Fred Allen and Robert Benchley, Part 2

Did you ever hear of the movie Fickle Fortune?

The original treatment was co-authored by Alfred Hitchcock’s wife. The screenplay was written (in part) by the man who wrote A Night At The Opera for the Marx Brothers. The producer was a former rabbi whose first credit was an 30’s exploitation film, The Birth Of A Baby, and whose final film was an industrial starring Buster Keaton that had been commissioned by an Arizona real estate developer. Fickle Fortune (later remade by Mel Brooks as The Twelve Chairs) was released under the title It’s In The Bag in 1945 except in the UK, where it was known as The Fifth Chair, since a film titled It’s In The Bag had been released there in 1944.

Fred Allen and Robert Benchley played together in this film, which was once available on VHS. I can’t imagine any old time radio fan who wouldn’t love to have a copy. The main Allen/Benchley scene appears below. It is preceded by the film’s main titles, which are not to be missed.

Fred Allen’s quip about Mr. Skirball’s name occurring twice in the credits is even funnier when you learn that Mr. Skirball, through the Skirball Foundation, has had his name placed on:

  • NYU’s Skirball Center For The Performing Arts
  • The Jack. H. Skirball Health Center in Woodland Hills, CA
  • The Jack. H. Skirball Center for Chemical Biology and Proteomics at the Salk Institute
  • The Jack. H. Skirball Fund for the Center for Jewish Studies at CUNY
  • The Jack. H. Skirball Chair for Opthamology Research
  • The Skirball Institute on American Values

From the New York Times, November 16, 1997:
(Part of a dialogue between Marty Scorsese and Woody Allen)

Scorsese: We… met a couple of times, I think, inadvertently.

Allen: I remember years ago meeting you at a video store on Broadway.

Scorsese: That was very funny. I was behind the counter looking for ”It’s in the Bag” — Jack Benny and Fred Allen.

Allen: I remember that. Why were you looking for ”It’s in the Bag”?

Scorsese: Oh, I love that film. I like Fred Allen a lot. And, of course, Jack Benny.

Allen: But it was not a successful movie, I don’t think.

Scorsese: No, no.

Allen: It was a chance to see Jack Benny and Fred Allen.

Isn’t Life Terrible’s coverage of vintage comedy is not yet supported by an underwriting grant from The Skirball Foundation.

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