February 2024

Nero Wolfe on Page and (Small U.S.) Screen:
Champagne for One
by Matthew R. Bradley


   Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novel Champagne for One (1958) finds Austin “Dinky” Byne asking Archie a favor: to sub for him at the annual dinner party his aunt, ex-client Louise (Mrs. Robert) Robilotti, throws on the birth date of her late first husband, philanthropist Albert Grantham. At table will be Albert’s twins, Celia and Cecil; unwed mothers Helen Yarmis, Ethel Varr, Faith Usher, and Rose Tuttle; and fellow “chevaliers” Paul Schuster, Beverly Kent, and Edwin Laidlaw. The mothers are “graduates” of Grantham House in Dutchess County, “financed until they got jobs or husbands,” invited to Fifth Avenue to keep in touch…if not necessarily to find said husbands among the upper crust of society.

   Forewarned by second-timer Rose that Faith has long kept a bottle of cyanide on her, and might choose that night to use it, Archie watches her carefully until she takes a fatal drink of champagne, and knows she did not administer it herself. Cramer visits Wolfe, making clear in his presence that he thinks Archie is mistaken or lying, but will not rule homicide out; hard on his heels, Laidlaw tries to hire Wolfe to learn why. Believing it was suicide, he fears being arrested for murder if the police uncover the fact that, under a false name, he had a liaison in Canada with Faith, then a clerk at Cordoni’s flower shop, her presence at Grantham House reported to Laidlaw by Byne—apparently unaware he was the father.

   Wolfe agrees either to prove suicide or to expose the killer, but mistrusts the “remarkable coincidence” that neither Laidlaw nor Faith knew the other would be there. In return for not revealing that Dinky faked a cold to get out of the party, Archie gets an audience with Mrs. Blanche Irwin at Grantham House, who also doubts suicide and says Byne chose the mothers from the list she gave him. Archie returns home, where Orrie has brought them, and corroborating his statement earns a “quite satisfactory” (“He gave me a satisfactory only when I hatched a masterpiece”) for Ethel; Mrs. James Robbins, a Grantham House director, had gotten Faith a job at Barwick’s furniture store and an apartment with Helen.

   Helen recalls that Faith once reported meeting her mother on the street and running away after a scene, but later regretted telling Helen she wished her dead. Two days after hiring Wolfe, with no progress, Laidlaw covers by visiting with the other chevaliers and Cece to accuse him of doing them an injury by linking them with a spurious murder investigation, but the two parties are at an impasse. Archie receives an urgent summons from Laidlaw, dogged by the D.A., as Wolfe is siccing the ’teers on the mother, Elaine, who—per Lon at the Gazette—lammed after authorizing Marjorie Betz to claim the body for cremation; prefiguring the title of a 1963 entry, “I wished the trio luck in their mother hunt and left.”

   Somebody mails the D.A. (now Ed Bowen again—I give up) a note outing Laidlaw as the father, yet while he is livid, having admitted nothing, Wolfe is gratified at having goaded the killer into action: “Now he is doomed.” Cramer interrupts the interrogation into who could have known, forcing his quarry to slip out the back and bearding Wolfe in the plant rooms to no avail. Just as Wolfe tells Archie to see Celia, who gave a flippant reason for rejecting Laidlaw’s proposal but may have known about Faith, she calls asking him to the house; on arrival, she admits to being a decoy for her mother, who wants to see him along with the Police Commissioner (now Bob Skinner again—whatever), because of said note.

   Asked once again to walk back his statement, Archie tactfully withdraws and, frustrated while waiting for Saul to flush Elaine from her Hotel Christie hideout, blows up at Wolfe. Replying that “You are headstrong and I am magisterial. Our tolerance of each other is a constantly recurring miracle,” Wolfe suggests Byne deserves closer scrutiny; tailing him to Tom’s Joint, Archie finds Saul tailing her there as well, and threatened with the police, they agree to see Wolfe. Separated, Dinky asserts that he’d been intimate years ago with Elaine, who requested the meet to ask about Faith’s death, while she volunteers only the second fact, and during the interview, Orrie arrives bearing a leather case from her room.

