Call Me Stormy

Finding righteous currents in turbulent times

It’s A Joke, Son!

Today’s Trillion Dollar Movie, It’s a Joke, Son!, shouldn’t be half as funny as it is. Besides being about as politically incorrect as a film could be nowadays, this 1947 comedy essentially has one punchline that it replays over and over again for the duration of its 63-minute running time. But the joke never gets stale when delivered by Kenny Delmar, starring as Beauregard Claghorn, a blustery and unrepentant Southern sympathizer who might be the last man on the planet willing to invest in Confederate Army Victory Bonds.

Just how ironclad is Claghorn’s allegiance to Dixie? Well, besides slugging down mint juleps like they were 64-ounce Cherry Slurpees, he adamantly refuses to eat Boston baked beans, or even apples grown north of the Mason-Dixon line. He hails from South Carolina, and argues that its sister state, North Carolina, should be rechristened as “Upper South Carolina.”  When he hears “I Wish I Was In Dixie,” Claghorn salutes the National Anthem.

It’s a Joke, Son! has a silly plot, tangling Claghorn up against a Northern-mob outfit that wants to sabotage the state senate campaign of his strong-willed wife, Magnolia, who has the backing of the patriotic women’s group, the Daughters of Dixie. Claghorn is playing out of his league, but he has a motley crew of allies, including a wonder dog named Daisy and an ice cream truck man who’s sweet on his daughter. No, none of it’s believable, but it’s often hilarious — a valiant attempt to re-create on the screen a beloved comic character that Delmar perfected on the radio as announcer for Fred Allen’s Alley Show. Delmar bears a distinct resemblance to Jon Stewart, and like him, seems to have mastered the art of doing befuddled double-takes.

If you think you recognize Claghorn’s daughter, you probably do. She’s played by a very young June Lockhart, years ahead of her appearances on Lassie or Lost in Space. It’s a Joke, Son! proved to be a one-hit wonder. Dreams of serializing the comedy never came to pass. But Delmar’s character gained immortality through the cartoons. The bombastic Warners Brothers rooster, Foghorn Leghorn, is a thinly veiled copycat of Beauregard Claghorn. Enjoy, and do return next Friday for another Trillion $ Movie.

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