Good comedy that slipped by over the years. It’s 1931. Stuart Erwin plays a mild mannered lingerie salesman who tries to be a gangster to impress the ladies. He ends up being mistaken as the real deal.
Johnny Dill’s (Stuart Erwin) high school pal William T.Allen (Frank Albertson) is an attorney who has lost twelve cases in a row. Now his office furniture is being repossessed. As usual, he hits up Dill for a loan. That night Dill takes their childhood friend Judy Parker (Anne Gwynne) out to dinner only to be joined by Allen who puts the rush on Judy. Dill is always trying to propose to Judy but all kinds of things get in the way.
Dill ends up going to a gangster movie with his assistant Millie. It’s called “Public Enemy #21.” It’s a bio of mobster Big Nick Moronie. There’s even a take off on the famous grapefruit scene from “Pubic Enemy” with James Cagney and Mae Clark. Millie and the other women in the audience are impressed with the gangster type so Dill decides he’s going to be a tough guy.
Later that night he goes to a speakeasy and tries to act tough. Two women the bar buy his act. To really impress them he goes to a man at a table one of the women said was flirting with her. He grabs the guy’s nose and twists it, just like he saw the gangster do in the movie. He realizes he’s not so tough when the man turns out to be Moronie. He tells his brother Louis and henchman Little Joe (Mike Mazurki) to put a bottle on Dill’s head so he can shoot it off.
Moronie orders Little Joe to take car of rival Maboose (Milburn Stone), Public Enemy #24. The next day Little Joe makes a better deal with Maboose to bump off Moronie. He strangles Moronie and stashes the body in a trunk in Dill’s room across the hall.
House detective McGowan (Dewey Robinson) stops by to pick up some lingerie for his wife and discovers Moronie’s body and faints. While he’s out Dill hides the body and replaces it with a mannequin. That convinces the now awake McGowan he was seeing things.
Dill hires a rental truck and moves the trunk with Moronie back inside. He’s speeding and tries to get away from a motorcycle cop and the trunk slips out and opens up. He gets away and the press calls him Killer Dill. He gets Judy to bring him some food. She says Allen will defend him. He has him surrender at the courthouse in front of reporters. Dill ends up spending a month in jail.
At the trial Dill finds out that Allen used the time to romance Judy and end up engaged to her. That leads to an incident in the courtroom that ends with Dill being judged not guilty. He’s not out of the woods yet. He’s now known as Public Enemy #21. Louis Moronie swears revenge and Allen convinces him to join Maboose’s gang. Little Joe has plans of his own.
Erwin, Mazurki and Stone are a lot of fun to watch and this is definitely worth checking out.
Former pro wrestler Mike Mazurki made dozens of movie and TV appearances. His most famous movie role was Moose Malloy in 1944’s “Murder My Sweet.” Its not to be missed.’
Milburn Stone is best known as Doc Adams on “Gunsmoke” (1955-75).