Poor Red Jones gets fired from every job he tries. His fiancée gives him one last chance to make good when he becomes a Fuller Brush man. His awkward attempts at sales are further complicated when one of his customers is murdered and he becomes the prime suspect.
Red Skelton ... Red Jones
Janet Blair ... Ann Elliot
Don McGuire ... Keenan Wallick
Hillary Brooke ... Mildred Trist
Adele Jergens ... Miss Sharmley
Ross Ford ... Freddie Trist
Trudy Marshall ... Sara Franzen
Nicholas Joy ... Commissioner Gordon Trist
Donald Curtis ... Gregory Cruckston
Arthur Space ... Lt. Quint
With the making of THE FULLER BRUSH MAN, Edward Small/Columbia Pictures,(1948) the period of the global hostilities of World War II is officially put to rest by Hollywood.The situations, the humor, the settings are all pointing to the theme of making a living and getting on with the newly won PEACE. There are no references to hostilities,rationing, the draft, nor any 'New Deal' Federal programs.The only connection to the previous wartime situation is the plot line involving the war surplus industry and the crooked individuals (in the story) fraudulently manipulating it.
This was probably thought to be a 'Small' picture in more ways than one by MGM, the big studio that lent out young star under contract, Red Skelton, for the lead;perhaps much in the same way that they had lent Clark Gable to Columbia & Frank Capra for 1934's IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT. While it's true that Red did not come back to his home studio with the Oscar as did Gable (Best Actor),Capra(Best Director),Claudette Colbert (Best Actress), Robert Riskin (Best Writing Adaptation) and the Movie(Best Picture) did, but he did give a comic performance that, in this writer's opinion topped his previous outings at MGM.
Mr.Skelton had starred in the 3 comedies, WHISTLING IN THE DARK, WHISTLING IN DIXIE and WHISTLING IN BROOKLYN, all with the same Director (S.Sylvan Simon), but was never used better or was not funnier on the screen.
The film, like the previously mentioned Skelton vehicles, has no pretensions about it.It's there to make us laugh. And it succeeds in a most thorough manner,bringing in post war elements such as having to wait for automobiles and home appliances to be made, but placing orders first.The coming on the scene of Television is included. The highlight of the film is a cartoon-like chase toward the end of the picture.(As silly as it may be, my wife and myself were in stitches over it!) Otherwise the story is bright, cheerful,hopeful and looks toward much happier, more prosperous days following the great World War II.
Even if your not a fan of slap stick or Skeleton's trademark corn this movie captures the best of Skelton in a great comedy. This movie launched his entry into TV and his series still ranks as one of the longest lived. Critics of the show would pan Skelton's unabashed corn, but the Fuller Brush Man was a classic comedy, done as well as your average Marx Brother's work. If you had to pick one Skeleton movie as his best, this is the one.
The movie begins with Red's complete failures in life and love. Unlike many of his movies and later TV roles, this movie show Skeleton as an actor who could show the pathos of his character. As a fuller brush salesman (a common fixture in the 40's and 50's), the occupation fits perfectly with Red's character as the proverbial pesty door to door salesman. Well on his way to another failure in life, Red gets involved in a murder that seems funnier and more convincing than his previous roles as a slap stick detective. The scenes in the WWII surplus wharehouse are both funny and extraordinarily well done. No computer generated action scenes, just excellent stunt work. If you like happy and funny endings, this movie will not disappoint.
Red Skelton could entertain you just with his funny faces, clown like slap-stick pratfalls and knock=about comedy. He was at his best in this fast-action b/w feature that also had in a role as a henchman, great little stunt man, Dave Sharpe. (Watch the wonderful knocks and tumbles during the chase and fight scenes at the end..)And who indeed is the killer of this murder-mystery plot woven into the gags and bang-up routines? Many of the younger movie fans today will understand why Red was a favorite of so many back in the 4O's movies and then later on radio and then on TV,after viewing this one...
* A major part of the movie involves a murder and a disappearing dagger. Red Skelton's character discovers someone has made the dagger by soaking the handle of one of his brushes in hot water and reshaping it. When the handle is put back into hot water it returns to its original shape. After trying numerous ways to make this look realistic with special effects the producers finally went to a plastics company and had them actually develop a "memory plastic". It was such a big story that it was in an article covered in "Life" magazine.