International House (1933)

“The Grand Hotel of comedy.” Unfairly neglected comedy classic, which surreally spoofs Grand Hotel, was directed by A. Edward Sutherland and features an all-star cast, including W. C. Fields (who steals the show as “Professor Henry R. Quail”), George Burns and Gracie Allen, Rose Marie and Bela Lugosi (Gen. Nicholas Petronovich), as well as the outrageous Peggy Hopkins Joyce. The plot (such that it is!) involves a variety of eccentric characters descending upon the International House Hotel in Wuhu, China, to bid on the latest invention of Dr. Wong (Edmund Breese) – a “radioscope” (basically an early form of television). The pre-code film features offbeat and risqué comedy skits and musical numbers such as Cab Calloway singing “Reefer Man”—”Man, what’s the matter with that cat there? Must be full of reefer . . .” Other performers include Rudy Vallee, Rose Marie and Sterling Holloway. Best of all, this flick breezes by with a running time of just 70 minutes! Useless Trivia: Sutherland portrayed a Keystone Cop in Mack Sennett’s 1914 silent comedy Tillie’s Punctured Romance, which starred Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin. He was briefly married to actress Louise Brooks from 1926-28.

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