   This contains a letter from Albert revealing that he had been her lover; supported her and Faith, if not acknowledging paternity due to Elaine’s promiscuity; and arranged for Byne to share with her the annual $55,000 tax-exempt income from a $2 million portfolio. One of the provisions, Elaine confirms, halved her payments if Faith died, and Byne, who now clearly had a motive if not necessarily opportunity, admits he typed the note to deflect the investigation away from him, but got cold feet after mischievously arranging for Laidlaw and Faith to be at the party. Then, as Wolfe leans back, closes his eyes, and start pushing his lips in and out, Archie opines, “I really should have a sign made, genius at work…”

   To determine how the crime was committed, Wolfe has Cramer and Stebbins gather the suspects to restage it in his office; Purley voices Wolfe’s observation that the distinctive way Cecil carries the glasses would enable an onlooker to know which of the pair picked up he would proffer to Faith. Waiting in the wings, Elaine is introduced to Louise, who slaps her face, having learned from Byne of Faith’s paternity, and invited her there to kill her. Standing at the bar as Hackett, the butler, poured, Louise dropped the poison into the glass, making her own son an unwitting delivery system, and it is later learned that, aware of the cyanide Faith carried, she procured some, knowing that suicide would be assumed.

   Directed by co-executive producer Timothy Hutton, who played Archie, “Champagne for One” (4/29 & 5/6/01), a two-part first-season episode of A Nero Wolfe Mystery, was the first of four written by William Rabkin & Lee Goldberg; the latter related his experience in a Mystery Scene article reprinted here by Steve. Two of the guest-stars, Marian Seldes (as Louise) and Michael Rhoades (as Kent), made their only other appearances in “Door to Death” (6/4/01), while David Hemblen is credited with one of three as orchid fancier Lewis Hewitt, mentioned in the novella. As in “Prisoner’s Base” (5/13 & 20/01), Aron Tager is billed as “Commissioner Skinn,” although correctly referred to in the dialogue.

   Louise’s dislike for Archie, dating to when he and Wolfe (Maury Chaykin) recovered her jewelry, is obvious the moment he arrives at the shindig for Helen (Kathryn Zenna), Ethel (Janine Theriault), Faith (Patricia Zentilli), and Rose (Christine Brubaker). They freshen up after dinner as Archie gets better acquainted with Louise’s son, Cecil (Steve Cumyn); her fortune-hunting second husband, Robert (David Schurmann); and chevaliers Schuster (Robert Bockstael), Laidlaw (Alex Poch-Goldin), and Kent. Then it’s dancing time, with Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No. 2: VI. Waltz 2, and Kari Matchett, later seen in a recurring role as Lily Rowan, aptly portraying Celia, who also danced with Archie at the Flamingo.

   After a fez-wearing Hackett (James Tolkan) pours the soon-to-be-deadly champagne, and Faith collapses, Archie stays by the body while having the band leader (Ken Kramer) call the police. Later, when told why Byne (Boyd Banks) gave Archie an entrée to Mrs. Irwin (Nancy Beatty), Wolfe scoffs, “Nothing is as pitiable as a man afraid of a woman”; Part 2 opens as Saul (Conrad Dunn), Fred (Fulvio Cecere), and Orrie (Trent McMullen) receive their orders. Cramer (Bill Smitrovich) and Wolfe are equally apoplectic during the plant-room confrontation, with Archie recalling the Clara Fox incident from The Rubber Band (1936), while Seldes, again ill-served by her participation in the show, chews the scenery.

   When Wolfe confronts her with Albert’s letter, Elaine (Nicky Guadagni) launches herself across the desk at him, and we are treated to the delicious spectacle of Wolfe rearing back to kick her in the chin. Chaykin also beautifully portrays his unprecedented, “unqualified admiration” (“You not only have eyes but know what they’re for”) of the attentive Purley (R.D. Reid), who exchanges glances with a proud Cramer. Despite Hemblen’s inclusion in the credits, I detected no sign of Hewitt whatsoever; since several of the episodes exist in multiple versions for domestic and international broadcast and/or home video, he may appear in one of those, or simply be credited despite ending up on the cutting-room floor.

   Goldberg observed that A Nero Wolfe Mystery “was, as far as I know, the first TV series without a single original script—each and every episode was based on a Rex Stout novel, novella, or short story. That’s not to say there wasn’t original writing involved, but it was Stout who did all the hard work…. The mandate from [the] executive producers…was to ‘do the books,’ even if that meant violating some…rules of screenwriting…. More often than not, that meant loyalty to the dialogue rather than to the structure of the plot or the order, locations, or choreography of the scenes.” He and Rabkin adapted Prisoner’s Base (1952), “Poison à la Carte” (1960)—our next post—and “Murder Is Corny” (1964).

