International House (1933)

International House (1933)

“That guy’s invention must be plenty hot to drag us from all around the world like this.”

A group of eclectic individuals — including a wealthy socialite (Peggy Hopkins Joyce), her jealous ex-husband (Bela Lugosi), and a professor flying an “auto-gyro” (W.C. Fields) — all gather in the town of Wu Hu, China to bid on an invention created by Dr. Wong (Edmund Breese).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Bela Lugosi Films
  • China
  • Comedy
  • Ensemble Films
  • George Burns Films
  • Inventors
  • W.C. Fields Films

Essentially a comedic variety show (some have likened it to “radio on-screen”), this typically bizarre W.C. Fields film (he’s not top-billed, but might as well have been) whizzes by in a flurry of vignettes featuring big-name stars of the era — many of whom are now forgotten, but some of whom remain a delight to see in their prime. George Burns and Gracie Allen, for instance, are given several moments of screentime to perform their characteristically deadpan banter together, while Cab Calloway’s band offers an energetic rendition of “Reefer Man” (ah, Pre-Code times!). The infamous socialite Peggy Hopkins Joyce does a surprisingly fine job playing herself, and may be of minor cultural interest to some viewers as well. Be forewarned: the central plot device is merely a MacGuffin to get all these random characters together.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • George Burns’ and Gracie Allen’s comedic rapport
  • A fun Pre-Code sensibility
  • The truly surreal teapcup/mug dance

  • Typically enjoyable (Pre-Code) one-liners by Fields:

    Peggy: I wonder what their parents were?
    Fields: Careless, my little dove cake, careless.

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly worth a look.


One thought on “International House (1933)

  1. Not a must.

    Dated humor. Lots of it.

    Yes, a few marginally bright moments – i.e., in a few of the musical numbers mentioned. But I wouldn’t recommend anyone sit through the whole film just for the little offered in relief.

    One single exchange made me chuckle –

    Franklin Pangborn (telling the newly-arrived Fields where he is): Wu-Hu!
    W.C. Fields (not realizing he has arrived by mistake in China, he thinks Pangborn has just come on to him; he thinks the flower in his lapel may have been ‘code’ to Pangborn; he removes the flower, saying): Don’t let the posy fool ya.

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