Films of Emil Sitka: BLONDIE HITS THE JACKPOT (1949)
by Saxon E. Sitka
Three years after his acting debut in the comedy short HISS AND YELL (1946)
, Emil was working in his fortieth Hollywood film and his second "Blondie" movie. BLONDIE HITS THE JACKPOT was the twenty-sixth episode in the long-running film series starring Penny Singleton in the title role and Arthur Lake as "Dagwood Bumstead." Based upon a popular comic strip by Chic Young that premiered in 1930, a total of twenty-eight "Blondie" features were produced between 1938 and 1950.
Joining Lake and Singleton in the cast of BLONDIE HITS THE JACKPOT, which was directed by frequent Three Stooges director Edward Bernds, are Larry Simms, Marjorie Kent, Jerome Cowan, Lloyd Corrigan, Ann Carter, George Humbert, David Sharpe, Danny Mummert, James Flavin, and Dick Wessel. Despite the title, the plot has little to do with a "jackpot" and instead revolves around the mishaps that occur when "Dagwood" gets a new job at the construction site of a tall building. Emil plays a "Swedish plasterer" working at the construction site.
Emil's involvement in this production began two weeks before he actually got the part, as we see from this excerpt from his diary, written on Wednesday, September 29, 1948:
At 4 PM I left for Hollywood where I stopped at the Short-Comedies Blvd to give my birthday gift to Jules White. While he wasn't there I saw Ed Bernds who apologized (sort of) for not using me in his last "Blondie" feature picture -- but he promised me perhaps two roles in a week or so. Mr. Hugh McCollum, too, joked with me and promised the roles.
Emil's diary for the following day, Thursday, September 30, 1948:
Once again I am called by Columbia -- for a role in a feature picture. Ed Bernds is directing another "Blondie" movie with Arthur Lake as it's star. And my part is meager, but important with pantomime, he says. No written dialogue, no script, in fact.
I shall learn tomorrow what the part calls for. It had better not have any violent, unsupported, blind backward fall included in its action!
Wondering if I shall feel well and able to go tomorrow, I still breathe easy and cheerful. It is my art, my professional ability, my acting again!
The role didn't call for Emil to perform exactly the kind of fall he was dreading in his diary, only because it wasn't "blind backwards." But fall he does, and not just once or twice, but three face-first slaps into a large tub of plaster, as shown in the lobby card above.
The first two falls occur when Dagwood is being chased around the construction site by two thugs. Emil is busy mixing his plaster, but as the thugs chase Dagwood they collide into Emil and into the tub he flies.
When Dagwood and the thugs approach him a third time, Emil sees them coming and leaps into the tub before they get to him. As they pass by, Emil shouts, "You didn't get me this time!" in a Swedish accent.
It's an amusing little role that resembles the kind of characters Emil often played so well with the Three Stooges. Despite its violent, physical nature and Emil's desire to avoid worsening his lingering neck injuries, he enacts the part convincingly and makes some impressive dives into the vat of plaster.
After filming his scenes in BLONDIE HITS THE JACKPOT on Friday, October 15, 1948, Emil made this unusual entry into his diary:
In this feature picture at Columbia Pictures Ranch I played the role of a "Swedish plaster man." And I wondered why I was given no script, and wondered why all the many men on my way to the set were pointing me out with loud guffaws and laughter.
One can only wonder what, if anything, this might have meant. Aside from his ad-libs, Emil had no dialogue, so there was no reason to provide him a copy of the script. As for the rest, perhaps Emil felt he'd been set up for an undesirable role, but we'll never know. What we do know is that Emil enacted a very funny little role that got his picture on a lobby card. Not bad for a bit part taken on such short notice.
BLONDIE HITS THE JACKPOT was the second of three "Blondie" movies Emil appeared in with Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake. The first was BLONDIE'S SECRET (1948)
, in which Emil played a grocery clerk, and his third and last "Blondie" movie was BEWARE OF BLONDIE (1950)
, the final episode of the long-running series.
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BLONDIE HITS THE JACKPOT (1949)