August 2, 2006
The Big Show-Off (1945)
By DAVE HILLHOUSE -- SLAM! Wrestling
Starring: Arthur Lake, Dale Evans, Lionel Stander, Sammy Stein
"A riot of revelry... As a meek pianist turns wrestler... And gets himself all tangled up with love!" You see? They just don't make taglines for movies like they used to. This bombastic promo for The Big Show-Off effectively sets you up for the adventures of Sandy Elliot (Arthur Lake, scores of Blondie films, as well as television and radio episodes), a pianist working at the Blue Heaven Club. His boss, Joe Bagley (Lionel Stander, Once Upon a Time in The West) takes it upon himself to play matchmaker between Elliott and the club's siren, June Mayfield (Dale Evans, The Roy Rogers Show). In order to impress Mayfield, Bagley cooks up a story that has the bashful Elliot as having an alter-ego that any beautiful nightclub crooner would swoon over: he tells her that Elliott is really a masked professional wrestler known as "The Devil."
As you might expect, things don't go very smoothly from that point on. Elliott must keep up appearances as the masked wrestler, including feigning an injury that the real wrestler incurs, and must also try to outdo another man courting Mayfield played by George Meeker (a perennial heel in the movies). As it must happen in stories such as this, the story unfolds towards the inevitable ending where everybody's true intentions (and identities) are revealed -- the fun is in watching it all come together.