Synopsis by Bruce Eder
One of the funniest, most sharply paced comedies of the 1930s, and perhaps the best of all of Harold Lloyd's talkies, The Milky Way was based on the Broadway play by Lynn Root and Harry Clork. Lloyd plays Burleigh Sullivan, a mild-mannered milkman who intercedes one night when his sister Mae (Helen Mack) is being accosted on the street by two obnoxious drunks -- they turn their wrath on him, his sister runs for help, and when she returns less than a minute later, both men are out cold on the pavement, with Burleigh standing over them. As one of them, Speed MacFarland (William Gargan), is the world's middleweight boxing champion, and the other, Spider Schultz (Lionel Stander), is his sparring partner, Burleigh makes the front page of every newspaper in New York. McFarland's manager, Gabby Sloan (Adolphe Menjou), has to figure out how to salvage the champ's career, but first he has to figure out exactly what happened, since both fighters were too drunk to remember anything about it. It turns out that Sullivan couldn't beat an egg, but he is good at one thing -- ducking. He can dodge any punch, and the two fighters knocked each other out in the process of trying to pummel him. What's more, on hearing this, they're so angry that Schultz accidentally knocks MacFarland out again, just ahead of the press' arrival, and the little milkman is given credit once more by the reporters for decking the champ. Burleigh loves the attention, even though he never claims to have hit anyone. Meanwhile, Sloan comes up with a way of salvaging his fighter's career, and convinces Burleigh to go along with it for a promised cash sum -- all Burleigh has to do is get in the ring in six fights, to build up his standing and reputation, and finish his "career" in a fight with MacFarland, who will win. In the meantime, complications arise when MacFarland falls in love with Burleigh's sister, while Burleigh himself meets and falls in love with Polly Pringle (Dorothy Wilson), a helpful neighbor. Gabby, Spider, and Speed also discover that turning tiny, wiry Burleigh Sullivan into something that even looks like a fighter is easier said than done -- all of his fights have to be fixed (and then some) behind his back to make his victories look remotely genuine. Finally, after starting to believe his own publicity, and then discovering that the fights were fixed, Burleigh goes through with the final match-up against MacFarland, the culmination of a comedy of errors involving horses, foals, and a wild chase to the arena.
champion, milkman, promoter, sister, boxing, scheme, con/scam, sports