“They didn’t put people out on the street in Rome…”
When a nebbishy do-gooder (Eddie Cantor) is thrown out of his home town of West Rome, Oklahoma, he suddenly finds himself a slave in Ancient Rome, fighting to save Princess Sylvia (Gloria Stuart) from the clutches of corrupt Emperor Valerius (Edward Arnold).
Often cited as one of Eddie Cantor’s best vehicles, this lavish Depression-era musical features two far-out Busby Berkeley sequences, a bevy of nearly-nude “Goldwyn Girls” (including Lucille Ball), and a healthy dose of pre-Code humor (while selling himself on the slave market, Cantor coyly asserts, “I can take care of the children. If there are no children, I can take care of that. By being a son to you!”). In both West Rome and Ancient Rome (where he mysteriously time-travels after being knocked over on the street), Cantor gets to play one of his most likable characters — a genuinely well-meaning if timid guy who takes enormous risks to help others. Although a little of Cantor goes a long way (and he’s on-screen all the time), fans will have plenty to enjoy. Meanwhile, Gloria Stuart (wearing a long blonde wig) has never been more fetching, and statuesque Verree Teasdale is humorously villainous as the Emperor’s murderous wife.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Typically lavish Busby Berkeley musical numbers
Yes, simply to see the enormously popular Cantor in one of his best films. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.