Cracked Nuts

Cracked Nuts is a 1931 American pre-Code comedy film directed by Edward F. Cline, from an original screenplay written by Al Boasberg and Ralph Spence. The film stars the comedy duo Wheeler & Woolsey (Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey), as well as Dorothy Lee. It also features Boris Karloff in a small supporting role. The film was one of RKO's only financial successes of the year.

Cracked Nuts
Film poster
Directed byEdward F. Cline[1]
Fred Fleck (assistant)[1]
Produced byWilliam LeBaron
Douglas MacLean (associate)
Written byAl Boasberg
Ralph Spence
StarringBert Wheeler
Robert Woolsey
Dorothy Lee
Music byMax Steiner[2]
CinematographyNicholas Musuraca[3]
Edited byArthur Roberts[3]
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • April 4, 1931 (1931-04-04) (Premiere-New York City)[1]
  • April 19, 1931 (1931-04-19) (US)[1]
Running time
65 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$617,000[4]


Wendell Graham (Bert Wheeler), while a millionaire through inheritance, is incredibly irresponsible. On a trans-Atlantic crossing, he meets the lovely Betty Harrington (Dorothy Lee), and her stuffy, over-protective aunt, Minnie Van Varden (Edna May Oliver). Wendell is definitely interested, and his interest is reciprocated by Betty; however Aunt Minnie takes an instant dislike to the young man. On the same ship are several dissidents who are seeking financial support for their revolution back home in the fictional country of El Dorania. Wendell believes that if he offers them financial support in their revolutionary pursuits, this will enhance his position with Aunt Minnie, who owns a large estate in El Dorania, and has been vocal about her displeasure with the current monarch. Wendell agrees to furnish the revolutionaries with $100,000 to further their cause.

Meanwhile, back in El Dorania, Zander Ulysses Parkhurst (Robert Woolsey), better known by his acronym, Zup, is a casino owner. One night he believes he has hit the jackpot when he wins the crown of the country in a crap game with King Oscar (Harvey Clark), the owner of which becomes king of the country. Unbeknownst to Zup, Oscar has deliberately lost the crown, since he realizes that whoever the king is targeted for death. After he is crowned king, Zup learns from Queen Carlotta (Leni Stengel) that a king's reign in El Dorania has averaged a single month over the past year, after which they are assassinated.

Wendell is told by the revolutionaries as they near El Dorania, that after they overthrow the current monarch, they intend to make him their king. This sits well with Wendell, who feels that this will prove his worth to Aunt Minnie. When he arrives in the country, he realizes that the current monarch is his old friend from Brooklyn, Zup. Their celebratory reunion is short-lived when Wendell realizes that he needs to kill Zup in order to assume the throne. Wendell discovers that the assassinations are the brainchild of General Bogardus (Stanley Fields), who agrees to allow Zup to be killed in the modern fashion, with bombs dropped from airplanes.

Wendell arranges for all the bombs to be disarmed, and lets Zup know there is nothing to fear. The day of assassination arrives during a national celebration, but Zup is unafraid, since he received the knowledge from Wendell that the bombs won't blow up. However, as the bomb's begin to fall, they explode, since they have been re-armed, without the knowledge of Wendell. The two friends flee for their lives, and as they do, fortune shines on them as one of the bombs lands over an oil deposit, which begins to gush forth. The country, now rich, is no longer interested in revolution. Zup remains king, and Wendell gets to marry Betty, much to the chagrin of Aunt Millie.


(Cast list as per AFI database)[1]


Even though the film was successful at the box office, making a profit of $150,000,[4][5] the film did not fare well with some critics of the time. The Motion Picture Herald said that the film, "... was, no doubt intended for a comedy but we missed the intent and went to sleep on it."[6] Variety felt the film was far too long, which diluted the true comedic elements.[7] Silver Screen rated the film, "Fair".[8] Photoplay was a bit more kind, complaining that the comedy duo of Wheeler/Woolsey was being rushed into too many films, much to their detriment, but in spite of this, "... you'll laugh anyway, particularly in the later sequences where motion replaces gabble."[9] Film Daily said the film "... was weak, the dialogue filled with unfunny puns, and Woolsey and Wheeler at a loss for new antics ...."[10]


"Dance"(1931), Music by Harry Tierney. Lyrics by Ray Egan. Sung and Danced by Bert Wheeler and Dorothy Lee. The song was a last minute addition to the film by producer William LeBaron. While already in the editing process, the song was added in March 1931.[11]


The original title of this film was Assorted Nuts, but was changed to Cracked Nuts in February 1931.[12]

RKO was deciding on whether or not they could cast Woolsey and Wheeler separately in films. This film was a test, since over half the film is not of the duo, but of the two actors separately. Since the film did well, both actors were rewarded with their own solo projects later in 1931, Wheeler in Too Many Cooks, while Woolsey was in Everything's Rosie. But after that brief soiree, the two comedians were re-united for the remainder of their careers.[13]

The director, Edward F. Cline, would direct another film with exactly the same name, Cracked Nuts, which had absolutely no connection with this film, other than the title and director.[13]

This was the first talking film which used the concept of a revolution in a fictional kingdom, a concept which would be wonderfully done two years later with the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup. Additionally, the song, "El Manicero" was used in both films (during the opening credits in this film, while Groucho Marx hums the tune during the later film).[13]


  1. "Cracked Nuts: Detail View". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on April 22, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  2. "Cracked Nuts: Article". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on April 1, 2016. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  3. "Cracked Nuts, Credits". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on August 21, 2014. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  4. Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p55
  5. Jewell, Richard B.; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New York: Arlington House. p. 32. ISBN 0-517-546566.
  6. "Speaking of Two Comedies". Motion Picture Herald. February 1931. p. 738. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  7. "Cracked Nuts". Variety. April 8, 1931. p. 18.
  8. "Cracked Nuts". Silver Screen. May 1931. p. 47.
  9. "Cracked Nuts - Radio Pictures". Photoplay. 39-40. April 1931. p. 553.
  10. "A Little from "Lots"". The Film Daily. April 5, 1931. p. 10. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  11. "A Little from "Lots"". The Film Daily. March 23, 1931. p. 6. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  12. "A Little from "Lots"". The Film Daily. February 19, 1931. p. 9. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  13. "Cracked Nuts: Articles". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on August 22, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
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