• U.S.

Cinema: Yak Derby

2 minute read

Who’s Got the Action? “You can’t hate a man for liking animals.” That’s what the little lady (Lana Turner) says. But the man is her husband (Dean Martin), the animals are horses, and he loves them so much he spends $8,000 in six months to improve the breed. In desperation, Lana decides to save both marriage and money by playing both bookie and bride. Using her husband’s partner (Eddie Albert) for a front man, she secretly takes her husband’s bets. “When he loses, I’ll win,” she thinks. “That way we’ll keep the money in the family.”

But the first time he bets he wins. Lana pawns her jewels to meet the ante. He wins again. Lana sells an antique clock. He wins again—big. She strips the flat. Dean is too plug-nutty to notice that his furniture is gone. With a grin that slits his throat from ear to ear he runs off to tell all his horseplaying pals about the bookie who brought him luck. They get all the cash they can carry and stack the packet on a three-legged lizard whose owner can’t even sell it for dog meat. “Eighty to one!” Lana gasps with relief. “Ha! Ha! Ha! It can’t possibly win. Ha! Ha! Ha!”

The syndicate has the last laugh in this yak derby, but the customers get most of the others. Written by Jack Rose and directed by Daniel Mann, Action is not the merriest oatsmobile that ever came down the track, but Dean and Lana make a surprisingly smooth entry; Paul Ford is hilarious as a birdbrained, spaniel-eyed, llama-lipped pony player; and Walter Matthau has his moments as the big hairball who runs the syndicate—among them the deathless moment when, with a casual flick of his manicured fingers, he announces superbly: “Give dis genulman eighteen tousan’ dolluhs fum petty cash.” The whole cast obviously enjoyed making the picture, and most spectators will find that the pleasure is mutuel.

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