The film Hellzapoppin (1941), realized by Henry C. Potter.
Hellzapoppin' is a 1941 Universal Pictures adaptation of the musical of the same name directed by H.C. Potter. The cast includes Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson (who produced and starred in it on Broadway), Martha Raye, Mischa Auer, Shemp Howard, and The Six Hits.
The credits for the movie assert that "any resemblance between Hellzapoppin' and a motion picture are coincidental"—a truth that is perhaps responsible for it being less successful than the stage show which engendered it. The film does have some great visual humor, however, including a number of special effects that couldn't be duplicated on stage.
Shemp Howard begins the film as the projectionist of a cinema, displaying on its screen what appears to be the start of a song-and-dance number whose classily dressed performers walk down a staircase - which collapses as in a fun-house ride, sliding them all straight to hell. Demons punish them in various ways. Ole and Chic arrive in the midst of the mayhem by taxi, and after a bit of funny business step back to reveal that it's a movie sound stage. They work for Miracle Pictures (with the slogan "If it's a good picture, it's a Miracle!"). A mousy screenwriter (Elisha Cook, Jr.) outlines his script for the screen adaptation of Hellzapoppin', and the rest of the movie depicts Cook's crazy script. Among the topical humor is Johnson picking up a sled named "Rosebud" and saying "I thought they'd burnt that" (Olsen and Johnson were friends of Orson Welles, whose film Citizen Kane climaxes with Kane's childhood sled being burnt).
The dance scenes from the movie are some of the best-known Lindy Hop scenes from the swing era, and they have made the film popular among modern Lindy hoppers. One frenetic routine is performed by Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, and another notable dance scene features Martha Raye and Dean Collins.
At the present, Hellzapoppin' (like almost all Olsen and Johnson films) is hard to find on commercial DVD. Second Sight (via an arrangement with Universal) released the film commercially in England on region 2 format DVD (release date 2007). The film was scheduled for screening at the non-profit Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in September 2008.
The nomination for "Pig Foot Pete", an Academy Award nominee for Best Song in 1942 (it lost to "White Christmas"), was attributed to Hellzapoppin', but it never appeared in that film. It actually appeared in the Abbott and Costello film Keep 'Em Flying.
Ole Olsen - Ole Olsen
Chic Johnson - Chic Johnson
Martha Raye - Betty Johnson
Hugh Herbert - Quimby
Jane Frazee - Kitty Rand
Robert Paige - Jeff Hunter
Mischa Auer - Pepi
Richard Lane - Director
Lewis Howard - Woody Taylor
Clarence Kolb - Andrew Rand
Nella Walker - Mrs. Rand
Shemp Howard - Louie
Elisha Cook Jr. - Harry Selby
Frank Darien - Man calling for Mrs. Jones
Catherine Johnson - Lena, Lady looking for Oscar