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Rhubarb ()

directed by
featuring Ray Milland, Jan Sterling, Gene Lockhart, William Frawley, Elsie Holmes

Rhubarb is an amusing, if not entirely faithful, adaptation of the H. Allen Smith novel of the same name. When Thaddeus J. Banner (Gene Lockhart), multimillionaire owner of the Brooklyn baseball team, passes away, he wills the team -- and his $30 million estate -- to his pugnacious pet cat Rhubarb. Banner's press agent Eric Yeagar (Ray Milland) finds this hilarious, until he discovers that he's been appointed Rhubarb's guardian and business manager. One of the crosses Yeagar has to bear is the fact that his sweetheart Polly Sickles (Jan Sterling), the daughter of Brooklyn team manager Len Sickles (William Frawley), is deathly allergic to cats. Still, Yeagar must keep Rhubarb with him at all times, especially when the cat turns out to be a good-luck charm for the perennially basement-dwelling Brooklyn ballplayers. Thanks to Rhubarb's inspiration, the team makes it to the Pennant Race, whereupon the plot really thickens. The first two-thirds of Rhubarb adheres to the original Smith novel, culminating with a zany sanity hearing brought about by Banner's disgruntled relatives to prove that the cat is mentally unfit to control the old man's money. But the final reels abandon the novel in favor of a Guys and Dolls-inspired plot strand, wherein crooked gamblers kidnap the cat to prevent a Brooklyn pennant win. As a result, H. Allen Smith's satiric barbs are somewhat blunted in the final scenes -- which, however, is not to suggest that the film is any less funny than before. One of the better baseball comedies of the era, Rhubarb maintains its merriment right to the end, which is capped by a cameo appearance by a well-known actor who happened to be married to leading lady Jan Sterling. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi Hide synopsis

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