         — Copyright © 2024 by Matthew R. Bradley.

Up next: “Poison à la Carte”

Edition cited

      Champagne for One: Bantam (1960)

Online sources:

Reviewed by TONY BAER:


MICHAEL GOLD – Jews Without Money. Horace Liveright, hardcover, 1930.  Reprinted numerous times.

   This one is about life on the lower east side at the turn of the 20th century. Episodic. Short chapters, with shorter paragraphs, each describing an incident in the tenements or the streets: gang fights, prostitution, disease, love, and death, each in equal doses. Meanwhile, thru the incidents, Michael Gold grows up, radicalized by the elements.


   It was pretty good. Gold’s only ‘novel’ and it’s easy to see why. He gives you the recollections of his youth. And an author can only give you this once. No matter how many times they try.

MOVIE! MOVIE! Reviewed by Dan Stumpf:
Two Films by W. C. Fields.


THE FATAL GLASS OF BEER. Paramount, 1933. With W.C. Fields, Rosemary Theby, George Chandler and Gordon Douglas. Produced by Mack Sennett. Written by W.C. Fields. Directed by Clyde Bruckman.

NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK.  Universal, 1941. With W.C. Fields, Gloria Jean, Leon Errol, Margaret Dumont, Franklin Pangborn, Anne Nagel (as “Madame Gorgeous”) Minerva Urecal, Carlotta Monti, and Emil Van Horn (as “Gargo the Gorilla”) Written by John T. Neville, Prescott Chaplin, and “Otis Criblecoblis.” Directed by Edward Cline.

   Genius strikes twice, near the beginning and shortly before the end, of W C Fields’ career in talking pictures.

   Fields was a confirmed star in silent movies, but studio heads must have been nervous about his fitness for sound, because early on, Paramount featured him mostly in their “All Star” features, co-billed with players like Burns & Allen, Charlie Ruggles, and even Bela Lugosi and Gary Cooper!

   But at the same time, Fields was working on ultra-low-budget shorts for Mack Sennett, mostly recreations of his old Vaudeville routines, and among these mini-films, Fatal Glass of Beer calls out to this discerning critic, with its stunning location photography, stirring music, heart-wrenching drama, breath-taking special effects, and thematic resonance, contrasting man’s struggle with the elements and his struggle against sin, for a deeply-felt statement about the savagery of both.

   We-ell, that may be stretching things just a bit.

   The location photography is actually grainy old stock footage with mis-matched sound effects. The music is written & performed by Fields himself (“Mind if I play with my mittens on?”) and the special effects are only astonishing in their audacious ersatzery, so obviously fake as to evoke gasps of disbelief in the audience.

   In fact, what we have here is Fields testing the notion of what it is to be a movie. He deliberately calls attention to the language of film-making, just to craft cinematic puns with it, and the drama creaks with age, played with stony seriousness by a cast of seasoned pros acting like amateurs. The result is a film as anarchistic — and as funny — as Duck Soup or Airplane, hacked out by a genius fluid in the language of Cinema.

   Eight years later we find W.C. Fields physically deteriorating in his last solo-starring feature film, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, and once again we find him toying with the question, What does it mean to be a Movie? Artists and critics have asked What is a Painting? What is a Novel? A Statue? A Bird? A Plane? A Superman? (Well, only Shaw, Siegel & Schuster asked that last one, and really no critic worth his by-line bothers with birds & planes anymore.)

   But I digress. With Never/Break, Fields threw together every element of a 1940s comedy, then tore them all apart. Once again, we get stunning locations — glass-painted courtesy of Universal Studio’s Jack Otterson (of The Killers and Son of Frankenstein).   We get musical production numbers, some quite elaborate, and there’s even drama of sorts, but don’t try to summarize the plot, because there isn’t any, just a rickety framework about Fields trying to sell a story to his producer, a framework that quickly sinks into the story itself.

   Ah yes. Where Fatal/Beer marches through melodrama, Never/Break   tiptoes through the tulips of timeworn cliché, with predictable romantic rivalries, vapid young lovers, doting dotards and twinkle-eyed teenagers. And Margaret Dumont. And a Gorilla. And a wild chase for a finale that has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Like I said: every element of B-movie comedy broken down and packaged up like a celluloid Xanadu.

