Roman Scandals (1933)

Article #1173 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-31-2004
Posting Date: 10-28-2004
Directed by Frank Tuttle
Featuring Eddie Cantor, Ruth Etting, Gloria Stuart

When a local boy is thrown out of the town of New Rome, he finds himself transported to the times of Ancient Rome.

The time travel aspect in the above plot description delineates the fantastic element in this musical comedy; as for the actual mechanics as to how the time travel occurs, it’s never clearly explained, but from the surrounding events, It’s pretty obvious he either dreamed or imagined it. I found the whole affair a lot of fun, with the big dance numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley and some entertaining songs by Eddie Cantor. There are several interesting names in the cast; Gloria Stuart, David Manners, Edward Arnold and Alan Mowbray are all on hand, with various smaller parts played by Richard Alexander, Lucille Ball, Billy Barty (in another moment of fantasticism, Eddie Cantor enters a steam bath and is shrunk to the size of a midget, thus Barty’s appearance), Jane Darwell, Francis Ford, Paulette Goddard and Noble Johnson (as a torturer). The plot is fairly thin, but the mostly light-hearted fun has a few darker moments; the theme of political corruption is on hand, and one of the musical numbers involves the selling into slavery of a female slave who is then thrown to her death, a sequence that is somewhat shocking given the general light nature of the movie. Also, being pre-code, some of the musical numbers are fairly risque, especially the number inside the woman’s bath, which features Eddie Cantor singing in blackface and plenty of women in various states of undress. This one was definitely a movie of its time.


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