Appellate Judge James A. Stewart has an idea for a peanut butter and vinegar candy bar.
"My luck is changing today. I got that feeling right in the seat of my pants."—Honey Talk Nelson (Dean Martin)
I wasn't around back in the 1950s, when Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were a hot comedy team. Thus, the idea of these two together seemed a little odd, even though I knew about their start as a team and their famous breakup in 1956. Martin and Lewis are like peanut butter and chocolate? Are you sure it isn't more like peanut butter and vinegar?
Money From Home, based on a story by Damon Runyon, gave me the chance to check out this classic comedy combo.
Facts of the Case
Gambler Honey Talk Nelson (Dean Martin, Who Was That Lady?) has markers all over town. He's in trouble when gangster Jumbo (Sheldon Leonard, It's a Wonderful Life) buys up all those markers to force him to fix a steeplechase in Maryland.
Honey Talk's pinning his hopes on a cousin, Jerry Lewis (Visit to a Small Planet), who works as a veterinarian's assistant. Honey Talk also hopes to use his honey talk on Phyllis Leigh (Marjie Millar, About Mrs. Leslie), the owner of My Sheba, in hopes of getting the horse out of the race.
It looks like a cinch when Bertie (Richard Haydn, Young Frankenstein), the Briton who's set to ride My Sheba, goes on a bender and Honey Talk gets Virgil to impersonate the drunken jockey. However, Honey Talk isn't counting on falling in love with Phyllis, trouble from romantic rival Marsh Preston (Gerald Mohr, Foreign Intrigue), or Jumbo turning up in Maryland.
As the movie starts, it's clear that Dean Martin is the perfect fit for Damon Runyon's Prohibition-era story. Smooth with a few rough edges, Martin can play it cool, cowardly, and conscientious as the goodhearted gambler. He's the charming rogue moviegoers have come to associate with the name Runyon.
Jerry Lewis isn't. He stands out like a sore thumb from his first appearance as his Virgil stops traffic to let a mother dog cross the street with her pup. His first few pratfalls did nothing to impress, and his childlike voice could get on viewers' nerves.
But wait. As Lewis' Virgil says goodbye to the animals at the veterinary hospital in song, the number is both funny and touching. Stranger yet, Virgil actually comes across as a guy who might do something like this. If you don't like Lewis at first, he could grow on you by the time Virgil meets his soulmate, a "vegetarian veterinarian," likably played by Pat Crowley (Please Don't Eat the Daisies). Virgil's pose as jockey Bertie shows that, while simple, the character isn't quite stupid. Lewis' antics, good for chuckles most of the way through, finally pay off with belly laughs during the steeplechase at the end. Martin manages to mesh his cool persona with slapstick and farce as he dodges gangsters, trying to save the day.
It feels like Martin and Lewis are each heading in their own comic directions, but that allows one more plus for Money From Home. Three supporting actors—Pat Crowley, Sheldon Leonard, and Richard Haydn—get scene-stealing moments.
I'll add that the "Cyrano de Bergerac" routine mentioned on the DVD cover, in which Lewis lip-synchs to Martin's singing under Phyllis' window, really is one you should see.
As reissues go, this Technicolor movie holds up reasonably well in both image and sound. I didn't see any major glitches.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Looking for extras? Forget it. There isn't even a trailer. While a commentary might not have been the best way to give us more of a picture of the comedy team, showing them in action in a Colgate Comedy Hour episode or a radio show would have done the trick.
Will you wish Martin and Lewis had never broken up after seeing Money From Home? If you've ever enjoyed one or both in their solo work, it's doubtful. That doesn't mean that their work together isn't worth a look, though.
Not guilty—and it's a comfort to know there's a "vegetarian veterinarian" out there for everyone, even Jerry Lewis.
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