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The Chief

(1933 b 65')

En: 5 Ed: 4

A bumbling honorary fire chief runs for alderman against a gangster in this madcap comedy.

In the Bowery of the 1890s on July 4th Henry Summers (Ed Wynn) unveils a statue of his heroic father, who died saving four lives as a fire fighter. He turns on the fountain and showers the people. The next day Henry is fired by Morgan (Purnell Pratt). Henry is made an honorary fire chief and goes to a fire. He walks on the roof, slides down a drain-pipe, and climbs in a window. A woman faints, and he jumps down with her. Henry is acclaimed a hero. Morgan rehires him as manager of the hat department, and sales increase despite his clumsiness.

Morgan refuses to contribute to the re-election campaign of Clayton (C. Henry Gordon) but plans to run Henry. Clayton buys a hat from Henry and offers him a job playing music. Dapper Dan (Bradley Page) gives Morgan money for Henry's campaign. Henry tells Morgan he is quitting; but he meets pretty Dixie (Dorothy Mackaill), who says Clayton struck her. Henry agrees to run for alderman. Henry goes to a second-hand store to order a suit.

While Clayton and his men are waiting for Henry, he attends a dinner with Morgan and is asked to speak. Clayton comes in and fights over Henry. Henry knocks Clayton down and goes out the window. Big Mike (Nat Pendleton) questions Henry and tweaks his nose. Henry says he is not going to run for office; so he can't give a street cleaner a job. Dixie visits Henry and persuades him to run in order to put ventilation in the schools and give her fire protection. Henry invites Dixie for dinner but goes out to feed his horse, saying he is stuck on Dixie.

At a circus Henry wins votes helping children, who get him to wrestle a bear. Clayton's gang kidnaps Henry's mother until the election. Henry misses her at home and is called by gamblers, who order him to withdraw from the race. Dixie calls the newspaper so Henry can withdraw, but they ignore his statement. Dixie tells Henry that Dan is using him as a ladder. Ma Summers (Effie Ellsler) cooks for Mike and Clayton's men. Ma and they pray before eating. Henry pretends he is crazy, a Nero, and goes fiddling, telling people to vote for Clayton. Clayton is arrested for kidnapping. In the final scene Henry makes a speech on what he did as alderman in the third act, using numerous puns.

This farce satirizes the corruption of local politics in the big city by making a popular hero out of a clumsy but likable fool.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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