RKO's Christmas Gift For 1951
A Comedy Trio Lights Double Dynamite (1951)
A shockingly weak RKO comedy, nevertheless given "special" pre-release for Christmas 1951, three years after the film had been completed. "A lightweight hodgepodge," said Variety, and that was generous, as critics otherwise gave DD a deep fry. RKO's pub-ad budget was $85K, among biggest outlays that year to launch a pic, which they did with leering art to accentuate Jane Russell, even though she screen-appeared in no such low-cut costume as depicted in ads, from which low ebb Frank Sinatra was omitted entirely. The Voice's fortune had come to impasse; no one seemed to want him in song or acting capacity, his Double Dynamite billing below both Russell and Groucho Marx, the latter with whom Frank did not get along. Broadway's Paramount Theatre had a sock holiday week, but insiders attributed that to stage bonus of Tony Bennett rather than damp fuse that lit Double Dynamite (Bennett "the top disker of the moment," according to Variety). Pic's title was originally It's Only Money till Howard Hughes assigned the new one. He'd also supervise Dynamite's campaign to emphasize "the two most prominent features of Miss Russell's anatomy," said Variety.
Truth was, Jane Russell got shortest shrift of Double Dynamite with regard presentation, the camera surprisingly ungenerous toward an actress that needed closer attention than RKO was equipped to give. Russell tended toward sneering expression, this less attitude than unintended consequence of facial featuring. Also, she didn't photograph well in right profile, something RKO crews, and Hughes, seemed oblivious to. Were all of them staring lower? Sinatra was again and for a last time playing Simple-Simon. He'd not be a moment too soon abandoning that persona for films; it was, in any case, hardly consistent with a volatile offscreen image FS had developed. What interest Double Dynamite derives comes mostly of Groucho Marx in comic support, an act that would have been more welcome in higher grade merchandise (imagine Grouch enhancing Esther Williams musicals at Metro). A million was spent on Double Dynamite's negative and the same came back in domestic rentals, plus $450K foreign, but there was loss of $250K. The film is available on DVD and plays Warner Instant in HD.