You’ll Find Out

sis-backstageblogathon-4So, what fabulous film am I discussing for Sister Celluloid’s Backstage Blogathon? You’ll Find Out.

No. Seriously. You’ll Find Out.

I see this could go on a bit like a “Who’s on First” joke if you’re not familiar with the Kay Kyser film You’ll Find Out.

I’m going to be the odd girl out here in the Blogathon, I think. The performing art that You’ll Find Out most obviously casts its lens on is radio. For those of you unfamiliar with Old Time Radio, OTR to those of us who have thousands of shows preserved on our computer hard drives, Kay Kyser was a band leader from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His effervescent personality quickly made his band a success and he ended up with a radio show in 1938, eventually called the “Kollege of Musical Knowledge.” The show was a hit with a listening audience of 20 million (ramfan.com). By 1949, “Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge” also aired on NBC-TV.

kay-kyser Comedy of ErrorIn between becoming a radio sensation and transferring to television, Kyser and his band were in at least seven films, beginning with That’s Right, You’re Wrong in 1939  (named after a catch phrase from the radio show). You’ll Find Out (1940) is the second and, I believe, the best of these movie performances written for Kyser’s band.

The Backstage Blogathon is looking for films that are mirrors of the entertainment industry, and while You’ll Find Out is not the typical Hollywood “mirror,” it is so self-referential that I believe it fits the criteria, often casting the mirror on its own self, the glory days of Radio, and its big name guest stars. One obvious part of Show Biz we’re seeing here is promotion. The point of making the movie was, of course, to make money for RKO, but also to promote Kyser’s radio show and records.

So, as the Ol’ Professor would have said, “Gather ’round chilluns, and You’ll Find Out!”

You'll Find Out Screen 1
Kyser as the Professor leading the band in the opening scenes of You’ll Find Out.

The movie begins with Kay wrapping up an episode of The Kollege of Musical Knowledge. From the very beginning, the audience gets an inside view of the world of radio shows. It is interesting to see how visually the show was constructed. Kay is dressed in a robe and mortar board; the band plays dramatically, cutting up and spinning their instruments; Kay dances across the stage. The live studio audience certainly got a good show.

They do know it’s primarily for radio broadcast, though; at one point, a guest on the show is describing an easel and using gestures, and Kay reminds her, “Now don’t use your hands. Describe it so the folks at home can hear.”  Dennis O’Keefe as Kay’s manager, Chuck, then literally takes us backstage when the janisshow ends. He is about to introduce the lovely heiress Janis Bellacrest, his lady love (Helen Parrish) to Kay since the band’s next gig is to play her lavish 21st birthday party. In some of the discussion, Chuck tells Janis that he makes sure the timing of the show is right. Huh. When they were actually live on the air, that really was quite a big deal. With my “taped before a live studio audience” mindset, I found that little bit of otherwise thrown-off dialog interesting.

What a birthday party!
Meet the band!

lugosi-kyserAfter a thrilling moment in which Janis reveals to Chuck that she thinks someone is trying to kill her, it’s on to Bellacrest Mansion. Here, we meet three icons of horror moviedom: Bella Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre. Janis’s aunt Margot (Alma Kruger) is in thrall to supposed psychic Prince Saliano (Lugosi) who can contact her dead brother, Janis’s father. As is the wont of fake psychics, Saliano is soaking the old lady for her fortune. So here, we see Lugosi playing the part of someone playing the part of a creepy mystic.

Youll-Find-Out-15-640x450The problem is that Janis is about to turn 21 and inherit everything, thus cutting off The Prince’s gravy train. The Bellacrest fortune is supposedly being looked out for by an old family friend Judge Mainwaring (Karloff); unfortunately, the Judge is only on the Judge’s side and is in cahoots with Saliano. Here again, Karloff is playing the role of someone playing a role. This is a very typical Karloff character, except in a comedy. He is suave, debonaire, yet with secrets.

You'll_Find_Out5To prove to her aunt that Saliano is a fraud, Janis has invited a noted debunker of psychics, Professor Karl Fenninger. Unfortunately, the real Fenninger is delayed and replaced by Fake Fenninger (Peter Lorre).  Kay is suspicious of Saliano and wants to help Janis get rid of him; unfortunately, he completely trusts Fake Fenninger with every plan he has to expose Saliano. Throughout the film, Lorre skulks around basically being creepy. He, too is playing a character who is pretending to be someone else.

Youll-Find-Out-1
Lugosi glares at Kyser in a mirror, recalling his hypnotic Dracula stare.

