DOUBLE DYNAMITE (1951) – In defense of Sinatra, Russell, and Marx

Frank-Sinatra-Jane-Russell-Groucho-Marx-Double-Dynamite

Double Dynamite is a mild comedy that has been dismissed by most critics, not to mention one of its own stars. (In a letter to a friend, Groucho Marx wrote that the movie’s original title was It’s Only Money but was changed to honor “Jane Russell’s you-know-what.”)

It stars Frank Sinatra as Johnny Dalton, a bank teller who is constantly hounded by his girlfriend Mildred (Jane Russell) to marry her. He worries that he hasn’t the money to do so, until he gets a windfall at the racetrack, which is good until he’s accused of stealing the money in a robbery on his own bank. Groucho Marx plays Emile, Johnny’s wisecracking waiter friend, who helps Johnny clear his name.

The undeniable facts are: This movie was produced by RKO when Howard Hughes was in the process of running the once-great movie studio into the ground, mostly by making movies that capitalized on Jane Russell’s you-know-what. It was made in 1948 but sat on the shelf for three years. And it has since been dismissed by any critic who has deigned to give it the time of day.

But as an escapist time-filler, it’s actually pretty decent. It was co-written by Harry Crane, who went on to write for “The Honeymooners,” so it at least has a decent pedigree. It provides Groucho Marx with a fairer percentage of laughs than his final Marx Brothers movies did. He even gets to sing a number with Sinatra (the movie’s erstwhile title tune, “It’s Only Money”). And Jane Russell sings a song while taking a bubble bath, which was 1951’s idea of sexy.

So Frank Sinatra sings, Groucho Marx jokes, and Jane Russell, uh, stands there and breathes. What more should you ask of a comedy? And if you’ve seen the lesser output of Sinatra (Cannonball Run II), Marx (the Marx Bros.’ final movies for M-G-M), or Russell (The French Line, another execrable attempt by Howard Hughes to show off her bust), you know they could do a lot worse.

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