   It’s seldom that a career is bookended so neatly. In fact, the closest I can recall is John Wayne going out with The Shootist.  And let’s face it, Fatal Glass… wasn’t Fields’ first film, nor was Never Give his last. But they’re close enough — and memorable enough — to work for me.


      Why is George Burns the most famous man in the world?

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller


MIGNON G. EBERHART – The Patient in Cabin C. Random House, hardcover, 1983. Warner Books, paperback, 1985.

   This recent Eberhart novel is typical fare. Sewall (“Sue”) Gates, a young upper-class lady whom financial reverses have forced into nurse’s training, is plucky, determined, and genuinely likes being a nurse; but now she is offered the opportunity to gain financial security for herself and her harmlessly alcoholic aunt Addie by marrying wealthy Monty Montgomery.

   Monty. an entrepreneur who describes himself as a “peddler,” is only mildly alcoholic (compared to Addie) and quite well meaning, but Sue is not at all sure she wants to marry him. And she is still undecided when she and Addie board his yacht, the Felice, for a cruise that Addie believes is planned as a celebration of his engagement to Sue.

   The yacht — a sort of seagoing version of the country estate — has a full complement of passengers: Monty’s younger half sister, Lalie, a budding alcoholic herself; Sam Wiley, a man with heart trouble from whom Monty bought the yacht; Dr. Smith, head of the hospital where Sue took her training and apparently Wiley’s personal physician; Lawson, Monty’s attorney; Juan, the steward, who is not the deferential Chicano he seems to be; and two others, whose presence is ill-advised-Stan Brooke, Sue’s former heartthrob, whom Monty hired on impulse to skipper the yacht; and Monty’s former mistress, Celia Hadley. It is a menage just made for murder — and indeed, as soon as the Felice sets sail in a thick fog, mysterious events begin to happen.

   First Monty falls overboard, and swears he was pushed.

   Sue sees the steward sharpening an evil-looking hatchet. The ship’s engines quit. The steward disappears, leaving a trail of bloodstains. Monty remakes his will in Sue’s favor and begins talking monotonously and ominously about someone being out to get him. Addie remains foolishly drunk. A storm is brewing; Sue thinks of shipwrecks and sinkings, and Addie begins seeing things that may be more than just the product of the DT’s. Finally Sue, typical Eberhart heroine that she is, begins to detect-with the usual satisfying results.

   Like all of Eberhart’ s novels, this one is well crafted and well plotted, and her fans will feel right at home with the characters and situation. Sue Gates is not very different from Eberhart’ s heroines of the 1940s, and there is a curious, somewhat refreshing innocence to this seafaring tale. Perhaps the most surprising thing about The Patient in Cabin C is that it was written in the 1980s, rather than in those more gentle days.

Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007. Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

MANNIX. “Skid Marks on a Dry Run.” CBS/Desilu Productions. 23 September 1967 (Season 1, Episode 2). Mike Connors (Joe Mannix), Joseph Campanella. Guest Cast: Charles Drake, Marian Moses, Wende Wagner, Vincent Gardenia, Vic Perrin, Herbie Faye. Written & directed by John Meredyth Lucas. Currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

   I don’t think this happens often, but here we are only two episodes into the first season, and this one’s a dud. Or at least I think so. Let me tell you about it.

   It begins promisingly enough. A client comes to Intertect (the computer-oriented PI agency Mannix works for) with a strange request: he wants to be investigated himself. He’s running for office, he says, and he wants to be sure that no dirt can be dug up about him that the opposition can use to smear both him and his campaign.

   Well, OK, but between you and me, there’s more to it than that. Mannix is assigned the case. And even though the people he talks to from the client’s past know nothing and tell him nothing, they all seem to end up dead. It makes no sense, nor (as it turns out) neither does the basic premise. I don’t suppose I need tell you why, and I wouldn’t think of doing so anyway, but when the wheels are as wobbly on the car as it is on this one, you can bet your last fifty bucks it won’t go very far, and it doesn’t.

   But, and it is a big but, the show is still fun to watch anyway. I like the title, too.

