ANTS IN HIS PANTS (COME UP SMILING)
Australia, 1940, 77 minutes, Black and white.
Will Mahoney, Ann Richards, Evie Hayes, Alec Kellaway.
Directed by William Freshman.
Ants in His Pants (Come Up Smiling) was a comedy vehicle for American vaudeville star Will Mahoney. Mahoney toured Australia in the late '30s with his wife Evie Hayes. They made their homes and careers in Australia.
The film was a Cinesound production under the supervision of Ken G. Hall who had directed most of its features. Hall wrote the screenplay under his pseudonym John Addison Chandler. Direction was by William Freshman, an Australian-born actor who had worked in England. The film was not a success on its first release so Hall added the song 'Ants in His Pants' and changed the title. It was then a success.
The film is rather dated in its style - a comedy for audiences of the '30s. However, there are the regular Australian themes and a vitality in the humour and the song and dance routines that carry it along. There is a very good performance by Alec Kellaway as Killer. It is indirect contrast to his effeminate shop assistant in Dad and Dave Come to Town, made in the previous year. An interesting example of a film geared for popular entertainment attitudes of the late 1930s.
1. A popular entertaining comedy? style?
2. Comedy of the '30s? Australian humour? opportunity to do all kinds of stunt dancing? Music?
3. Titles and themes? Humour, the more sentimental 'Come Up Smiling'? The songs for the title? Performance?
4. Will Mahoney and his style: a little man, cheerful, his work in the carnival, the play and its failure, Pat and his love for her? The rivalry with the Killer? The mock-boxing bouts? The bagpipes sending him berserk? On the road, the Sheep song and Mahoney's versatility as a song and dance man? Pat and her voice, the need for money? Her singing and the failure, his reaction? The bets about the fight with the killer? His training and the friendship with Kitty? The jokes at the training sessions? The kidnapping and his wanting to get out of the fight? The build-up to the rescue, the fight, the comedy routines for the fight -cement on his wrists etc.? His winning? The achievement of the little man?
5. The romantic leads to give the romantic touch to the film? Their being incorporated into the plot - promoting Pat, rescuing Barney? The money backing for Pat's career?
6. Pat and the carnival, her singing, friendliness, relationship with Barney, the operation and the happy ending? An antipodean Deanna Durbin? Kitty and Evie Hayes' pleasant and lively style? Songs and dances? The mirror in the gymnasium as the screen and the variety of dance routines? Her training? The liaison with the crooks? Her attitude towards Killer? The races, Barney's being kidnapped, her change of heart and the rescue?
7. Killer as the punch-drunk prize-fighter, the bouts at the carnival, comedy routines, the send-up of the boxer?
8. The criminals and their deals? Comedy crooks?
9. The Camerons and the background of high society, Barney knocking out Mr Cameron, the social event and Cameron backing Barney, financial support?
10. Senor Rudolpho and his singing, his rude associate?
11. The range of Australian characters, reporters, the referee?
12. Basic '30s humour, visual and verbal jokes, routines?