It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
This week’s musical:
“You’ll Find Out” (1940)– Musical #376
RKO Radio Pictures
Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Helen Parrish, Dennis O’Keefe, Alma Kruger
As themselves: Kay Kyser, Ginny Simms, Harry Babbit, Ish Kabbible
Kay Kyser (himself) and his band are hired to perform at the 21st birthday party of heiress Janice (Parrish). The party is held at her estate that she hasn’t visited in years. When the band and guests arrive, they notice strange happenings, like Judge Spencer Mainwaring (Karloff) who handles the estate of Janice’s aunt Margo (Kruger). Aunt Margo also looked to Prince Saliano (Lugosi) for spiritual guidance, who Janice does not trust, and Karl (Lorre) who says he also has psychic powers. Janice believes her life is in danger and Kay and his band manager (O’Keefe) get to the bottom of it.
-Working title was “The Old Professor”
-Modeled after the film The Old Dark House (1932) but adding comedy
-Ish Kabibble’s song “The Bad Humor Man” was originally supposed to be performed by Lugosi, Karloff and Lorre, according to the book Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration, with a Complete Filmography of Their Films Together by Gregory William Mank
-In one scene Ish Kabibble’s hair stands on end because he’s so scared. In his autobiography “Ish Kabibble: The Autobiography of Merwyn Bogue,” he said the studio washed and dried his hair six or seven times in one day to create static. An elaborate machine was used to generate static electricity to get his hair to stand on end.
-This was only Peter Lorre’s second horror film, the first was Mad Love (1935), according to Peter Lorre: Face Maker: Constructing Stardom and Performance in Hollywood and Europe by Sarah Thomas
-Actress Louise Currie played one of the debutante guests in the film. In an interview, she remembered having long conversations with Bela Lugosi, who she described as polished and intelligent, but Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre being standoffish, according to Mank’s book.
-Songs by Jimmy McHugh and Johnny Mercer
-The people talking at the beginning about Kay Kyser
-Interesting seances scene
-“Like the Fella Once Said” performed by Kay Kyser Band, sung by Sully Mason, Harry Babbitt, Ginny Simms, Ish Kabibble, Kay Kyser
-“The Bad Humor Man” performed by Ish Kabbible and Kay Kyser’s band
-“You’ve Got Me This Way” performed by Harry Babbitt
-“I’ve Got a One Track Mind” performed by Ginna Simms and Harry Babbitt
Nominations and Awards
-Jimmy McHugh and Johnny Mercer were nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Original Song, “I’d Know You Anywhere”
In classic films, it is isn’t unusual for popular bandleaders to appear in musicals. Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Glenn Miller all appeared in MGM and 20th Century Fox musicals during the 1940s. They would occasionally exchange lines with the lead players, but for the most part, they were specialty performers.
But bandleader Kay Kyser and his band were different. With their blend of comedy and music, Kyser’s band starred and played themselves in seven films between 1939 and 1943. Few (if any) other bandleaders had this same opportunity.
Kyser’s second film was “You’ll Find Out,” a mix of music and comedic horror. The band goes to a spooky, desolate house and is trapped there when a bridge goes out. Their young hostess confides that someone has been trying to kill her.
Horror actors Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi help set the spooky and mysterious tone as Kyser, and his bandmates get to the bottom of who is threatening their hostess’s life.
I know not everyone likes Kay Kyser, but I find his band fun, and I love their corny jokes. “You’ll Find Out” is a funny and entertaining musical/comedy/horror, which it sounds like was also fun to make.
Director David Butler said that “You’ll Find Out” was one of the “was one of the happiest (films) I ever did. Everybody simply had fun making it.”
One of the high points of the film is a seance where an eerie voice speaks, and disembodied instruments and heads float through the room.
This movie is also fun if you enjoy classic horror. This is one of the first films where Lorre, Lugosi and Karloff poke fun at their own on-screen personas.
‘You’ll Find Out” is goofy, has silly jokes, fun music and some suspenseful moments. For someone who likes musicals and big band music, but isn’t big on horror, this is the perfect mix!