Cast & Crew
Gloria De Haven
While crossing a busy intersection in Los Angeles, Augustus "Red" Pirdy, an accident-prone inventor who has devoted his life to safety, is struck by a taxicab. Although Red is not seriously injured in the accident, the Yellow Cab Co., fearing a lawsuit, sends its claims adjuster, Ellen Goodrich, to discuss a settlement with Red. Red admits that the accident was his fault and is about to sign a document that will absolve the company of any responsibility when Martin Creavy, an unscrupulous attorney, tries to persuade him to reconsider. Creavy suggests that Red instead sue the cab company for a large sum of money, but Red rejects his advice. When Red reveals that he has invented a special type of unbreakable glass, which he calls "Elastiglass," Ellen and Creavy see the potential in Red's discovery and begin vying for his confidence. Red eventually decides to put his trust in Ellen when she suggests that he try to sell his glass to the Yellow Cab Co. for the manufacture of safety windshields. Creavy, however, does not give up, and the following day he uses blackmail to force Willis Tomlin, a Yellow Cab Co. executive, to help him sabotage Red's efforts to sell his patent to the cab company. As part of his plan, Creavy arranges to have Tomlin replace the Elastiglass with regular glass just before Red demonstrates his invention for the cab company. Because of the switch, the demonstration ends in disaster and Ellen is demoted to the company's lost and found department. Later, Mickey Corkins hires Red to be a cab driver with the company, hoping that will get a second chance to demonstrate his invention. Though Red bungles his first attempts at driving a cab, Mickey persists in training him, and he eventually becomes a licensed Yellow Cab driver. Creavy, meanwhile, devises a plan to force Red to reveal his Elastiglass formula and sends one of his accomplices to frame Red in a taxicab accident. After the "accident," Creavy volunteers to act as Red's attorney, and has Dr. Byron Dokstedder, another one of his accomplices, pose as a psychiatrist sent to examine Red. Dokstedder tries to use hypnosis to force Red to reveal the secret of his unbreakable glass, but the session is interrupted when a sprinkler system in Red's living room is accidentally activated and the apartment is flooded. Meanwhile, at the cab company, Willis tells Ellen about the switched glass and vows to arrange another demonstration for Red. Ellen, who has fallen in love with Red, later tells him the good news at a home furnishings trade show, but Red is distracted by Dokstedder's hypnotic suggestions to avoid Ellen. After leaving the show, Red is knocked unconscious by Creavy's accomplice, Hugo, and is given an injection of truth serum to make him talk. Red, however, manages to escape by creating a diversion, and races to the Yellow Cab Co, where he discovers Willis murdered. Because Dokstedder had planted the idea in his mind that he was planning to kill Willis, Red becomes deeply confused and begins to believe himself to be the murderer. While Ellen and Mickey search for Red, Creavy and Dokstedder find Red and inject him with more truth serum. Red reveals the secret formula, but when he continues his drug-induced chatter and explains that he has proof that Creavy was responsible for Willis' death, Creavy decides to kill Red and dispose of his body at the home funishings trade show. By coincidence, Mickey and Ellen are at the trade show auditorium searching for Red just as Creavy and his men are about to kill him. Ellen is captured by one of Creavy's men, but she and Red manage to escape by driving a car onto the main floor of the trade show. As a wild chase ensues throughout the auditorium, Mickey summons a brigade of cab drivers, who arrive in time to save Ellen and Red. Creavy and his men are eventually apprehended, and Red finally gets a second chance to demonstrate his Elastiglass.
Gloria De Haven
Jay C. Flippen
Walter Anthony Merrill
Arthur Weegee Fellig
Mary Jo Ellis
Robert A. Block
Charles Anthony Hughes
Charles Murray Jr.
A. Arnold Gillespie
Frank B. Mackenzie
Edwin B. Willis
The Yellow Cab Man
Skelton's father was a working clown, and what could have been an idyllic childhood for little Red turned into a desperately poor one: his father died when Red was two months old. The family, which consisted of his cleaning lady mother and three older brothers, lived in a garret. Red himself entered the workforce while still a youngster, first selling newspapers and then toiling as a stock boy in a department store. His work brought him into contact with a patent medicine salesman who hired the eager young boy as his all-around theatrical assistant, and Red Skelton's show business career officially began. From this medicine show beginning he moved into other traveling performing troupes, where he would sing and do whatever dramatic chores came his way. Red's natural comedic talents would not be ignored, however, and he soon was featured in comic bits which were more popular than anything else he had done.
The rest is entertainment history: Vaudeville, burlesque, a foray into the movies at RKO (Having Wonderful Time, 1938) where he didn't catch fire, more vaudeville, radio work, and then coming to the attention of MGM, where they envisioned him as comedy support for their bigger stars. MGM had a reputation as a studio that didn't know what to do with comedians their inept treatment and squandering of Buster Keaton's talent was legend and they first stuck Skelton into movies as comic relief, but soon tried him out in several solo films. Of course, his bright red hair was a big hit in Technicolor, and he had many supporting roles in lavish musical comedies where he like fellow redhead Lucille Ball had a difficult time breaking out into major stardom. Still, MGM managed to find several vehicles which suited his gifts, and he began to acquire a good reputation at a studio where musicals not comedies ruled the roost.
