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Case Number 17926

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The Joe McDoakes Collection

Warner Bros. // 1942 // 648 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // December 17th, 2009

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All Rise...

So you want to read a review by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart?

The Charge

"Ladies and gentlemen, meet Joe McDoakes. Hey, Joe, c'mon out, you got company!"

Opening Statement

So you think The Three Stooges were the only comedy stars in short subjects? Warner Bros. has dipped into its archives to introduce Joe McDoakes. The character first appeared in 1942, but most of his shorts were churned out in the decade after World War II. George O'Hanlon plays the hapless hero. Chances are you'll recognize his voice, but not his face, since O'Hanlon is best known today as the voice behind hapless cartoon hero George Jetson.

In the first Joe McDoakes shorts, you won't hear much of O'Hanlon; an omniscient narrator—usually Art Gilmore—is heard throughout. The narration gradually disappears, leaving Joe to face his wife Alice and dubious friends Homer and Marvin without the narrator's advice.

His wife may look familiar, too; Phyllis Coates, who played Superman's Lois Lane on 1950s TV, was one of three actresses to play the role. If you're looking for other familiar faces, you might spot Joi Lansing, who appears as marital trouble for Joe in several of the shorts. You'll also recognize the voice of Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd) as he makes a few appearances. Director Richard L. Bare went on to direct lots of television episodes, including "To Serve Man" on The Twilight Zone.

Facts of the Case

The Joe McDoakes Collection includes all sixty-three shorts, written and directed by Richard Bare:

Disc One
• "So You Want to Give Up Smoking"
Joe tries, with a little help from an omniscient narrator.

• "So You Think You Need Glasses"
After he eats the cards on bridge night, wife Alice thinks Joe might need spectacles.

• "So You Think You're Allergic"
Joe's obsessed with finding the source of his allergy.

• "So You Want to Play the Horses"
Alice doesn't approve of betting on the ponies.

• "So You Want to Keep Your Hair"
Joe's hair is clogging the tub, and he's getting conflicting advice from barbers.

• "So You Think You're a Nervous Wreck"
Joe stumbles through speeches and is afraid of women. Can our narrator help?

• "So You're Going to Be a Father"
Joe hunts rhubarb for his wife's craving and goes to a fortune teller to find out whether the baby will be a boy or a girl.

• "So You Want to Be in Pictures"
Joe uses records to learn stars' styles, driving a director crazy when he lands a bit part. Ronald Reagan and Martha Vickers are among the cameos.

• "So You're Going on Vacation"
Joe wants to spend his vacation on the hammock reading, but Alice has other ideas.

• "So You Want to Be a Salesman"
Joe sells the "Atom Smasher" vacuum cleaner door-to-door.

• "So You Want to Hold Your Wife"
A wild party and a turkey of a Thanksgiving have Alice packing her bags.

Disc Two
• "So You Want an Apartment"
A landlord evicts Joe and Alice, forcing them to scramble for a new apartment.

• "So You Want to Be a Gambler"
Joe hits the casino after hitting the jackpot at pinball.

• "So You Want to Build a House"
Facing eviction again, Joe takes on home construction.

• "So You Want to Be a Detective"
Joe plays private eye, complete with a body in the filing cabinet and a two-way wrist radio. This time, he's advising the narrator on the detective racket.

• "So You Want to Be in Politics"
Joe thinks he's running for Congress, but the machine put him up for dogcatcher.

• "So You Want to Be on the Radio"
Joe and Alice go on a quiz show. Truth is, there will be consequence for Joe as popular radio quizzes are parodied.

• "So You Want to Be a Babysitter"
Joe doesn't, but his wife insists on making him watch a prankster.

• "So You Want to Be Popular"
Joe finds himself odd man out when couples dance at a party.

• "So You Want to Be a Muscleman"
Mr. America Clarence Ross plays a bodybuilder neighbor who makes Joe feel insecure.

• "So You're Having In-Law Trouble"
When Joe's in-laws bring suitcases for Sunday dinner, he sees trouble.

• "So You Want to Get Rich Quick"
A telegram tells Joe he could inherit $100,000 if he has a male heir.

