For Reel

A Southern Yankee (1948)
July 24, 2016, 1:24 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edward Sedgwick
3.5 Stars
A Southern YankeeAlthough the Civil War setting and the influence of Buster Keaton has led some to wrongfully assume that A Southern Yankee is a remake of The General, it wisely steers clear of all but the most surface similarities. When Red Skelton is chased by an enormous circular lawnmower, it feels like a loving homage more than a ripoff—not just because it was conceived of by the comic veterans Keaton and director Edward Sedgwick, but because the execution in Skelton’s performance feels different. The film’s screenplay, like Skelton’s best pictures, does a terrific job in consistently elevating the comedic stakes of the material. When Skelton is tasked with the job of carrying both a real map and a planted one, it is inevitable that the two will be mixed up. But just how many times they get confused is the stroke of genius—it’s the Murphy’s law philosophy to comedy, which keeps Skelton’s character in constant danger and maintains the high levels of tension as the laughs as temporary reliefs. Arlene Dahl is stunning as the love interest, riding the line between polite Southern belle and bonafide sexpot, and Brian Donlevy serves the material well by playing his villain completely straight.

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