Radio actor Kenny Delmar created the character of bombastic Southern Senator Claghorn for a 1945 installment of The Fred Allen Show. The character immediately caught on with the public, spawning an overabundance of merchandising and thousands of ersatz Claghorn imitators (foremost among these was the Warner Bros. cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn). In 1947, Delmar attempted to parlay Claghorn into film stardom with It's a Joke, Son. From the outset, screenwriters Robert Kent and Paul Gerard Smith were faced with a problem: Senator Claghorn was very funny in small doses on The Fred Allen Show, but could the character sustain a feature-length picture? Their solution to this dilemma was to "humanize" the Senator by removing some of his obnoxious braggadocio and transforming him into a harmless, henpecked small-town windbag. Living in his decaying ancestral Southern mansion with his long-suffering wife Magnolia (Una Merkel), Claghorn has trouble making ends meet financially. Magnolia hopes to resolve their money problems by running for state senator on behalf of the Daughters of Dixie. A band of northern political crooks convince the gullible Claghorn to run against his wife in the senatorial race, thereby splitting the vote so that their own equally crooked candidate can win the election. Complication piles upon complication until Magnolia, realizing that Claghorn is being set up as a patsy, has him kidnapped "for his own good"-a plan which predictably backfires. Future TV star June Lockhart is decorative as Claghorn's daughter, while Kenneth Farrell is adequate as the obligatory romantic lead. It's a Joke Son was the initial Hollywood effort from the Eagle-Lion Productions, a British-based firm which would eventually absorb PRC Pictures, where this film was made on the very cheap. Though moderately successful, the film proved that Senator Claghorn was much funnier heard than seen.
by Hal Erickson synopsis