The Gorilla (1939 film)

The Gorilla is a 1939 American horror comedy film starring the Ritz Brothers, Anita Louise, Art Miles, Lionel Atwill, Bela Lugosi, and Patsy Kelly. It was based on a play of the same name by Ralph Spence.

The Gorilla
Promotional release poster
Directed byAllan Dwan
Produced byHarry Joe Brown
Written byRalph Spence (play)
Rian James
Sid Silvers
StarringAl Ritz
Harry Ritz
Jimmy Ritz
Anita Louise
Patsy Kelly
Lionel Atwill
Bela Lugosi
Joseph Calleia
Edward Norris
Wally Vernon
Music byDavid Buttolph
David Raksin
Cyril J. Mockridge
Alfred Newman
CinematographyEdward Cronjager
Edited byAllen McNeil
Distributed byTwentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Release date
  • May 26, 1939 (1939-05-26)
Running time
66 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film is in the public domain.[1]


When a wealthy man (Lionel Atwill) is threatened by a killer known as The Gorilla, he hires the Ritz Brothers to investigate. A real escaped gorilla shows up at the mansion just as the investigators arrive. Patsy Kelly portrays a newly hired maid who wants to quit because the butler, played by Bela Lugosi, scares her.




By October 1938, 20th Century Fox bought the rights to Ralph Spence's play The Gorilla. Fox wanted production on the film to start in January, which would be when The Ritz Brothers finished their tour. The studio wanted Kane Richmond to play a part in the film, but Richmond was replaced by Edward Norris after Richmond signed on for the film Charlie Chan in Reno. Fox signed on Bela Lugosi for the film as the butler. This character was originally meant for Peter Lorre.[3]

The death of the Ritz Brothers' father caused production of the film in January to be delayed. Fox placed a $150,000 suit against the Ritz brothers for a breach of contract as the film was stated to start production on January 30, but was halted when the Ritz Brothers did not show up. By March, the film began shooting again with the Ritz brothers returning to the film. The Gorilla became the last film made for Fox by the Ritz brothers.[3]

Release and reception

The Gorilla premiered on May 26, 1939. A negative review of the film was written in The New York Times stating, "It's all supposed to be either really funny or shockingly thrilling, depending on how you look at it. We couldn't see it either way."[4]

See also


  1. Brotherton, Jamie; Okuda, Ted (2013). Dorothy Lee: The Life and Films of the Wheeler and Woolsey Girl. McFarland. ISBN 152
  2. "The Gorilla (1939) - Cast". Allmovie. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved May 4, 2013.
  3. Rhodes, 2001. p.113
  4. Hallenbeck, 2009. p.27


  • Rhodes, Gary Don (1997). Lugosi: his life in films, on stage, and in the hearts of horror lovers. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-0257-1.
  • Hallenbeck, Bruce G. (2009). Comedy-horror films: a chronological history, 1914-2008. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-3332-9.
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