If you haven’t seen it:
The Lemon Drop Kid is a sassy comedy vehicle for Bob Hope, one of the greatest and most successful comedy stars that America has ever produced. In later life, Bob was best known as a comedian and TV personality, but back in the day he was a big movie star too.
In this movie Bob plays a small time con-man who, just before Christmas, inadvertently swindles a mob boss, and has to come up with a way to pay him back. The solution he comes up with involves a lot of gangsters dressed as Father Christmas.
As well as more Santas than you can shake a bell at, The Lemon Drop Kid features lots of one-liners, slapstick, snow, and it also introduced us to the song “Silver Bells”.
Several aspects of the movie are a little dated, but Bob Hope is still likeable and funny, and it is worth watching for him.
If you have seen it:
Scroll down past the trailer for more.
SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.
Sidney Melbourne (aka the Lemon Drop Kid, because of his love of lemon drops) is a con-artist operating a scam at a Florida racecourse.
The way the scam works is that before a race, Sidney befriends another punter, and persuades him that he has a some insider information. Sidney will give the punter the name of the guaranteed-to-win horse in exchange for a share in the winnings. He does this once for every horse in the race, thereby guaranteeing that he will get a payout.
Unfortunately for Sidney, one of the disappointed losers turns out to be the girlfriend of the notorious gangster “Moose” Moran. When Moose finds out what has happened, he insists that Sidney repay the money he would have won, $10,000. He gives him until Christmas to do so.
Sidney travels to New York, and, after a few failures and a short stay in prison, eventually comes up with a way of making the money.
He employs a group of small-time crooks to dress as Santa Claus and collect money for charity, ringing bells on street corners. The charity he is collecting for is an old people’s home, and Sidney’s old girlfriend Brainy is delighted that he seems to have turned over a new leaf. But of course Brainy does not realise that Sidney has no intention of ever giving them the money.
A New York gangster, Charley, hears about how lucrative the Santa scam is, and decides to muscle in on the action. He kidnaps the old people in order to strengthen his case, and in the subsequent arguments, Brainy and Sidney’s other accomplices learn the truth about the plan, and are angry and disgusted.
A few days later, on Christmas Eve, Sidney resolves to do the right thing after all. He lures Charley and Moose into getting caught in a police raid, and announces that the old people will get the money after all.
Steve Sunday Says:
Firstly, I want to say that I assume the nickname “Brainy” was one of the those ironic nicknames – like Little John, or Curly from the Three Stooges. Brainy could have any man she wanted but she chooses a heartless and penniless con-man. Even after he steals her money (and her coat), and abandons her, she still wants to marry him. They say love is blind, but in this case I think it was blind, deaf, and suffering from a concussion. It is only when Sidney is finally revealed as being behind the lowest and dirtiest tricks in the history of Christmas movies that she finally starts to question whether he is the man for her.
Unethical scams aside, Bob Hope is really good in this. I usually think of Hope a stand-up comedian, but clearly he was an accomplished comic actor too. His style of comic acting has aged really well, and he carries the movie with a real energy.
One thing did unnerve me though – in The Lemon Drop Kid , Bob Hope looks uncannily like Kelsey (“Frasier”) Grammer. So much so, that I am starting to suspect they are the same person. I cannot come up with a suggestion as to how this would be possible, other than to say it would have to involve either some sort of time travel, or a cloning process. Either way, I think perhaps Moulder and Scully should be informed.
Trivia Trish Says:
- Marilyn Maxwell and Bob Hope were reported to be romantically involved during the making of The Lemon Drop Kid.
- After this movie, Bob Hope made “Silver Bells” his own Christmas theme. He performed the song every year on his annual Christmas TV special.
- You might have recognised one of the Santas – Tor Johnson (the huge bald one) went on to star in the 1959 Ed Wood movie “Plan 9 From Outer Space”, which is often called the worst movie ever made, and is so terrible it has become a cult classic.
Top Ten Fruitless Fruity Films:
Like ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Pineapple Express’, The Lemon Drop Kid is a film that does not actually contain fruit, despite having the name of a fruit in the title. Here are ten more (sort of*):
10. Last Mango in Paris
9. Cherry Maguire
8. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugli
7. Granny Smith goes to Washington
6. The Lord of the Pineapple Rings
5. Loganberry’s Run
4. There Will Be Blood Oranges
3. Honeydew, I Shrunk the Kids
2. Raisin The Titanic
1. The King’s Peach
* Please don’t email me to tell me that all I have done is recycle an old “hashtag game” from Twitter and forced it, unconvincingly, to fit my theme. I already know.
Main Cast and Crew:
Bob Hope – Sidney Melbourne (The Lemon Drop Kid)
Marilyn Maxwell – ‘Brainy’ Baxter
Director – Sidney Lanfield
Back to Classic Christmas Movies