Million Dollar Legs
I’m now about a week into my Olympic Film Festival, and I am astonished at how difficult it is proving to find actual movies about the Olympics. Made for TV documentaries and specials abound, but in terms of actual movies there just aren’t that many. Today my search has sent me all the way back to 1932, and a farcical comedy which was originally released to coincide with the 1932 games in Los Angeles; it’s Million Dollar Legs, starring the legendary W. C. Fields.
The film introduces us to Jack Oakie as Migg Tweeney a brush salesman who is just wrapping up the tiny nation of Klopstokia, a nation not renowned for and populated by goats and nuts. The film quickly establishes a bizarre non sequitur wrapped in a farce style and doesn’t back away from that once in it’s entire 60 minute running time. Tweeney runs into and immediately falls in love with the beautiful Angela. All Klopstokian women are named Angela, but this one happens to be the daughter of the nation’s President, portrayed with bemused enthusiasm by Fields. The President has a dilemma, his nation is completely broke and unable to pay their debts, and his cabinet is conspiring to seize power. Fortunately he can still beat them at arm wrestling. As it turns out everyone in Klopstokia is an utterly fabulous athlete, so Tweeney hatches a plan to assemble an unbeatable team for the upcoming Olympic games in Los Angeles, knowing that his employer, Mr. Baldwin of Baldwin’s Brushes (They Brush!) is planning a large cash sponsorship to be paid to the most successful medalists. As the plot unfolds Tweeney must assemble his team, and learn the official gibberish-riddled Klopstokian love-song while the cabinet schemes to cause his downfall.
The movie is a short absurd ride that delivers laughs from beginning to end. It’s sort of feels like Mel Brooks crossed with the Marx brothers on a particularly zany day, viewed though a 1930s lens. More than a few of the jokes don’t quite land, but they come so furiously and are so varied that it’s hard not to be amused. All in all, Million Dollar Legs is well worth seeing.