11/9/08

The Lightning Bug presents Sunday Funnies: Private Snuffy Smith (1942)

Hello and welcome to the last new feature I'm rolling out. The weekend is a time to sit back and relax, but it always comes to a close. With Monday looming on the horizon and the work week ready to begin again, it's the perfect time to raise your spirits with a funny flick. So each Sunday that's what The Bug will be bringing to you.

For the inaugural edition, I felt it was only appropriate to start out with a movie based on the funny papers. (And sadly there is only a Bloom County animated special, no film, sigh.) Tonight I bring you the funnies favorite hillbilly. So strap on your boots, grab your rifle, and lets make a bee line for Hootin Hollar home to....

Private Snuffy Smith(1942) starring Bud Duncan, Edgar Kennedy, Sarah Paddon, and Jimmie Dodd. Directed by Edward F. Cline.
It's a lazy day in the Great Smoky Mountains, and Snuffy and his pals are guarding their still. However the Revenuers (basically the ATF of their day) are combing the hills looking for moonshiners and especially the wily Snuffy Smith. When the Revenue agents do stumble on
hillbillies, they are greeted with a barrage of shotguns filled with tacks. Snuffy manages to escape their clutches and embarrasses head revenue man Ed Cooper in the process. With no where to go he seeks shelter in the cabin of his friend Saul, but Saul's daughter Janie is having a rendezvous with her would be boyfriend Don. Seems Don and Janie's families are "a-feudin", and Don is off to the Army to seek his fortune by way of the artillery range finder he's invented. When Janie's pa finds the two there shotguns ring out and Don makes a hasty departure with Snuffy in tow.

It seems Snuffy is very impressed with the gold buttons and khaki britches that the Army has given Don. Couple that with tales of all the food you can eat and 30$ a month, and Snuffy wants to be an Army man himself. However they wont even let the diminutive hillbilly on the base. He does finally manage to see the base's general who runs him out right into the arms of ex-
revenue man, now Sergeant, Ed Cooper. Wisely Snuffy hightails it back to Hootin Hollar.

Snuffy's military career isn't over yet. After Snuffy's wife Lowizie makes up an accidental batch of invisibility potion, Cooper shows up to take Snuffy back to the general. Snuffy goes peacefully along with his now invisible dog Mr. Carter. When Snuffy gets there he discovers (as do we) that he's not in trouble at all. In fact, he's a hero to the general for saving him from a motorcycle accident. (When that happened, I don't know. It surely wasn't in the print I saw.) He rewards Snuffy with a position in the Army as a yardbird, a soldier assigned to the most menial of duties. Snuffy seems fine with that as long as he gets him some khaki britches.

After a while, the plot finally gets rolling as a group of dissidents/commies/fifth columnars plans to steal Don's range finder. They do manage to get ahold of the device, but its disappearance is discovered before they can get off the base. Luckily for them Snuffy has been thrown back out of the armed forces and is on his way back to Hootin Hollar. They stash the range finder on him, but they fail to get it back when they shanghai him on the road home. Soon, as luck would have it, Snuffy's old brigade is having war games right in Snuffy's neck of the woods or mountain as the case may be. It looks all but lost for the general, but he has one last hope. His secret weapon. A four foot tall moonshining hillbilly named Snuffy Smith.

Film Facts

--Director Edward Cline also helmed classic W.C. Fields comedies Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, The Bank Dick, and My Little Chickadee.

--Bud Duncan who plays Snuffy was a veteran of 165 silent films. His only two talkies were this one and its sequel Hillbilly Blitzkrieg (1942)

--Jimmy Dodd is perhaps best known as the MC of The Mickey Mouse Club and was the writer of it's iconic theme song. Dodd sings a couple of Snuffy-centric songs in this picture.

The Bug Speaks
The main thing to say about this film is that I had a good time watching it. It's not very well shot, acted, scripted, or anything. However it seemed to capture some of the flavor of the comic strip that we've all read when we're nearing the end of anything in the Funny Papers that we might read. Bud Duncan is actually pretty good as Snuffy, and his bulbous nose seemed so natural on his face that I actually debated whether it was real or not. Sarah Paddon also fits the bill as Lowizie, Snuffy's huge wife. These two were perfect casting. Edgar Kennedy, himself a veteran of some 340 films before this one, acquits himself well as a foil for Duncan's Smith.

There's really not much to say about the film. It is what it is. A cheaply made hillbilly comedy of the 1940's. I had a few grins, a few chuckles, and some outright laughs at some of the more physical comedy, but you'll get a chance to check it out for yourself. Down below instead of a trailer you'll find the "complete" one hour film. (Ahh, the magic of public domain.) So check it out for yourself and see what you think. (I put complete on quotes like that because it seems every print is missing some scenes from the original footage.) As for me, I enjoyed it, but probably would not watch it again. That being said; I would watch the sequel based on it's title alone.
Bug Rating

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