The Great Rupert

This is another of those quirky independent films set at Christmas that we have grown to love, similar to Beyond Tomorrow, because of the silly but endearing story and the many interesting character actors.


The down-on-their-luck Amendola Trio (Jimmy Durante, Queenie Smith and Terry Moore), a family of vaudeville acrobats, have arrived in New York desperate to find somewhere to live. They run into animal trainer Joe Mahoney (Jimmy Conlin), who has been forced to abandon his trained squirrel, Rupert, and look for another place to live. The Amendolas move into the squalid little apartment that Mahoney vacated, not realizing that Rupert has returned to live in the rafters. The misery landlord, Frank Dingle (Frank Orth), has been hiding his money in the rafters, not realizing that Rupert lives there. Rupert throws the money out, and when it falls down from the ceiling into the lap of the Amendolas, they think it is a miracle from heaven. Louie Amendola lends the money to struggling merchants in the area, and within months, their businesses are thriving. When a fire occurs, burning not only the apartment but the landlord’s house, Rupert almost dies, but he is saved and found again by his trainer, who now has found a booking for the dancing squirrel, who eventually becomes a show biz star.


This is the only one of our films set in Brooklyn rather than Manhattan, but you can see the Manhattan skyline in the background during several scenes.


The film begins on Christmas Eve and features a miraculous Christmas tree. There is a nice rendition of “Jingle Bells” by Jimmy Durante at an impromptu Christmas Day party.


Jimmy Durante appears in The Man Who Came to Dinner. Sara Haden appears in The Shop Around the Corner and The Bishop’s Wife. Jimmy Conlin is best known as a member of the Preston Sturges company of character actors, appearing in nearly all of Sturges’s films.


Jimmy Durante appeared in several different stage benefits that featured Fred Astaire in the early 1930s.


Rupert the dancing squirrel is great!