Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Hellzapoppin' (1941)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Hellzapoppin' (1941)

In Henry C. Potter's referential, inventive, mind-bending, zany and anarchistic comedy - a haphazard film adaptation of the 1938 Broadway musical revue that mocked traditional narratives and plot conventions:

  • the mind-boggling opening sequence - a film within a film: limousines arrived at the Universal Theatre, and projectionist Louie (Shemp Howard) was loading film reels in the projection booth - a group of chorus girls were singing on stage and walking forward on a staircase during a song-and-dance number when they suddenly slid downwards as the stage tilted and collapsed - and they appeared to be descending into the flames of hell behind the title card
  • the title card's warning: "...any similarity between HELLZAPOPPIN' and a motion picture is purely coincidental"
  • the scene switched to a view of Dante's Inferno, where devilish, tormenting figures were heating up and sharpening their pitchforks in preparation to roast pretty girls on rotating BBQ spits; they were also 'canning' both males and females into metal drum barrels labeled "Canned Guy" and "Canned Gal"; during the crazed mayhem and chaos, a taxi-cab arrived carrying the show's producers - vaudevillians Chic Johnson (Himself) and Ole Olsen (Himself) ("That's the first taxi driver that ever went straight where I told him to!")
  • the two often "broke the fourth wall" as they addressed the projectionist: "Hey Louie, rewind this film, will ya?"; Louie objected: "What's the matter with you guys? Don't you know you can't talk to me and the audience?"; Ole and Chic disagreed: "Well, we're doin' it, aren't we? (giggling) Yes, folks. This is Hellzapoppin'!"; Louie added: "This is screwy, the actors talkin' to me up here" - and he began to rewind the film
  • eventually, it was revealed as the camera pulled back that the two were on a Hollywood sound stage during the filming of the screen adaptation of the musical, by Miracle Pictures
Show's Producers:
Chic Johnson (Himself) and Ole Olsen (Himself)
  • in a completely natural and fluid sequence, Ole and Chic walked through a series of movie sets, as their costumes changed in each one; in an icy Eskimo set, they came upon the "Rosebud" sled from Citizen Kane (1941) and remarked: "I thought they burned that"
  • there were many visual gags such as the careless projectionist's manipulation of the picture -- splitting the film frame, breaking up the frame horizontally, dislocating the film frame in its sprockets, freezing the frame, and the upside down projection of the frame; or his inappropriate changing of the scenery -- Ole and Chic found themselves in a shoot-'em-up cowboys and Indians western (they yelled at the projectionist: "Louie, Louie, look. You put on the wrong picture...Louie, will you take those phony Hollywood Indians off the screen?...Now put on our picture, come on, come on")
Film Frame Broken Horizontally
Eskimo Set with "Rosebud" Sled
Shoot 'Em-Up Western Set
  • the film's inserted, predictable plot: a love triangle between musician and play manager Jeff Hunter (Robert Paige), his wealthy love interest - the lead actress Kitty Rand (Jane Frazee), and her dull fiancee Woody Taylor (Lewis Howard)
  • the five-minute, gravity-defying, high-energy dance performance by Whitey's Lindy Hoppers (billed as the Harlem Congaroo Dancers)
  • the Busby Berkeley-inspired choreographed swimming sequences
  • the many absurdist examples of non-sensical humor (some with special effects), including half-invisible men (one from the waist down, and one from the waist up), a fireworks gun that shot out a man with a parachute ("Wrong gun!"), a bear on a scooter and a pogo stick, a mysteries-magazine reader who used car headlights and the footlights and spotlights of the "Broadway Bound" stage show as a light source, sticky flypaper on the feet of a male dancer, and fake ducks laying eggs
  • the film's ending dialogue, when the frustrated director (Richard Lane) became disgusted by the script and shouted at screenwriter Harry Selby (Elisha Cook, Jr.), who was drinking a glass of water:
    - "Talking bears! Talking dogs! People who disappear! Slapstick comedy! What kind of a script is that?"
    - "Well, I didn't tell you, but I saw Hellzapoppin' in New York and I thought it was very funny."
    - "Well, here's what I think of it." (gunshots)
    - "Well, you can't hurt me that way. I always wear a bullet-proof vest around the studios." (water poured from bullet holes in his chest)

Opening Sequence

Title Card Warning

Dante's Inferno: Girl's Rotating On BBQ Spits

Screenwriter With Bullet Holes in Chest


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