Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Damon Runyon's Broadway fable The Lemon Drop Kid was filmed twice by Paramount Pictures, but only the 1934 version with Lee Tracy paid more than lip service to the original Runyon story. The second version, filmed in 1951, was completely retooled to accommodate the talents of Bob Hope. Known far and wide as the Lemon Drop Kid because of his fondness for that particular round, yellow confection, Hope is a bookie who finds himself deeply in debt to Florida gangster Fred Clark. Magnanimously, Clark permits Hope to head to New York to raise the money--but he'd better have the dough ready by Christmas, or else. Ever on the lookout for Number One, Hope decides to exploit the Christmas spirit in order to get the money together. With the help of unsuspecting nightclub-singer Marilyn Maxwell, Hope sets up a charity fund to raise money for an "Old Doll's Home"--that is, a home for down-and-out little old ladies. He claims to be doing this on behalf of big-hearted Jane Darwell, but he has every intention of double-crossing Darwell and all the other elderly women by skipping town with the charity funds and leaving them at the mercy of the authorities. By the time Hope has seen the error of his ways and tries to do right by the old dolls, Maxwell's boss Lloyd Nolan has decided to muscle into the racket by using the ladies' home as a front for a gambling casino. To set things right, Hope finds it necessary to disguise himself as a fussy old spinster at one point. The best line in the film goes to William Frawley, playing one of many Broadway toughs who are being pressed into service as street-corner Santas. "Will you bring me a doll for Christmas?" asks a little girl. "Naw, my doll's workin' Christmas Eve" is Frawley's salty reply. The Lemon Drop Kid is the film in which Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell introduced the enduring Yuletide ballad "Silver Bells", written (reportedly in a real hurry) by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.
bookie, charity, con/scam, debt, gangster, redemption, singer