The Fuller Brush Man (1946)
MGM knew it had a valuable property in Red Skelton, but the studio never really knew how to handle his unique talents — until he was loaned out to Columbia for the hilarious, money-spinning slapstick comedy The Fuller Brush Man. The star plays Red Jones, a born screw-up who can’t seem to hold down a job. With the help of his ever-loving girlfriend Ann Elliot (Janet Blair), Red gets a job as a Fuller Brush salesman, intending to take the business world by storm with his can’t-fail sales techniques. Unfortunately, when Red isn’t messing up on his own, he’s being sabotaged by his supervisor Keenan Wallick (Don McGuire) — who also happens to be sweet on Ann. While trying to make a sale at the home of Commissioner Trist (Nicholas Joy), poor Red finds himself the Number One Suspect when Trist is murdered. With Ann’s help, Red eventually stumbles onto the identity of the actual killer, and the chase is on. And what a chase! Pursued by a battalion of thugs (played by several of Hollywood’s top stunt men), Red and Ann hotfoot it through a well-stocked war surplus warehouse, wherein all the props — rubber rafts, prefabricated houses, camouflage tents, flare guns — are utilized to their utmost comic potential. A riot from beginning to end, The Fuller Brush Man may well be Skelton’s funniest film. It was successful enough in 1948 to spawn a series of imitations — The Good Humor Man, The Fuller Brush Girl, The Yellow Cab Man, Kill the Umpire – -all of which, like Fuller Brush Man, were co-scripted by the inexhaustibly inventive Frank Tashlin.
Fiction: In Search of the Fuller Brush Man