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Blondie Film Series:
#6- Blondie Has Servant Trouble (1940)
aka "Blondie Has Trouble"

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About This Film
Cast

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Cast:
Blondie Bumstead (Penny Singleton)
Dagwood Bumstead (Arthur Lake)
Baby Dumpling Bumstead (Larry Simms)
Danny Mummert (Alvin Fuddle)
J.C. Dithers (Jonathan Hale)
Mr. Crumb, the Mailman (Irving Bacon)
Ray Turner (plays Horatio Jones)
Arthur Hohl (plays Eric Vaughn)
Esther Dale (plays Anna Vaughn)
Fay Helm (plays Alvin's mom)
Walter Soderling (plays Morgan)
Frank Melton (plays Ollie Shaw)

About This Film: This is the 6th film in the series.  The Blondie movie series was excellent in the way that every once in awhile they experimented with different movie styles.  This movie is more of a mystery-thriller than the typical Blondie movie.  It's like a "Blondie meets Charlie Chan" sort of deal.  This movie is still very funny, as are all the movies in this series, but it brings something new into the mix.  I give a lot of spoilers in this summary because, frankly, that's the only way I can describe this particular entry.  This movie will keep you guessing until the end.

It starts out innocent enough like most Blondie movies.  Blondie is an overworked housewife who wants a maid.  Dagwood cannot afford a maid, so Blondie pressures him into asking his boss for a raise.  Mr. Dithers (Dagwood's boss) doesn't give him a raise, but does come up with a solution to Blondie's servant problem.  A man named Morgan tells Dithers earlier about a house that Dithers is having trouble selling to people.  It's said that the house is haunted!  Dithers, refusing to believe this nonsense, sends Dagwood and his family to the house without telling them about the haunted house rumors.   Dithers hopes the Bumsteads temporary stay will convince others that the house isn't haunted.

In fact, there is lot about the house that Dithers neglects to mention.  The man who used to live in the house (now he's dead) was a wealthy manufacturer of magic tricks.  Through a series of mishappenings, the Bumsteads are led to believe that the house is haunted!  Like a lot of the mystery-thriller movies of the time, you'll see all kinds of trap doors, hidden rooms, dark passageways, and such.  It's a lot like the "Charlie Chan", "Sherlock Holmes", and "Topper Returns" movies.  Much of this movie's story revolves around this house.

The first person they meet in the house is a black man named Horatio Jones.  He is in the house because he's going through initiation for a lodge.  He'll become a lodge member if he can survive a night in the haunted house.  Horatio is played by a black character actor named Ray Turner.  Like many of the black actors of the time, he portrays the goofy coward.  Some people may call this stereotypical, but get real.  Any of the popular black actors at the time of this writing (Eddie Murphy, Chris Tucker, Chris Rock, Eddie Griffin, and Dave Chappelle) show black people in a much worse light.  He's just a funny character and in this movie he's never put down or called anything worse than a "colored boy" even once.  Just think of this character as a fraidy-cat who happens to be black; there are plenty of white fraidy-cats in movies, too.  Unlike most of his film appearances, Ray Turner has a fairly big part in this movie.  He's important in this movie because he adds a sense of realism to all the goings on.  Most of us would act something like that under the circumstances.  In addition, he has a real talent for keeping his eyes wide open in every scene; he doesn't blink even once!

Later on in the film, they meet their servants Eric and Anna Vaughn.  The mysterious couple don't seem very outgoing or friendly for servants.  Eric, in particular, is very strange.  You find out later in the show that they aren't really servants.  Eric Vaughn is a disgruntled magician who claimed his ideas were stolen by the man whose house the Bumsteads were staying in.  You'll find out later on that he was earlier arrested, stabbed his defense attorney while in court, then escaped to this house.  Vaughn believes that this is "his" house and that nothing was going to keep him away.   Every so often he has his madness spells that make him go temporarily insane and do things of which he isn't fully aware.

Dagwood catches the criminal in the end in typical Bumstead fashion and all ends well.  One of the things you'll probably notice when watching this movie is that Baby Dumpling is a lot lippier than usual.  I think the writers were just trying to show us that he was going through a phase or was just having a bad day.  It's cute, and it shows that Baby Dumpling had more than just a sweet, innocent side to him.  He's given some depth to his personality.  This movie is also filled with a lot of funny magic tricks.

Extra Stuff:  At one point in the movie, you will see Blondie wearing the fur coat that she wanted so badly in the previous movie Blondie on a Budget and finally got at the end of that film.

Frank Melton plays one of the pre-Jack Rice "Ollie Shaw" roles.  In later Blondie movies, Ollie is given much bigger parts and his character becomes established with the slick-haired, glasses-wearing actor Jack Rice.  Before Jack Rice, the actors that played Ollie Shaw looked just like ordinary guys you'd see on the street.

In Blondie Has Servant Trouble (1940), Mrs. Fuddle is seen and played by Fay Helm.  She has also played Alvin's mom in three other Blondie movies including Blondie (1938), Blondie Brings Up Baby (1939), and Blondie on a Budget (1940).