because there were only 67 regiments in the militia. Lester, meanwhile, has arrived in Dixon on the local freight train and proceeds to the judge's house, where he dons Chester's uniform. At the house, Lester spies Wally, whom he holds responsible for his arrest, and vows revenge. Later that night, Wally hears the drunken judge reciting a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow sonnet and realizes that Gordon must have been writing in code and that his notes refer to the poem. When Wally scrutinizes the poem, "The Arsenal at Springfield," he deciphers that it must be referring to something hidden in the floor of the fort and notifies Sheriff Claude Stagg of his discovery. The sheriff hurries to the house and meets Wally, Ellamae and Carol in the driveway. Chester, watching from a window, notices the sheriff drop a gold coin from his pocket, and after the sheriff drives off with Ellamae, Carol and Wally, Chester picks up the coin and examines it. At the fort, Wally uncovers a partially buried chest filled with English gold coins and concludes that Gordon must have been searching for the trunk when he was killed. As the sheriff pulls his gun on Wally and demands the treasure, Chester arrives at the fort and disarms the sheriff. He then explains that he became suspicious of the sheriff after seeing him drop the coin because he had earlier found a cache of coins in Gordon's desk drawer. Soon after, district attorney Frank V. Bailie appears and Wally, unaware that Bailie is the sheriff's partner in crime, turns the gun over to him. Double-crossing his accomplice, Bailie locks the sheriff in with the others in an airless powder cell, leaving them to suffocate. Once locked inside, the sheriff informs his fellow prisoners that Gordon is still alive and being held captive at Bailie's farm. Locating a water pipe leading to the outside, Wally finds the corporal's parrot nested inside and attempts to attach an SOS note to the bird. When that fails, Wally decides to teach the bird to whistle "Yankee Doodle Dandy," hoping that the tune will alert the corporal that something is amiss. After the bird flies off, Wally devises a smoke bomb from the sheriff's bullet cartridges. The bomb fails to have the desired effect, however, and instead blows up the pipe, sending water gushing into the cell. Awakened by the sound of the explosion, the judge and Hattie speed to the fort with Lester, who they think is Chester. As Wally and the others find themselves up to their necks in water, the judge arrives and alerts the corporal, who then struggles with the combination to the door. When the door finally swings open, a wall of water propels Wally and the others out of the cell. In the chaos, Lester knocks Chester unconscious and speeds to Bailie's farm while Wally puts the corporal in charge of the sheriff. Upon arriving at the farm, Wally overpowers Bailie after a fight. When Lester appears in the hayloft looking for the gold, he slugs the puzzled Wally, who thinks that he is Chester. After the twins become entangled in a rope pulley, Wally is confronted by one and then the other as they slide up and down the rope. Finally realizing that they are twins, Wally knocks them both unconscious and then is accosted by Bailie wielding a water-logged gun. Knowing that the gun is useless, Wally overpowers Bailie just as the police arrive to arrest the malefactors. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: S. Sylvan Simon (Dir)
  Hayes Goetz (Asst dir)
Producer: George Haight (Prod)
Writer: Nat Perrin (Scr)
  Wilkie Mahoney (Addl dial)
  Lawrence Hazard (Contr to scr)
  Jonathan Latimer (Contr to scr)
Photography: Clyde De Vinna (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Gabriel Scognamillo (Assoc)
Film Editor: Frank Sullivan (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Keogh Gleason (Assoc)
Costumes: Shoup (Gowns)
Music: Lennie Hayton (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Country: United States
Language: English
Series: Whistling

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 2/9/1942 dd/mm/yyyy LP11619 Yes

PCA NO: 8663
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Screwball comedy
  Screwball comedy
Subjects (Major): Amateur detectives
  Mistaken identity
  Radio performers
Subjects (Minor): Authors
  Corpses, Missing
  District attorneys
  Fathers and daughters
  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Note: The Var review incorrectly identifies Red Skelton's radio character as "The Wolf." For additional information about the "Whistling" series, please consult the Series Index and see entry below for Whistling in Dark

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   31 Oct 1942.   
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jun 42   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Jun 42   p. 10.
Motion Picture Herald   31 Oct 1942.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   10 Oct 42   p. 946.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   31 Oct 42   pp. 981-82.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   26 Dec 42   p. 1082.
New York Times   31 Dec 42   p. 20.
Variety   28 Oct 42   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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