Reviewed by TONY BAER:


JAMES GUNN – Deadlier Than the Male. Duell Sloan and Pearce, hardcover. 1942. Signet #709, paperback, 1949. Forthcoming from Stark House Press, softcover, April 2024 (intro by Curtis Evans). Film adaptation: Released as Born to Kill (RKO Radio Pictures, 1947, with Claire Trevor, Lawrence Tierney, Walter Slezak).

   Legend has it that there was a time where men were men and women were women. James Gunn is here to tell you that that time, if it ever existed, wasn’t in 1942.

Sam Wild is a man. A wild man, a man’s man, a ladies man. He’s redheaded, rough and tough and he smells like sweat.

   Mrs. Krantz runs a boarding house and lives for the lurid stories of her only friend: Laura Pollicker.

   Laura is a marginally wealthy, flaccid gigolo-monger, in ruffles. Picture Bette Davis’s Baby Jane trying to seduce you. She comes bearing gifts.

   Laura regales Mrs. Krantz with legendary lovemaking with her new beau: He’s redheaded, rough and tough and he smells like sweat.

   Sam Wild finds his benefactor with another gigolo, and goes wild, killing Laura Pollicker as well as his rival.

   The cops have no clues. But Mrs. Krantz is determined to sniff out the killer: “Laura was all I had. Laura and the bottle. There’s nothing I can do for the bottle, but I won’t let Laura down.”

   There’s a pretty funny scene where Mrs. Krantz tracks Sam Wild down, sits two rows behind him at the theater, trying to sniff him out, leans over the dividing row, sticking her huge ass high in the air, blocking the view of the other patrons, inhaling deeply at the smell of her prey, exclaiming: “Laura! I found him!”

   Sam Wild escapes from Mrs. Krantz, only to be ensnared by Helen, a blonde bombshell. And Sam, for all his animal force, realizes he’s lost to “the most beautiful smiling thing I ever saw, with a body like honey and a face that smiles. She sits and smiles and swings her legs, above me, above the world, knowing she’s better than anybody ever was, sure that she and her kind own the earth we live on. And they do. And she hates me.”

   But “Helen had had about enough of men sobbing on beds. She slapped his face, hard. He cringed as she leaned over him.”

   Helen is a femme fatale for the ages. She destroys everyone in her orbit and emerges unscathed, nay better, stronger, richer, more powerful than ever, by the end. A school of weak men drowned in her wake.


   I liked the book. Didn’t love it. But then again I already knew the femme fatale was deadlier than the male. It may have been news in 1942, but it’s a pretty well trodden path today. The reviews of the day showed the book by this 21 year old writer blew people away: “This Stanford Senior writes better than Cain ever wrote”, said John Selby in his syndicated book review. The philosopher Gilles Deleuze named it his favorite of the first 1000 serie noires.

   So ‘people’ love it. But it’s always hard to know what history was like before it happened. I’ve already seen Body Heat and many more like it. So I’m not surprised. But if readers of 1942 were used to Goldilocks, they had another think coming. A think which must have felt a bit like when Mrs. Krantz, “with all her might … jabbed up between his legs with her hatpin.”

BRANT HOUSE – Servants of the Skull. Secret Agent X #2. Corinth CR126, paperback, 1966. Cover art by Robert Bonfil. First appeared in Secret Agent X, November 1934. [Brant House was a house name used by several writers; in this case the author was Emile C. Tepperman.]

   The Skull’s plan is to kidnap ten heavily insured businessmen, then force [their] life insurance companies to pay for their release, rather than have them viciously murdered, X manages to take the place of a notorious safe-cracker and enter he Skull’s secret underground hideaway, but the capture of Betty Dale forces him to reveal [himself. He escapes, then returns as a kidnap victim before the Skull’s identities are revealed in turn.]

   Tremendously exciting, with the plot moving forward every minute. There are flaws, of course, if you must look for them. The Skull’s “servants” are decidedly of a poor caliber; no wonder he keeps them locked up almost as prisoners. At one time, Secret Agent X, in distress, asks the Skull if all the secret panels and the maze of passages are necessary. [Here’s what I’m thinking.] Not for a sane man, but how can a man with the Skull’s ambitions be sane?

Rating: ***

— June 1968.




JOE GORES – Contract Null and Void. DKA #5, Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1996; paperback, 1997.

