SWING YOUR LADY. Warner Brothers, 1938. Humphrey Bogart, Frank McHugh, Louise Fazenda, Nat Pendleton, Penny Singleton, Allen Jenkins, the Weaver Brothers and Elviry, Ronald Reagan, and Daniel Boone Savage. Screenplay by Joseph Schenk and Maurice Leo, from the play by Kenyon Nicholson and Charles Robinson. Directed by Ray Enright.

   A film that once seen is never forgotten—no matter how hard I try.

   At this stage in his career, Humphrey Bogart had been with Warners for two years and seven films, with noteworthy performances in three of them: THE PETRIFIED FOREST, BLACK LEGION and DEAD END. The star quality was definitely there, but somebody kept shunting him off into nothing parts in big films like VIRGINIA CITY and DARK VICTORY, or leads in things like SWING YOUR LADY.

   Bogart plays a seedy fight promoter, sort of like Adolphe Menjou in GOLDEN BOY, minus Barbara Stanwyck and William Holden. What he’s got is Penny “Blondie” Singleton and lunk-headed wrestler Nat Pendleton, touring the sticks trying to drum up a fight that will draw a crowd and get him noticed.

   Bogie eventually sets up a match between his boy and the local blacksmith (Louise Fazenda) but has to resort to chicanery, first to keep Nat from finding out he has to wrestle a woman, then to break up a romance when they meet and fall in love.

   Help of sorts comes in the form of Fazenda’s rejected beau Noah (Daniel Boone Savage, a professional wrestler using his Hillbilly Bruiser persona here in his only screen appearance.) Bogie arranges for him to fight Pendleton, then true to sleazy form, tells Louise that Nat already has a wife and four kids, then orders Nat to throw the match because the Winner is supposed to marry Ms Fazenda.

   Did you get all that? And did it put you on tenterhooks, wondering how it all comes out?

   Me neither.

   Obviously this is not a film for Bogart fans or those with a taste for sophisticated comedy. SWING YOUR LADY was sold as a Hillbilly Musical, and the story, such as it is, stops for long stretches to showcase the Weaver Brothers and Elviry, who seem to spend all their time singing on the porch at the General Store while Bogie hustles and everyone else tells hillbilly jokes.

   Easy as it is to dump on LADY, I should add that some of the musical interludes aren’t bad at all.

   Penny Singleton (having just changed her name from Dorothy McNulty) had a real talent for dancing — in a showy, Gene Kelley style — and she shows it off here in a couple of novelty numbers choreographed by Bobby Connolly, who worked on the dances in THE WIZARD OF OZ.

   As for the Weavers Brothers and Elviry… well, taken in the proper spirit, one can view them as authentic folk artists leaving a filmed record of their art.

   It helps. But not enough to redeem a movie that belittles its characters and demeans itself. Or as Bogart himself put it, “If you want to see the worst picture I ever made, get them to screen SWING YOUR LADY.”