Disc Three
• "So You Want to Be an Actor"
Joe's hitting the bricks on Broadway, "the original hardened artery." When he gets a bit part, though, he gets stage fright!

• "So You Want to Throw a Party"
Better not put Joe in charge of the invitations, then.

• "So You Think You're Not Guilty"
Joe defends himself on a traffic charge, leading to a prison sentence.

• "So You Want to Hold Your Husband"
The advice Alice gets from a marriage counselor could break up her and Joe.

• "So You Want to Move"
To save money, Joe asks his neighbor Marvin to help him move.

• "So You Want a Raise"
Alice prods chief clerk Joe to ask for one.

• "So You're Going to Have an Operation"
Stomach pains from late-night overeating send Joe to the hospital—so he's going to have an operation, whether he needs one or not!

• "So You Want to Be a Handyman"
Actually, Joe just wants to learn the ukelele, but Marvin decides to "help" him around the house while Alice is away.

• "So You Want to Be a Cowboy"
Joe daydreams of being singing cowboy Jumpalong McDoakes as he deals with difficult patrons at the cinema.

• "So You Want to Be a Paper Hanger"
Joe doesn't, but Alice wants new wallpaper put up—pronto! Marvin lends a bumbling hand.

• "So You Want to Buy a Used Car"
"We'll drive to the poorhouse," Joe tells Alice when she wants him to unload his jalopy, but Joe still goes down to the used car lot for a hard sell.

Disc Four
• "So You Want to Be a Bachelor"
"I never knew what happiness was till I got married—and then it was too late," Joe recalls, flashing back to bachelor days and his courtship with Alice.

• "So You Want to Be a Plumber"
Joe and Marvin are trapped in a flooding basement after Joe decides to save money on a plumber and fix the pipes himself.

• "So You Want to Get it Wholesale"
Joe's happy with the new stove he bought Alice—until Marvin tells him he can get a better deal.

• "So You Want to Enjoy Life"
Joe makes the most of it when a doctor tells him he has thirty days to live.

• "So You Want to Go to a Convention"
Joe's planning to go to the lodge convention in Omaha, but a bachelor buddy reroutes their trip to a gathering of all-girl orchestras in Palm Springs.

• "So You Never Tell a Lie"
The boss spins a web to hide his affections for Betsy Wigglegood, but Joe gets tangled up in it.

• "So You're Going to the Dentist"
Marvin gets his correspondence school dental diploma and offers Joe some peanut brittle to guarantee he'll be his first patient.

• "So You Want to Wear the Pants"
It's a dangerous hypnotic suggestion when a psychiatrist tells Joe and Alice to switch points of view during a session.

• "So You Want to Be a Musician"
Joe's bassoon bumbling isn't music to the conductor's ears, but he can still land a job as a gypsy fiddler at a restaurant.

• "So You Want to Learn to Dance"
Lessons, whether from his colleagues or a dance instructor, can't get Joe ready for a country club event.

Disc Five
• "So You Want a Television"
Joe doesn't, but Alice wants a set, new television chairs, and the neighbors who come in to watch—and eat. Doris Day and Gordon MacRae have cameos.

• "So You Love Your Dog"
During World War II, Joe's canine corps companion is a traitor, and the dog isn't Joe's best friend on the home front, either.

• "So You Think You Can't Sleep"
Dripping water, noisy neighbors, and a lighted billboard (for sleeping pills) are among the distractions keeping Joe awake.

• "So You Want to Be an Heir"
When his grandmother says she's leaving Joe a million, he becomes a target for his ruthless, bizarre clan. George O'Hanlon plays Joe's relatives as well.

• "So You're Having Neighbor Trouble"
When Joe discovers that Marvin is dumping his garbage in the McDoakes' can, it sets off a neighborhood feud.

• "So You Want to Be Your Own Boss"
Joe's opening a restaurant, with Marvin as chef.

• "So You Want to Go to a Night Club"
The crowds, the smoke, and the cost get to Joe, and Joe's interest in a friend's hot date gets to Alice.

• "So You Want to Be a Banker"
Joe recalls his rise to the top of the banking world.

