Classic Cinema: One Body Too Many (1944)

“Sorry, I’m a drip.”

Jack Haley, best known for portraying the Tin Man in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, and Bela Lugosi, the legendary Count Dracula of Dracula (1931), combine their humor and horror in One Body Too Many (1944). The film was directed by Frank McDonald, a director primarily known for his work in westerns and action films. McDonald and Haley would work together on three films for One Body Too Many‘s production company, Pine-Thomas Productions. The company was notorious for making films on a lean budget, but it’s hard to tell in this terrific comedic mystery.

In the film, Jack Haley stars as Albert Tuttle, a somewhat cowardly yet opportunistic insurance salesman who schedules an appointment with Cyrus J. Rutherford, a multi-millionaire who studies and believes in astrology. Rutherford passes away prior to Tuttle’s appointment and his lawyer gathers the Rutherford family and the mansion staff to read Rutherford’s will. The will states that Rutherford’s heirs will receive their portion of his wealth in descending order so long as they all remain at the mansion until a glass vault is built so that Rutherford can eternally look upon the heavens. If he is buried in any other place or his body goes missing, the heirs will receive their fortune in reverse order. Certain members of the family conspire to make sure that Rutherford’s body goes missing or is buried elsewhere so that they will gain a larger portion of the family fortune. Expecting such a thing to occur, Rutherford’s lawyer, Gellman, hires a security guard to watch the body. Tuttle arrives on the scene just minutes after the guard is attacked while on his way to the front door of the mansion. The family believes that Tuttle is the guard. High jinks ensue as Tuttle teams up with Rutherford’s niece, the lovely Carol Dunlap, to prevent his body from being taken away.

Lugosi stars in the film as Merkil, the family butler, and spends the film with Matthews (Blanche Yurka), the family maid. Together they plot against the family in a humorous fashion. Jean Parker plays Carol Dunlap. Fay Helm, Lucien Littlefield, Lyle Talbot, Douglas Fowley, Dorothy Granger, and Maxine Fife co-star as the Rutherford family and Bernard Nedell portrayed Attorney Gellman. All of the players had their humorous moments but Haley stood out from the pack. From pratfalls to wordplay, Haley had me laughing almost the entire time. Lugosi also had some very funny moments but they were on a much more subtle level.

Watching this film has inspired me to seek out the other Pine-Thomas films featuring Jack Haley. Those films are People Are Funny (1946), Take It Big (1944), and Scared Stiff (1945). As a fan of classic Hollywood films, I’m definitely going to do my best to find them. I’ll probably watch other Pine-Thomas films as well.

If you enjoy goofy comedies mixed with a bit of murder and mystery, check out One Body Too Many. It’s a surprisingly well made film that holds up well to this day.

Thanks for checking out my post. I hope to see some of you this weekend at CyPhaCon!


Published by kenfontenot

I am a husband, a father, and a major nerd. I enjoy science fiction, fantasy, comics, cosplay, and attending conventions. I'm also a huge Disney fan. I am growing to enjoy working out, and hope to include that joy in some of my posts.

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