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Laugh It Off (1939)

Approved | | Musical | 1 December 1939 (USA)
Four former actresses decide to restart their careers by opening up a nightclub.


Albert S. Rogell


Lee Loeb (story "Listen Kids"), Mortimer Braus (story "Listen Kids") | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Johnny Downs ... Stephen 'Steve' Hannis
Constance Moore ... Ruth Spencer
Marjorie Rambeau ... Sylvia Swan
Cecil Cunningham ... Tess Gibson
Hedda Hopper ... Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Rockingham
Janet Beecher ... Mary Carter
Edgar Kennedy ... Judge John J. McGuinnis
Tom Dugan ... Rod Bates
William Demarest ... Barney 'Gimpy' Cole
Horace McMahon ... Phil Ferrranti
Paula Stone ... Linda Lane
Chester Clute ... Eliot Rigby


One of the best of Universal's "quickie" musicals with Johnny Downs as the world's most inept lawyer who continually appears before Edgar Kennedy, an easily-frustrated Judge wearing the business end of a mop as a toupee. A retirement home for ladies is declared bankrupt and residents and former actresses Sylvia Swan, Tess Gibson, Lizzie Rockingham and Mary Carter decide to save the day by reopening a raided-closed casino owned by Barney "Gimpy" Cole as a night club. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

1 December 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Lady Be Gay See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


You're Doing the 1940
Written by Samuel Lerner (as Sam Lerner) and Ben Oakland
Performed by Cecil Cunningham, Janet Beecher, Hedda Hopper and Marjorie Rambeau
See more »

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User Reviews

Four wise dames and the singing solicitor
21 January 2017 | by AlsExGalSee all my reviews

A group of retired ladies of the stage have each kicked in 5000 dollars so they can rest their legs and voices in comfort in a group retirement home for the rest of their days. Then comes the news that the bank is taking possession of their property because the mortgage has not been paid by the person the women gave their money to for investment. Plus the person they gave their money to has just died so they would have to sue the estate.

Well these grand dames of the stage of the past are not taking this lying down. Four of them decide to travel to New York and find the person who inherited the estate and enlist the help of the nephew of one, who is an attorney, Johnny Downs as Steve Hannis.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Steve is one of the world's most incompetent attorneys who continually annoys the judge (Edgar Kennedy) by starting the answer to every question that he has with the law of the Roman Empire. Also unfortunately, the recipient of the Spencer estate, Ruth Spencer (Constance Moore) is flat broke. There was no money in the Spencer estate. However, she is a nice person and sympathetic to the plight of the retired actresses, and so Steve and Ruth begin to hit it off.

Also entering into the script is an estranged member of Lizzie Rockingham's (Hedda Hopper's) family, gambler Barney Cole (William Demarest), who might have the money to solve everybody's problems - and then his illegal casino is raided plus he owes another gambler a bunch of money. That gambler is threatening murder if not paid. I've always wondered about this - how can a dead guy pay you back? But I digress.

So here you have the entire cast with their hearts in the right place, but no money in their wallets. Can they possibly all solve each other's problems? Watch and find out.

I'll have to say that the musical numbers here were probably just a little better than mediocre, and it's odd that the two top billed players - Johnny Downs and Constance Moore - don't really have very big parts. The center stage here goes to the four Golden Girls of the stage - Rambeau, Cunningham, Hopper, and Beecher - with Cecile Cunningham being the wisest cracking one of the four, and the quickest thinking one. She's a real jewel here in a rare leading role. Plus she had some real life experience at reinventing herself - first being a telephone operator, then a vaudeville comedian, and then a successful character actress with the coming of talkies, playing matrons from the beginning but apparently having plenty of work. I can see why.

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