All of the double identities for these big names serve to highlight the audience’s expectations for them. Rather than to try to take the audience completely into another world, You’ll Find Out wants us to know it is a movie. Although You’ll Find Out has been criticized for under-utilizing its guest stars, I see these performance as a chance to really watch these masters practice their craft. Drawing the audience’s attention to the fact that each actor is playing a role (typical for him) within the film is a little like being let in on an inside joke. It’s almost as if the band members aren’t the only one playing themselves as we’re encouraged to watch these wonderful actors as they openly create personas like those with which we’ve come to associate them.

You'll Find Out 6

We also get to see the band set up. Members of the band play themselves. The main youll-find-out1players, Harry Babbitt, Ish Kabibble, and Sully Mason are involved in the plot as well. They are unhappy about playing in what might just be a haunted house, and at one point, Kay and the boys decide to leg it. As their manager, Chuck reminds them that they have to stay. He also appeals on Kay’s friendship, confessing to Kay that he loves Janis. Kay, seeming to have a change of heart replies, “You love her?…And who does she love?” When Chuck confirms that she loves him in return, Kay says, “Then you protect her.”

You'll Find Out ColorAs we all know, THE SHOW MUST GO ON, so the guys end up putting on a fine performance for Janis and her guests in spite of the requisite storm and power outage. The audience is treated to some numbers by the band, featuring Academy nominated “I’d Know you Anywhere” sung by Ginny Simms and “The Bad Humor Man” led by Ish Kabibble.

Ish Kabibble as The Bad Humor Man
Ish Kabibble as The Bad Humor Man

As the film progresses, Kay flushes Saliano out, goading him into a “show,” noting that he and Saliano are both in show business; they both have a racket. Again, You’ll Find Out is very self-referential.  He and the band manage to solve the mystery, discredit Saliano, expose Mainwaring and defrock the fake Fenninger. Since this is a Creepy Old House movie, we have the obligatory trek through hidden passages before all is said and done.

Kyser
Harry Babbit, Kay Kyser, and Ginny Simms

Just to be sure everyone knew it was a movie, in the end, Kyser breaks the fourth wall, walking out through a curtain to announce that Karloff, Lugosi, and Lorre are all actually nice guys in spite of the roles they played.  You’ll Find Out is obviously a movie having fun being a movie, casting sly winks at the audience, making sure we all recognize it for what it is–as such casting a self-reflective lens on the art of film-making.

Kay_Kyser_1942
Kay Kyser as the Old Professor

Head on over to Sister Celluloid and check out the rest of the Backstage Blogathon!

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “You’ll Find Out

  1. This sounds like a VERY interesting movie. I listed to a few old-time radio shows, but have never heard “The Kollege of Musical Knowledge”. It sounds like a terrific look at how radio worked (works?), even if you’re not familiar with Kay Kyser’s show. Thanks for the introduction to this film!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice job on the KK profile and film. I authored the first Kay Kyser full length biography, KAY KYSER-THE OL’ PROFESSOR OF SWING! AMERICA’S FORGOTTEN SUPERSTAR. It’s currently out of print. I love YFO and have many posters, lobbycards and movie paper on it, as I do aon all 7 of the KK features..Originally Kyser was from Rocky Mount, NC. He moved to Chapel Hill later. I was privileged to stay in the Kyser home at the invitation of his wife, Georgia Carroll Kyser for 3 days in 1996 doing research. What a trip! Check out our facebook page under the book’s title. So long, evahbody!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Thank you so much! I’m honored that you read my piece. I’ve always loved Kyser’s work! I can’t imagine how wonderful it was to have been at his home! I’ve perused your website and just might have the book. I’ll check when I get home. (I’m misappropriating work internet right now…shhh!) I certainly agree with the appellation of Superstar for Kay Kyser!

      Again, thank you for stopping by! Much obliged!

      Like

  3. Hi again, Tracey- I thought you might like a little more info on YOU’LL FIND OUT just fer fun. There was a scene where Ish is looking at the Peter Lorre character, walks over and says to him,’ You ever hear of a ‘Mr. Moto’? Lorre replies, ‘Yes, I think he was one of my students at Oxford.’ .I don’t know if it was ever filmed or was cut from the script.
    As you referred to briefly, there were many YFO ‘haters’ who thought Boris, Bela and Peter were misused somehow. Over at the Classic Horror Film Board, I took it upon myself to slowly transform some of these naysayers, and was actually successful. I presented it (not mentioning Im Kyser’s biographer) as a horror spoof, a satire, and fortunately I got quite a few monster lovers (of which I’m one) to say, ‘I watched it again, and it isn’t bad at all’. BUT Ish didn’t fare very well in many opinions. Granted, he might be for select tastes, but I love his corny humor. The innocence is so damn charming..and ive always loved radio-themed films of this era . So long, Steve

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so right; the innocence is such a part of the charm of this movie. And I love Ish! Congrats on being able to get some of the naysayers (great word) to come around to understanding the intent of the film!

      Like

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