Shout! Factory // 1991 // 1951 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // October 27th, 2010
"The crazier the schemes, the higher they jump."
If Damon Runyon wasn't a part of Manhattan when he lived, he certainly was when he died: Eddie Rickenbacker flew his son over the island to drop his ashes after he died in 1946, according to IMDb. It could be than Manhattan, at least the Manhattan of short stories and movies, was a figment of Runyon's imagination, as revealed in his short stories and the movies that came from them, including Guys and Dolls, Little Miss Marker, and Sorrowful Jones.
Those movies also include The Lemon Drop Kid. This version from 1951 stars Bob Hope; William Frawley (I Love Lucy) appears in both the 1951 and 1934 versions.
The Lemon Drop Kid (Bob Hope, Road To Morocco) doesn't know much about horses, but he touts them anyway to suckers at a Florida race track, sucking on lemon drops the whole time. One of those suckers turns out to be Moose Moran's moll -- and he's the Moose that roars! Moose wants the $10,000 he would have won if Lemon Drop hadn't talked the lady into switching away from Moose's winning bet.
"All I've got is fifteen cents and a box of lemon drops," Lemon Drop protests.
Yes, but Lemon Drop also has his life -- for now. That will change at Christmas if Lemon Drop doesn't cough up the ten grand.
The Lemon Drop Kid heads for New York, where he sends Santas into the streets to collect money for an old-age home, which is temporarily housing Lemon Drop's displaced friend Nellie and some other seniors in Moose's closed casino. It seems to be going well, until mobster Oxford Charlie sees an angle.
If you like Bob Hope's way with a one-liner, you'll like The Lemon Drop Kid. Putting him in a Damon Runyon story gives his coward routine a bit higher stakes, and you might even feel for him when he says "I always turn green this time of the year" after seeing one of Moose's men working over another deadbeat. He also shows off his talent at slapstick, most notably in a slightly naughty scene in which he's caught in a store window undressing a mannequin.
Marilyn Maxwell (Summer Holiday) is good as Lemon Drop's tough-talking but transparent sweetheart, Brainey, who moons over his picture -- and then sets it aside when he actually turns up so she can lecture him. The pair gets two songs, including "Silver Bells." In addition to a menacing turn by Lloyd Nolan (The Man Who Wouldn't Die) as Oxford Charlie, the movie also features cult figures Tor Johnson and Sid Melton among the bit players.
Since The Lemon Drop Kid takes place on the road to Christmas, expect some sweetness in the form of elderly Nellie (Jane Darwell, My Darling Clementine), who is thrown out of her apartment in the winter chill, and a happy -- but not too sentimental -- ending.
There's a new transfer, which means a flawless presentation.
There are no extras.
If you don't like Bob Hope's way with a one-liner, there's not much reason to see this one.
If you're ever in Manhattan, take a deep breath. You could still inhale a bit of Damon Runyon.
Review content copyright © 2010 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 1951 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* IMDb: The Lemon Drop Kid
* IMDb: Damon Runyon