During this period, Buster Keaton approached MGM studio brass with the concept that he be allowed to work on Skelton's films as a comedy consultant, and this resulted in the successful films A Southern Yankee (1948) and The Yellow Cab Man in 1950. (Keaton is not listed in the production credits although his crony director Edward Sedgwick (they worked together on The Cameraman , Spite Marriage , and other MGM features) gets a screen credit as "comedy consultant" on The Yellow Cab Man). Keaton's pleas to set up a separately functioning comedy film unit didn't fly with MGM, so the brilliant comic had to be content with offering his services as a mere consultant.
The Yellow Cab Man, in which an inventor's unbreakable glass attracts the attention of businessmen and gangsters, follows the standard slapstick scenario of most of Skelton's clueless rube comedies. But one of the more interesting aspects of the film is a sequence where Skelton's character takes a drug and experiences some unusual hallucinations. These scenes were photographed and supervised by famous crime scene photographer and NYC street life chronicler Weegee. Arthur Fellig the nickname Weegee came from his uncanny ability to show up at propitious moments to capture the perfect photo, likened to the predictive Ouija Board devised the distortion effects which he had first utilized in his own 1948 film Weegee's New York. Through various unique techniques, including using curved glass during printing, making multiple exposures from negatives, and even dropping negatives into boiling water or melting them over fire, Weegee added his brilliant touch to this imaginative part of The Yellow Cab Man.
At the time he made The Yellow Cab Man, Skelton was coming off a series of movie successes, including the aforementioned The Fuller Brush Man, A Southern Yankee, and a co-starring role in the Esther Williams' musical comedy Neptune's Daughter (1949). Skelton's production team and co-stars were equally skilled in their fields. Director Jack Donohue started his show business career as Ziegfeld Follies dancer, eventually transitioning into choreography and teaching dance (to pupils like Eleanor Powell). He became a dance director for movies, and in 1948 he made his directorial debut; The Yellow Cab Man was his second movie as director. The film's female lead was played by veteran actress Gloria DeHaven. She had a list of impressive credits in movies like Broadway Rhythm (1944), Two Girls and a Sailor (1944), Step Lively (1944), Summer Holiday (1948) and many others, and was as adept at comedy as she was at drama and in musicals.
Veteran Hollywood character actor Walter Slezak Lifeboat (1944), The Princess and the Pirate (1944) and many others lent his vibrant and hilarious comic persona to the role of a crook on inventor Red's tail. Edward Arnold Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Johnny Eager (1942) who could bring to life both comic and dramatic characters, was brought on board to play a crooked attorney. Another screen veteran James Gleason Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) played a Yellow Cab driver who recruits Skelton to come work for the company as a scientist, on the virtue of his invention of a shatterproof glass for windshields.
Movie fans were also thrilled to see Polly Moran, a comedy favorite who had been in the movies since 1915, return to the screen for a small role that was singled out by several movie reviewers. In fact, the critics were fairly kind to The Yellow Cab Man, citing the madcap inventions presented by scientist Skelton's character and the raucous physical comedy that highlighted the film. While it didn't quite the match the high standard of Skelton's previous film A Southern Yankee, The Yellow Cab Man nonetheless showcases Red Skelton doing what Red Skelton does best giving his all to make an audience laugh.
Producer: Richard Goldstone
Director: Jack Donohue
Screenplay: Albert Beich; Devery Freeman (screenplay and story)
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu
Music: Scott Bradley; Adolph Deutsch, Albert Sendrey (both uncredited)
Film Editing: Albert Akst
Cast: Red Skelton (Augustus 'Red' Pirdy), Gloria De Haven (Ellen Goodrich), Walter Slezak (Dr. Byron Dokstedder), Edward Arnold (Martin Creavy), James Gleason (Mickey Corkins), Jay C. Flippen (Hugo), Paul Harvey (Pearson Hendricks), Guy Anderson (Willis Tomlin), John Butler (Gimpy), John Indrisano (Danny), Polly Moran (Bride's Mother).
by Lisa Mateas
The Yellow Cab Man
This film marked Richard Goldstone's debut as an M-G-M producer. According to a November 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item, Harry Ruskin was originally set to produce the film. The distortion effect sequence in the film was created by renowned press photographer Weegee (the adopted nickname of Arthur H. Fellig), who also appears in a bit role as a cab driver. According to an April 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, Jimmy Durante was set to play a veteran cab driver in the film. An August 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item lists Jill Donohue in the cast, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The film marked the final screen appearance of stage and screen actress Polly Moran, who began her film career in the silent era and who co-starred in several M-G-M comedies with Marie Dressler. Moran died in 1952.