Strictly Dynamite
Warner Archives // Unrated // $19.95 // May 3, 2011
Review by John Sinnott | posted June 25, 2011
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The Movie:
After being teamed up with comic genius Buster Keaton for a trio of early talkies in 1932-1933, Vaudeville star Jimmy Durante was paired with the south-of-the-border beauty Lupe Velez for a couple of films.  The second of these, Strictly Dynamite, is a fun light romp that has recently been released through Warner's MOD program Warner Archives.  Durante is a bit more restrained in this film than usual (though just a bit) and Lupe Velez isn't utilized as much as she could have been, but it's still a gem of a film that's well worth checking out.

Moxie Slaight (Durante) and his partner Vera (Velez) are a pair of radio show comics who are quite popular.  The only problem is that Moxie wants better material from his writers.  They keep recycling the same old jokes, but he wants something high brow.
Enter Norman Foster (Nick Montgomery).  He has aspirations of being a respected writer and penning the Great American Novel, but when he gets fired from his job and can't sell his poetry, it looks like he and his wife Sylvia (Marian Nixon) will have to return home to the country.  That's until Sylvia gets a bright idea.  Norman's a great writer, yet he thinks that Moxie's show is horrible, so why doesn't Norman write the show.  She pitches the idea to Norman's agent, who just happens to know that Moxie is unhappy with his current writer, and the next thing you know Norman is taking a meeting with the radio star.  They hit it off largely because Norman uses big words and sounds intellectual, and soon Norman is writing Moxie's show.

Things go well for a little while.  Norman quickly becomes writing in high demand.  With money and prestige he seems to have it made.  He starts hanging out with Vera (who wants her part in the show increased) going to parties and staying out late at night.  He can't burn the candle at both ends and write good scripts, so he finds himself stealing material from old joke books.  The cost of success is too high for poor Norman, but will he realize that before he looses Sylvia or before Moxie has him rubbed out for spending too much time with Vera?
For a Jimmy Durante vehicle (he gets top billing) it's a bit surprising he's not in the film more.  As the synopsis implies, the plot mainly revolves around the writer and the way to simple, honest county people deal with fame and money in the big city.  Durante has some good scenes, but a good portion of his screen time is in the form on his radio show, which he naturally performs in public on stage. 
Durante isn't as wild in this picture as he is in some of his other films, but when he's on screen the movie is more interesting.  He drops frequent humorous malaprops and some of his best lines go by so quickly that many people will miss them.  (When a stage mother introduces her son to Moxie and being "originally from the legitimate" the star replies "I'm glad he was legitimate once.")

Lupe Velez does a great job being the fiery costar and holds her own against Durante.  The scene where she brow-beats him into giving her a bigger part of the show is great and Velez steals almost every scene she's in.  Her role her is very similar to her Mexican Spitfire role that she'd take up in a few years and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that this film inspired her character in those.
One other aspect of this movie that will thrill film fans is the supporting and bit players who turn up.  The movie is filled with faces that many people would recognize even if they don't know the names.  Tom Kennedy, Eugene Palette,            Sterling Holloway, and Franklin Pangborn are just some of the people who pop up in this enjoyable farce. 
The DVD:

This film comes on a made-to-order DVD-R.
The mono soundtrack fits the movie well.  There isn't any noticeable hiss or background noise at normal volumes, and the dialog is easy to discern. 
I was very pleased with the full frame image.  Though these haven't been restored, the prints look very, very good.  The lines are tight and the image is very clear.  There's a lot more detail than I was expecting and digital defects are very rare.  Overall this is an excellent looking set and should please film fans.
Alas, there are no extras.
Final Thoughts:
Though it isn't Durante's most outgoing movie, Strictly Dynamite is a fun film that is really enjoyable.  Lupe Velez is both beautiful and vivacious and steals a lot of her scenes and the film is populated with a lot of talented supporting comics too.  The Warner Archives print is very good, making this an easy one to recommend.

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