   I was more than a little disappointed in the last DKA book, 32 Cadillacs.  It was the first in the series in a number of years, and I was really looking forward to it — but it turned out to be a pure caper novel rather than the PI procedural I was expecting, and which earlier DKA books had been. So I started this one a bit apprehensively; not that the last one was bad, but it sure wasn’t what I wanted and expected from a DKA novel.

   DKA stands for Daniel Kearney Associates, a private detective agency run by, logically enough, Dan Kearney- — who is sleeping on an operative’s couch because his wife has kicked him out. For reasons that seemed good at the time, DKA has taken on the job of body-guarding a computer genius at his home because of recent attempts on his life. On his own, Larry Ballard — on whose sofa Kearney is sleeping — is looking into the disappearance of a union official, and this one gets rough in a hurry. And yet another operative is up in redwood country, trying to repo some large tires from a larger Swede.

   Gores and DKA are back to their old form, I’m delighted to report. The ensemble of Kearney, Giselle Marc, Ken Warner, Ballard, and O’Banion are all doing the things real private detectives do, and reinforcing Gores’ reputation as the only writer going who writes “realistic” PI tales.

   It takes an accomplished writer who juggles three stories and a number of frequently shifting viewpoints, but  Gores handles  it with aplomb and panache.  He doesn’t do flashy (at least with DKA), but he does damned good.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #26, July 1996.
From Page to Screen. by Mike Tooney:
DAMON RUNYON “The Lemon Drop Kid.”


DAMON RUNYON “The Lemon Drop Kid.” Short story. First appearance: Collier’s, 03 February 1934.

   Damon Runyon (1880-1946) used to be a household name. He was famous for two reasons: his reportage, often covering some of the most sensational stories of the first half of the 20th century, and his fiction, featuring thinly disguised real people in occasionally outlandish situations, written in a narrative style uniquely his own.

   Nowadays Runyon’s reputation rests almost entirely in his “Broadway stories,” such as Guys and Dolls. People who knew Runyon well claimed his hardboiled exterior concealed a cultured and sensitive interior. In any case, he was friends with the infamous (Al Capone was a neighbor) as well as the famous (in accordance with Runyon’s wishes, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker flew low over Broadway and scattered his ashes over the district).

   One of Runyon’s “ironic mini-comedies” involves a racetrack tout named The Lemon Drop Kid. A tout, for the uninitiated, is a hustler who pretends he has inside information on an upcoming race (when, in fact, he has none), and who by getting some sucker to get in on the betting is able to clear a few “bob” for himself, the sucker usually being happy enough to cut the tout in on the winnings  —  but being very unhappy when the tip doesn’t pay off as advertised.

   This is called “telling the tale,” and The Lemon Drop Kid is normally very good at it.

   But on this particular occasion, The Kid accidentally misdirects his mark, and through a major misunderstanding takes it on the lam to escape what he mistakenly assumes will be retributive justice in the form of The Kid’s tender flesh.

   And so he literally runs away from the racetrack, with his mark in hot pursuit.

   Eventually, The Kid will find love for the first time in his life, but the experience will prove bittersweet . . . .

   Runyon’s story has been filmed twice, once by Paramount in 1934 with Lee Tracy, Helen Mack, and William Frawley (remember the growly landlord in I Love Lucy?); and a second time by Paramount in 1951 with Bob Hope, Marilyn Maxwell, Lloyd Nolan, Fred Clark, and William Frawley again.

   The 1934 version, we are told, adheres more closely to the original story. Those who have seen it say it starts out a comedy and ends up on a more serious note, very much like Runyon’s tale. The claim has been made that Paramount suppressed this film in favor of the remake.

   The 1951 edition takes the idea of The Kid misinforming someone about a bet and runs with it; the whole thing is played for as many laughs as possible (e.g., The Kid initiating a scam on little old ladies, Bob Hope in drag; you get the idea).

   Hope’s film also introduced a song that became an instant Christmastime standard, “Silver Bells.”

   To give you an idea of how much the 1951 movie differed from Runyon’s story, get a load of this list of characters’ names that never appeared in the original tale: Sidney Melbourne, ‘Brainy’ Baxter, Oxford Charley, Nellie Thursday, Moose Moran, Straight Flush, Gloomy Willie, Sam the Surgeon, Little Louie, Singing Solly, The Bird Lady, and Goomba. “Sidney Melbourne” was the moniker they gave The Kid and “‘Brainy’ Baxter” was gorgeous Marilyn Maxwell.

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