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Hellzapoppin' (1941)

aka Hellzapoppin'

Directed By: 
Written By:  Writer details not available
Details: 80 mins · English


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No_movie_poster Ole Olsen
No_movie_poster Chic Johnson
No_movie_poster Betty Johnson
Small Quimby
Small Pepi
Small Kitty Rand
Small Jeff Hunter
Small Louie


No_movie_poster H.C. Potter Director


Hellzapoppin' is a 1941 Universal Pictures adaptation of the musical of the same name directed by H.C. Potter. The cast includes Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson (who produced and starred in it on Broadway), Martha Raye, Mischa Auer, Shemp Howard, and The Six Hits.

The credits for the film assert that "any resemblance between Hellzapoppin' and a motion picture are coincidental"—a truth that is perhaps responsible for it being less successful than the stage show which engendered it. The film does have some great visual humor, however, including a number of special effects that couldn't be duplicated on stage.

Shemp Howard begins the film as the projectionist of a cinema, displaying on its screen what appears to be the start of a song-and-dance number whose classily dressed performers walk down a staircase - which collapses as in a fun-house ride, sliding them all straight to hell. Demons punish them in various ways. Ole and Chic arrive in the midst of the mayhem by taxi, and after a bit of funny business step back to reveal that it's a movie sound stage. They work for Miracle Pictures ("If it's a good picture, it's a Miracle!") A mousy screenwriter (Elisha Cook, Jr.) outlines his script for the screen adaptation of Hellzapoppin', and the rest of the movie depicts Cook's crazy script. Among the topical humor is Johnson picking up a sled named "Rosebud" and saying "I thought they'd burnt that" (Olsen and Johnson were friends of Orson Welles, whose film Citizen Kane closes with Kane's childhood sled being burnt).

The dance scenes from the film are some of the best-known Lindy Hop scenes from the swing era, and they have made the film popular among modern Lindy hoppers. One frenetic routine is performed by Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, and another notable dance scene features Martha Raye and Dean Collins.

At the present, Hellzapoppin' (like almost all Olsen and Johnson films) is hard to find on commercial DVD. Second Sight (via an arrangement with Universal) released the film commercially in England on region 2 format DVD (release date 2007). The film was scheduled for screening at the non-profit Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in September 2008.

The 1942 Academy Award nomination for Best Song for "Pig Foot Pete," (which lost to "White Christmas"), was attributed to Hellzapoppin,' but the song never appeared in the film - it was actually performed in another Universal production from the same year, the Abbott and Costello film Keep 'Em Flying.