Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Lensed at Paramount's Astoria studios, Follow the Leader is the film version of the 1927 Broadway musical Midnight Mary, with Ed Wynn making his talkie debut in his original stage role. The story has something to do with bombastic Broadway singer Helen King (Ethel Merman in her first feature-film appearance) and her understudy, winsome Mary Brennan (Ginger Rogers). To make certain that Rogers will be able to go on in Helen's place, comedy-relief character Crickets (who else but Wynn?) is hired to kidnap the latter. He makes precious little effort to hide his larcenous intentions, noisily stumbling into the lobby of Helen's hotel with the tools of his trade -- rope, sledgehammers, et. al. -- in full view of the assembled guests. Amazingly, he manages to bind Helen to a chair, only to wind up knocking himself out with a bottle of chloroform. Needless to say, Mary becomes a star, but the audience never sees Crickets or Helen again; for all anyone knows, they may still be locked up in that hotel room. Incredibly silly, Follow the Leader did little to advance the careers of any of its stars, though Ed Wynn and Ethel Merman continued packing 'em in on Broadway. If nothing else, the film offers modern audiences a chance to see several vaudeville headliners in action, including Lou Holtz, James C. Morton and Bobby Watson (here cast as Broadway impresario George White instead of his usual guise as Adolph Hitler).
Broadway, kidnapping, leading-role, performer, understudy, stars [celebrities]