Australasian Cinema > films > Come Up Smiling, 1939

Come Up Smiling

Come Up Smiling* (William Freshman, 1939) aka Ants In His Pants; prod. Ken G. Hall, Cinesound Features, wr. William Freshman, story John Addison Chandler [Ken G. Hall], dp George Heath; Will Mahoney (Barney O'Hara), Shirley Ann Richards (Eve Cameron), Jean Hatton, Evie Hayes, Sidney Wheeler, Alec Kellaway, Guy Hastings, John Fleeting, Ronald Whelan, Harry Abdy, George Lloyd and Chips Rafferty (men in the crowd); 77 mins

Barney O'Hara and his young daughter, Pat, have a sideshow act in a touring carnival. One day Pat is invited to sing at a party given by a wealthy land-owner but her voice fails her. A specialist tells Barney that an operation is needed to save her voice. To raise the hospital fee he reluctantly agrees to fight a boxer known as 'The Killer' and goes into training with the aid of a sympathetic dancer, Kitty Katkin. On the day of the fight, ants are slipped into Barney's boxing shorts and, bitten into a raging fury, he soundly defeats 'The Killer' and wins the prize-money needed for Pat's operation.
Come Up Smiling was the only Cinesound feature not directed by Ken Hall. The task was entrusted to an actor, William Freshman, while Hall supervised the production and prepared work on the studio's next feature, Dad Rudd, M.P. (1940). Hall had also written the original story for the film, using his occasional pseudonym John Addison Chandler. Freshman had been born in Australia but had developed his career as a 'beauty actor' in numerous British films, starring as a romantic hero in films such as Eileen of the Trees (1928) and A Broken Romance (1929). Early in 1939 Cinesound brought him from England along with his wife who, as Lydia Hayward, had been a prolific writer of film scenarios in England. Despite the change in director and writer, the Sydney Morning Herald, 1 January 1940, found the film 'an average Cinesound sample', suggesting both the thoroughness of Hall's supervision and the consistency of the Cinesound production team.
Will Mahoney was an American vaudeville comedian who toured Australia in 1938 with his wife, Evie Hayes, and manager, Bob Geraghty. In January 1939 Hall signed all three of them to work on the film and they stayed mainly in Australia for the rest of their careers. Several song and dance routines in the film gave Mahoney ample scope to display his skill at precision tap-dancing (he was renowned for his stage act of dancing on a xylophone) and his lively, irreverent comedy style.
With a budget of about £22,000, the film was shot in Cinesound's Bondi studio, and at the Sydney Showground for carnival exteriors.
It was premiered by BEF at the Strand Theatre, Hobart, on 3 November 1939, but did not attract good business. Hall promptly renamed it Ants in His Pants and added a comic song to explain the new title. In this new version it fared much better at the Capitol Theatre, Sydney, where it opened immediately after Christmas. Late in 1940 a version shortened to 65 minutes was released in England under the original title. Pike & Cooper: 185-6.

References and Links

Hall, Ken G. 1980, Australian Film: The Inside Story, Summit, Sydney; second edition: the first edition was entitled Directed by Ken G. Hall, 1977.

Pike, Andrew & Ross Cooper 1998, Australian Film 1900-1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, revised edition, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.


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