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IT'S IN THE BAG!

                            

For Hicksflicks.com, July 19, 2013

Fred Allen was a huge radio star in the 1930s and '40s, though he could never quite make the transition to television. Nonetheless, in his later years he was a fixture on talk shows and game shows, thanks to his quick wit and satirical musings.

In fact, a number of his more famous quotes are all over the internet, no doubt because they still ring true in the 21st century:

            "Imitation is the sincerest form of television."

            "A celebrity is a person who works hard all of their life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized."

            "A committee is a group of the unprepared, appointed by the unwilling to do the unnecessary."

            "Television is a medium because anything well done is rare."

Allen also made movies — just six — mostly as a co-star or supporting player. He gave a comic boost to "Thanks a Million," "Sally, Irene and Mary," "We're Not Married" and was teamed with Oscar Levant for "The Ransom of Red Chief," a segment of the anthology film "O. Henry's Full House." Allen also co-starred with Jack Benny in "Love Thy Neighbor," a film built around their mock radio feud.

But Allen's only starring role was in "It's in the Bag!" based on a Russian novel that was also the basis some 25 years later for Mel Brooks' "The Twelve Chairs."

Allen plays Fred Floogle, owner of a flea circus, who inherits five chairs, unaware that one of them contains $12 million. Unfortunately, he learns of his true inheritance after selling the chairs, then spends the rest of the movie trying to get them back.

All of this, however, is merely a way of allowing Allen to crack wise during a series of skits with guest stars, including one from his "Allen's Alley" radio show, Minerva Pious as Mrs. Nussbaum. Others include Don Ameche, William Bendix, Victor Moore and Rudy Vallee, all playing themselves, as well as Robert Benchley, Jerry Colonna and John Carradine as various characters.

But the best segment is a very funny encounter with Jack Benny, again playing into their radio "feud."

This is one of those movies that people have asked me about for years, and it just made its disc debut a few months ago on the Olive label, available as both a DVD and a Blu-ray.