The Meanest Man in the World
2013, 20th Century Fox
Original Release: 1943, 20th Century Fox
Buy the movie
Alongside Bob Hope, Jack Benny is one of my favorite actors/comedians. The Jack Benny Program radio show (1932-1955) is one of my favorite programs of all time… and that’s including all TV shows, modern and classic. His TV show (1950-1965) is really fun as well.
Thankfully, whether on Turner Classic Movies or via DVD, Jack Benny movies are slowly finding their way to the public once more. Charley’s Aunt was released on DVD a few years ago, Buck Benny Rides Again has no official DVD release but you can buy it on DVD-R through various independent sellers, To Be or Not to Be not only has a DVD release but it is also the first Benny movie to receive a Blu-ray release. Additionally,George Washington Slept Here & The Horn Blows at Midnight have been available in the DVD-R format through the Warner Archive Collection since 2013 while 20th Century Fox gave The Meanest Man in the World the DVD-R treatment in the same year.
As far as Jack’s major starring roles go, we really only need to see Man About Town (co-starring Dorothy Lamour!) and Love Thy Neighbor (co-starring Fred Allen!) to get some type of DVD/R release.
Today, the focus is on The Meanest Man in the World. I didn’t realize this movie was available for purchase… it was released in April 2013. I’ve known of it for years and I think it might even be available for viewing somewhere on the Internet Archive but I’ve never seen any footage from it. So when I signed up for my Amazon Student account (free 2-day shipping, yay for going back to college) and discovered the DVD-R release of this movie, I knew what I had to order as my inaugural free shipping purchase. The only thing that ticks me off is the DVD case arrived cracked.
The running time is a bit disappointing. Only 57 minutes, but back in those days many movies were run as double features so you’d get all kinds of stuff clocking in just over/under one hour. This is a B-movie but Jack was an A-list radio guy so it’s a shame we couldn’t have had 20 or 25 more minutes of film.
Such as it is, The Meanest Man in Town may be light on plot and silly but it’s a good kind of silly. It even co-stars Eddie “Rochester” Anderson. Anderson’s character of Rochester was Benny’s faithful butler/valet through the majority of Jack’s radio & TV run. Of course, he’s only billed as Rochester here, which I think is kind of odd. He’s not playing the character of Rochester in the movie, yet here he is being credited as his radio show character’s name. Getting back on the track, the movie is silly and will not be mistaken as a comedy classic but it features Jack and “Rochester” and all I wanted and expected was some good one-liners from (and between) these two and that’s exactly what I got.
It’s a fun, breezy way to spend an hour. Who in the world doesn’t love to see Jack making a fool of himself to win over some girl? It’s not as good as George Washington Slept Here and To Be or Not to Be but I think it’s better than Buck Benny Rides Again and it could’ve been even better if it had a longer running time.