© 1945 The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Wonder Man (1945)

For some reason I am now hooked on twin movies. I am not really sure why—maybe it has something to do with the fact that my best friends in elementary school were identical twins who looked very much alike, and I was proud of myself for being one of the few people in the whole school who could tell them apart. Anyway, I have seen a few dark twin movies in the past week, and wanted to take something of a breather with a lighter film, something guaranteed by the names of Danny Kaye and dancer Vera-Ellen in the credits.

In Wonder Man, Kaye plays identical twin brothers who haven’t seen each other in years and have taken completely separate paths in life. Edwin is a timid bookworm who spends his days sitting in the public library taking notes with both hands at the same time in preparation of his book “The Outline of Human Knowledge” and is courting—or rather, is being courted by—the librarian (Virginia Mayo). The other twin, Buzzy is an outgoing star of Broadway musicals who is engaged to his costar (Vera-Ellen). Buzzy knows nearly everyone in New York, including “Ten Grand” Jackson, a gangster who he sees bump of a showgirl who has part of his fortune stashed in a safety deposit box. Before Buzzy can take the stand to testify, he is bumped off himself and thrown in the lake at Prospect Park. It is at this point that the shy brother hears harp glissandos and feels himself inexplicably drawn to Prospect Park, where he encounters the ghost of his estranged brother. Buzzy’s spirit occupies the body of Edwin in order to make it seem that he is still alive so he can testify in court, but this also means the self-conscious Edwin must take the stage every night. This causes all sorts of problems for the mild-mannered Edwin, as well as the girlfriends of both brothers.

The whole story is patently silly, but it just serves as a vehicle to showcase Kaye’s acting range, his ability to play a nervous wreck as well as dance, sing and do silly accents. He is just as good and funny here as he was in The Inspector General, although his talents are mired in a few too many corny musical numbers. S.Z. Sakall, who had a small role as the head waiter at Rick’s in Casablanca, has a funny role as the owner of a German delicatessen.

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