Gotta admit I knew so little about the work of 30's comedians Bert Wheeler & Robert Woolsey that when I received a copy of one of their movies as part of a taped collection of little-remembered movie comedies, I didn't know whether it was a feature film or a short subject. Turns out that Hips, Hips, Hooray! (1934) is a short feature, one of several that the twosome made for RKO Pictures. Smoothly directed by Mark Sandrich (who would go on to helm the early Astaire & Rogers musicals), the movie is frequently touted by the duo's admirers as one of their best vehicles. On the basis of my first viewing, I'd say the praise isn't misdirected because Hips is a pretty entertaining movie: packed with plenty of pre-Code innuendo and comic inventiveness, not to mention chorine-heavy song-&-dance intervals and the kind of art deco set design RKO seemed to have a lock on in the thirties.
The movie concerns a pair of amiable hucksters, Andy Williams (Wheeler) & "Dr." Bob Dudley (Woolsey) who've been selling a line of Dr. Dudley's Flavored Lipstick on the city street corners. When they set up shop across the street from a struggling cosmetics company, Maiden America Beauty Products, they sweet-talk dippy salesgirl Daisy (Wheeler-&-Woolsey regular Dorothy Lee) and her boss Mrs. Frisby (a statuesque Thelma Todd, gamely matching Woolsey's every double entendre) into believing they're really wandering millionaires. Lurking in the background is an oily type named Armand Beauchamp (George Meeker), who is spying on the company for rival cosmetics firm, Madame Irene. After our heroes are mistakenly accused of swiping securities from the office of a banker, Armand takes advantage of the situation to force the duo to go on the lam.
There's more in the movie – unlike some of the earlier 30's comedies I've been reviewing, this 'un is stuffed with story – along with two delightful musical interludes. The first 'un features Ruth Etting at the mic (the songstress is given prime billing alongside Todd, though she really only appears in the movie's opening), the second contains the boys with Daisy and Mrs. Frisby doin' an extended comic song-&-dance entitled "Keep On Doin' What You're Doin'" as they wreak havoc to the city office set where they're cavorting. There's a comic pool game – where our heroes enter into a "friendly" game with the two cops tailing them – featuring lots of stop motion work, plus a climactic cross-country car race filled with cartoony visual resourcefulness. And speaking of cartoonishness, we even get a moment where the bespectacled Woolsey, checking out the flavors on his lipstick line with a group of obliging beauties, lifts both legs and stiffens his body like a Tex Avery wolf! There are several erection/arousal jokes in this flick, and each one's surprising and amusing.