• "So You're Taking in a Boarder"
Joe's not interested, until a beautiful woman comes knocking. She's gone quickly, making room for Marvin with a business scheme.

• "So You Want to Know Your Relatives"
Joe really, really doesn't, so he's alarmed when his friends and wife surprise him with a radio show appearance.

• "So You Don't Trust Your Wife"
Alice is asking questions about Joe's life insurance, which gives Joe sleepless nights.

Disc Six
• "So You Want to Be a Gladiator"
In ancient Rome, Joe plays the lyre in Nero's court. Breaking a string means facing the lions.

• "So You Want to Be a Jury"
Joe and Homer don't; the two sides are the boss and a gangster.

• "So You Want a Model Railroad"
Joe does. Alice doesn't.

• "So You Want to Be a V.P."
Junior executive Joe could become a vice president—unless he takes his pal's advice.

• "So You Want to Be a Policeman"
Rookie traffic cop Joe becomes hardened as he deals with the surly public.

• "So You Think the Grass is Greener"
Joe's guardian angle shows him what life would be like if he left Alice for another woman.

• "So You Want to Be Pretty"
Alice sneaks off for plastic surgery. So does Joe. Then they sneak off for liaisons—with each other.

• "So You Want to Play the Piano"
Joe signs up for piano lessons when Alice becomes interested in a pianist neighbor.

• "So Your Wife Wants to Work"
Joe isn't rooting for Alice to succeed when she takes a job at his office.

The Evidence

So you think you've got a handle on Joe McDoakes? Let's see what you might have picked up from these titles and descriptions:

There's a certain Mad quality to Joe's postwar life, as everything from the move to suburbia to popular radio shows and movies gets sent up. That mockery gets a little less pronounced as the series goes on, but it's always present in the patter of the fast-talking salesmen or the dubious expert advice Joe gets from friends and professionals alike.

Joe is slow at times, but he's always trying to improve himself or learn something new, either to get ahead or save a few bucks. Correspondence courses and self-help books pop up throughout the series. Even when he's relaxing, Joe's reading up on how to play the ukulele. The usual course of things finds Joe acting timidly until the fast-talkers around him have given him enough, at which point he loses his temper, and things get even worse. He's a cheapskate who thinks he can do better than the professionals, especially when they condescend and pile on outrageous charges.

The people in Joe's world are stock types: the demanding wife, the slickly charming friend, the bumbling handyman, the fast-talking salesman, the nasty boss.

George O'Hanlon makes a great Joe, with pantomime, slapstick, sight gags, verbal sparring, and mimicry all a part of his repertoire. He's silly and sympathetic at the same time.

The gags here will produce a lot of smiles, and a few laugh-out-loud moments. As the shorts shift away from the satirical, the jokes are more clichéd, though. My personal favorites were "So You Want to Be a Detective" and "So You Want to Be a Paper Hanger," both of which poke fun at film noir, but others could tickle your fancy, especially if you're into retro culture or vintage Mad.

So you want to play these DVDs? "This disc is expected to play back in DVD video 'play only' devices, and may not play back in other DVD devices, including recorders and PC drives," the message on the back reads. I noticed that message after finding out that these discs won't play in my DVD player/recorder, so I wouldn't recommend this set if you have anything other than a "play only" device. Otherwise, the picture is decent, with the usual flecks and lines. Since this is a Warner Archive release of a relative rarity, it's obviously not a tricked-out presentation.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

So you want a Joe McDoakes marathon? While many of Joe's escapades are funny, there's a sameness to them after a while, as the same character actors and setups keep popping up. As a reviewer, I watched ten or so a night for six nights, but these would best be watched over a longer time frame. It might also have been better for Warners to come up with a best-of collection of maybe ten for $9.99 as a way of introducing viewers to the character.

Closing Statement

So you think you'll like this set? Could be. It's got some good laughs, although it descends into sameness after a while. Its take on postwar America could appeal to the nostalgic and retro hipster alike (even without Joi Lansing).

The Verdict

So you think Joe McDoakes isn't guilty? You're right.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 85
Extras: 0
Acting: 90
Story: 85
Judgment: 82

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 648 Minutes
Release Year: 1942
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Classic
• Comedy
• Short Films

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb








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