review for Whistling in Brooklyn on AllMovie

Whistling in Brooklyn (1943)
by Bruce Eder review

The last of Red Skelton's three stints as radio personality Wally Benton ("alias 'The Fox'") is the wildest and woolliest of them all. The script has enough holes to run an 18-wheeler through it, but director S. Sylvan Simon combines his skills at pushing a story forward with Skelton's relentless energy, so that one hardly notices or cares -- especially amid the sight gags that seem to turn up in tandem with Skelton's wisecracks at almost every edit point in the picture. Simon and Skelton also make what should have been a tiresome climactic fight scene into a very successful extended slapstick sequence. Filmgoers in 1943 likely loved the topical radio references (and it's pretty amazing in the twenty-first century to see topical references to the real-life WHN), but modern audiences will really appreciate the presence of familiar faces such as Ray Collins, William Frawley, and Sam Levene, plus Jean Rogers, from the first two Flash Gordon serials, looking very fetching if slightly long-of-tooth as a talentless would-be newspaper reporter, a sort of anti-Lois Lane. One also has to love the topical references to New York and Brooklyn circa 1943 (including Skelton having fun at Mayor LaGuardia's expense).

And as an off-the-scales bonus, there's the timeless presence of the real-life Brooklyn Dodgers (including Leo Durocher), no less. Twenty-odd years later, Durocher would delight fans in the same way with his portrayal of himself in a Munsters episode, for which this is the dry run. Indeed, the moment in the script where Durocher crosses paths with Skelton's Wally Benton, disguised as an annoying member of the opposing team, is a priceless piece of scripting and verite characterization -- Durocher is bad-mouthing Skelton, masquerading as the opposing pitcher, until a cop comes over, and suddenly Leo is defending him as "my buddy," till the cop departs and then he's back to insulting him. The baseball sequence is worth the price of admission, featuring as it does Skelton clowning on the pitcher's mound so effectively that it stops the picture cold with laughs; and then he manages to top it with his antics in the batter's box, and then he caps his work with a riotous exit from Ebbets Field.