Appellate Judge James A. Stewart's polyhexagon was just heisted.
"If I smash it, you can take it out of my salary."—Ambrose, on cutting a $2 Million diamond
If you went by the trailer for The Great Diamond Robbery, you might think it "uproarious" and a "mad scramble." In truth, this Red Skelton comedy is slower-paced, but has a gentle charm.
Ambrose Central Park (Red Skelton, Excuse My Dust) has two problems. First, he's a diamond cutter who realizes the expert Gibbons Ltd. has called in is going to turn the $2 Million Blue Goddess into dust, but nobody believes him. Second, it's his birthday and the annual search for the parents who abandoned him in Central Park (hence his name) has attracted the attention of a shady lawyer (James Whitmore, Give 'em Hell, Harry). From there, some gangsters—realizing he has access to the diamond—want to give him a happy family…but only until he gives up the goods.
Skelton's performance has all the expected pratfalls, delivered with a quiet offhand grace, but he gives this role an earnestness and innocence that's surprising. Ambrose quickly wins over his bogus mother (Dorothy Stickney, Miss Tatlock's Millions) and sister (Cara Williams, Pete and Gladys). Even his fake father (George Mathews, The Proud Ones) starts to be a little hesitant. While Skelton comes off genuine, the supporting cast gets roles that fall into types and cliches, whether it be a shady lawyer, a showgirl with a heart of gold, or the various gangsters who performances are so obvious you might get the feeling Ambrose has never been to a movie before. Sure, there's a nightclub scene with a song-and-dance and some mild fighting, but there's nothing here that isn't G-rated.
Presented in standard definition 1.37:1 full frame, the transfer shows no obvious flaws. The Dolby 2.0 Mono mix gets the job done, though I noticed the general lack of musical underscore. Remember, The Great Diamond Robbery is part of the Warner Archive collection, so there's a risk it might not work in all DVD players.
If you were looking for frenetic farce, you might find The Great Diamond Robbery slow. Fans of Skelton or anyone looking for family-friendly fare should enjoy it.
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