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Film / The Milky Way

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The Milky Way is a 1936 comedy directed by Leo McCarey, starring Harold Lloyd and Adolphe Menjou.

Burleigh Sullivan (Lloyd) is a mild-mannered, wimpy milkman. His sister Mae works as a hat check girl at a club. One evening Speed McFarland, the middleweight boxing champion and a patron at the club, gets fresh with Mae while drunk. A confrontation between Burleigh and Speed leads to Speed's Bumbling Sidekick Spider Schultz accidentally punching Speed in the face and knocking him out, an act which everyone mistakenly credits to Burleigh. Speed's devious manager Gabby Sloan (Menjou) hits upon an idea to capitalize on the publicity by building up Burleigh as a contender. Gabby arranges a series of fixed fights for Burleigh, all to set up a championship bout with Speed, which Burleigh will lose, making Gabby a lot of money. Only Burleigh is not in on the scheme, and comes to believe he is a legitimate boxer.

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Lloyd's career had gone into decline in The '30s, as his optimistic can-do "Glasses" character proved an ill fit for The Great Depression and his elaborate stunt sequences worked badly in sound films. This movie, Lloyd's only attempt at Screwball Comedy, was well received by critics and did moderately well at the box office, but Lloyd still only made two more films before retiring.

Remade as the 1946 musical comedy The Kid from Brooklyn, starring Danny Kaye. Not to be confused with the 1969 film of the same name by Luis Buñuel.


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Tropes:

  • Accidental Athlete: Played with—in fact Burleigh doesn't have any boxing talent at all, but people think that he does.
  • As You Know: Burleigh greets his sister with "Hello sis!" on the phone so the audience will know who she is.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: Spider, assistant to Gabby and Speed, who causes most of their problems in the film. It was Spider who accidentally knocked Speed out while drunk. And it's Spider, who apparently is functionally illiterate and confuses "ammonia" with "insomnia", who accidentally drugs Speed with insomnia medication before the fight with Burleigh.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Fairly early in the film, the perpetually stressed-out Gabby is shown to be taking insomnia medication. This sets up the climax, where Spider the idiot winds up giving Speed a large dose of insomnia medication, thus causing Burleigh to win the fight.
  • Cool Pet: It's pretty clear that Burleigh is letting all the hoopla get to his head when he's going around with a lion for a pet.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ann (played by Verree Teasdale, Adolphe Menjou's Real Life wife), Gabby's loyal but sarcastic girlfriend, who gets all the best lines in the movie. Like when Burleigh is weakly, ineffectually tapping at Spider during a sparring session and Ann says "What's holding you up?"
  • Double Knockout: Burleigh is trying to land body shots to a dazed Speed while they're in a clinch, but he's actually hitting Speed's elbow, thus causing uppercuts to his own chin. They crumple to the canvas together, but the trope is eventually barely averted when Burleigh makes it up by the count of nine.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Word-for-word as newspapers spread the story of Burleigh's sidewalk "knockout" of Speed.
  • Finish Dialogue in Unison: The blooming romance between Burleigh and Polly is demonstrated when they say "You're an awfully nice person" to each other in unison.
  • Hiccup Hijinks: The first gag in the movie features Burleigh throroughly irritating his boss by hiccuping through a milkmen meeting.
  • Meet Cute: Burleigh meets his girlfriend Polly when he barrels into her room to use her phone because his horse Agnes (who pulls the milk truck) has collapsed.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Both Ann and Polly dress this way for a fancy party.
  • Throwing the Fight: Gabby's whole plot, to have Burleigh fight six guys who all take dives, thus building Burleigh into a faux-contender so Speed can knock him out and Gabby can win a bundle.
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