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The Lemon Drop Kid

Damon Runyon's old story, "The Lemon Drop Kid," which, was about a race track tipster who leaped from the frying-pan into the fire, has been given a pretty thorough shakedown under the capable hands of Bob Hope in the slapstick farce of the same title that came to the Paramount yesterday. The consequent entertainment, populated throughout by Mr. Hope, may be a far cry from Mr. Runyon's story, but it's a close howl to good, fast, gag-packed fun.

Indeed, it has come to be expected that anything played by Mr. Hope is not safe from utter mutilation by him and the boys who write his stuff. That which is known as "Runyon flavor" in the characters of his famous guys and dolls is as vulnerable to Mr. Hope's burlesquing as is a gentle tweak on the nose. So let it be understood that the current "Lemon Drop Kid," which previously was filmed some seventeen years back, is strictly a rough-house with Hope.

As such, it touches in passing upon the troubles of a hapless race track tout who makes the mistake of touting a big-shot's doll onto a heavy-losing dog. And for this slight miscalculation he is ordered to get up ten grand by Christmas Day in the morning, or submit to a bit of abuse. How the Kid works up a racket inspired by a charity-collecting Santa Claus and runs into dutch with a mobster is what you might call the traffic of the tale.

For Mr. Hope's convenience, Edmund Hartmann and Robert O'Brien, with a dialogue assist from Irving Elinson, have contrived such burlèsque stunts as getting dressed in a Santa Claus costume and making up like a 60-year-old doll. They also have provided the hero with two or three hundred gags, with which Mr. Hope, a practiced handler, knows precisely what to do. Jay Livingston and Roy Evans also have written a couple of songs, the popular "Silver Bells" included, which Mr. Hope and Marilyn Maxwell sing.

Miss Maxwell's connection with the fable is as a soft-hearted show-girl type who tags along benignly after the fast-moving, fast-talking Kid. Jane Darwell is also among the participants as an ancient Broadway doll for the benefit of whom, presumably, the Kid starts his so-called charity.

William Frawley and J. C. Flippen are a couple of the several grotesque mugs who assist in the madcap conniving, and Lloyd Nolan and Fred Clark are the thugs. All of them act as straight accessories to Mr. Hope's eccentric show under the snappy direction of Sidney Lanfield. But it is all Mr. Hope, on the nose.