THE FULLER BRUSH MAN. Columbia Pictures, 1948. 93 minutes. Red Skelton, Janet Blair, Don McGuire, Adele Jergens, Donald Curtis, Arthur Space, Hillary Brooke, Ross Ford, Trudy Marshall, Nicholas Joy, Selmer Jackson, Jimmy Hunt (the Mean Widdle Kid). Based on The Saturday Evening Post short story “Appointment with Fear” by Roy Huggins (28 September 1946) .

   Red, recently fired from the sanitation department, tries his hand at door-to-door salesmanship, without much success. But there is some pain — e. g., the Mean Widdle Kid (one of Skelton’s characters), who gives him a horrible time (ironic, since Red played the Kid on radio). And not only pain — Red manages to get himself designated as the prime suspect in a murder, an impossible crime in which the deadly weapon mysteriously disappears (actually it never appears in the first place — perplexing, huh?).

   Before he can finally clear himself, Red and Janet Blair almost get rubbed out in a war surplus warehouse filled with explosives. Congratulations are due the stunt people, who definitely earned their paychecks on this picture.

   At one point Red refers to himself as “Philo Jones,” a still-meaningful reference to society sleuth Philo Vance.

   Oddly enough, this Red Skelton vehicle got its start as a hard-boiled private eye story in The Saturday Evening Post, but by the time the screenwriters (principally Frank Tashlin) got through with it there was no resemblance to the source material.

   For you trivia hounds, the original story featured P. I. Stu(art) Bailey, played on TV a decade later by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., in the 77 Sunset Strip series. At almost the same time as The Fuller Brush Man was being filmed, a more serious movie featuring the Stu Bailey character (I Love Trouble with Franchot Tone in the lead) was also being lensed; it even had a few actors from the Skelton film (Janet Blair, Adele Jergens, Donald Curtis). Coincidence? We don’t think so.


Related 2013 Mystery*File article about Roy Huggins: