The Milky Way (1936)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Comedy of Errors, Sports Comedy  |   Release Date - Feb 7, 1936 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 83 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Bruce Eder

Directed by Leo McCarey and produced by and starring Harold Lloyd, The Milky Way is one of the most finely etched and precisely paced comedic romps ever to grace the screen, and a dazzling showcase not only for Lloyd, but also for the entire cast. Naturally, he is the star and the main spark plug for the film, but Veree Teasdale as Ann Westly, Gabby Sloan's smart, long-suffering fiancée, steals most of the scenes that she's in with a wisecracking gem of a performance, like Eve Arden with a sharper edge; Adolphe Menjou's Gabby Sloan is a manic whirlwind of neurotic tics and apoplexy-in-the-making; William Gargan and Lionel Stander as the middle-weight champion and his stooge make a boundlessly funny dumb-and-dumber duo (Stander was so good in the part of the stooge that he repeated it in the Danny Kaye remake The Kid From Brooklyn a decade later); finally, Helen Mack and Dorothy Wilson are refreshing and delightful as two young women who are smarter than most of the men around them and not afraid to show it. The screenplay, by Frank R. Butler, Richard Connell, and Grover Jones, is a marvel of verbal and physical humor in perfect balance, while McCarey pulls it all together seamlessly as a vehicle for Lloyd's eager-beaver, go-getter screen persona. The first time he saw it, this reviewer almost hurt himself laughing at the scene where Lloyd's Burleigh Sullivan explains how the champion came to be knocked out, and most of the movie is just a few notches off from that sequence. The Milky Way wasn't a huge success when it was originally released, but over six decades it has retained its comedic edge and its charm where many other celebrated comedies of the period have faded -- and today, along with The Freshman, Safety Last, and Mad Wednesday, it's essential viewing for anyone who wants to appreciate Harold Lloyd's work, and for any fan of classic screen comedy.