One Night in the Tropics

One Night in the Tropics

A screwball comedy wherein love is naturally quantifiable as an insurance claim (an insurance salesman sings: "What can I exchange for you and your love?"), wherein one male lead is easily exchanged for the other (or for the generic ideal, as in the Bogart scene), wherein one 5 equals two 10s, and so on––naturally the only system that seems to govern anything going on in this film is astrology, (kismet, from the start!).

Abbott and Costello appear as a pair of bird-brained Virgils––theirs is a comedy of private languages and of mistaken values (where Who is on first and 13 x 8 = 27)––to highlight the fundamental concerns/problems of the genre (pitting male and female against one another, dealing with value and equivalence between era-accepted notions of masculinity and femininity) and forecasting and decoding the seamless role-switching that will occur throughout the film.

All this makes for an odd, at times sublime, viewing experience. And despite it being Abbott and Costello's first feature, where their involvement is only incidental, It's certainly the film of theirs that understands them best (and so far the only one I've seen that actually uses them well), which Sutherland* accomplishes by mapping the essence of their comedy onto the entire film.

Likely a lark in their filmography. A year later, the Buck Privates would be sent off to war––Abbott and Costello, explosively popular, would become closely linked with the war effort, touring the country selling war bonds and starring in a commercially successful series of wartime comedies.

*It's worth mentioning that, by this point in his career, Sutherland had worked with most of the great silent comedians. Chaplin, the Keystone Kops, Laurel & Hardy, W.C. Fields...