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Heads Up (1930)





Complete credited cast:
Charles 'Buddy' Rogers ... Jack Mason (as Charles Rogers)
Helen Kane ... Betty Trumbull
Margaret Breen Margaret Breen ... Mary Trumbull
Victor Moore ... Skippy Dugan
Gene Gowing Gene Gowing ... Rex Cutting
Helen Carrington Helen Carrington ... Mrs. Martha Trumbull
Billy Taylor Billy Taylor ... Georgie
Charles Anthony Hughes Charles Anthony Hughes ... Larry White (as C. Anthony Hughes)
Harry Shannon ... Capt. Denny
John Hamilton ... Capt. Whitney
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Preston Foster ... Blake
Stanley Jessup Stanley Jessup ... Naval officer


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A Glorious Jamboree of Girls, Giggles and Gayety- a Boatload of Love, lyrics and Laughter! (Print Ad- Schenectady Gazette, ((Schenectady, NY)) 27 November 1930)


Comedy | Musical







Release Date:

11 October 1930 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Ilha da Felicidade See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (MovieTone)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »


A Ship Without a Sail
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Lorenz Hart
Sung by Buddy Rogers (uncredited) and chorus
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User Reviews

Boop-a-doop bootleggers
11 September 2004 | by F Gwynplaine MacIntyreSee all my reviews

'Heads Up' stars Helen Kane, who is now remembered only in parody as the prototype for Betty Boop. The animated character in the Fleischer cartoons is blatantly similar to Helen Kane's screen persona: same hairstyle, same annoying speaking voice (Kane sounds like Gracie Allen on helium), same 'boop-oop-a-doop' syllables scatted into the breaks in her lyrics. Kane sued the Fleischer studio: amazingly, she lost, and Max Fleischer then released a gloating newsreel clip featuring several chorus girls made up to look like Kane. Helen Kane's home studio (Paramount) didn't care about the controversy, as they were also distributing Fleischer's Betty Boop cartoons ... and making more money off the animated imitation than off the live-action original.

None of Helen Kane's movies are very good, except for 'Paramount on Parade' (in which she has merely a guest shot) and just possibly 'Sweetie' (in which she plays only a supporting role), so her films are seldom revived. The Boop cartoons, of course, are constantly revived ... so, for modern viewers seeing Kane for the first time, it's hard to avoid the perception that Helen Kane is imitating Betty Boop rather than just the other way round. It seems very unfair that the original has been entirely upstaged by the Boop-a-Duplicate.

In 'Heads Up', Kane actually plays a character named Betty, which gives you an idea of where Fleischer got the name for his cartoon character. 'Heads Up' was originally a flop Broadway musical with tunes by Rodgers and Hart, who are the only songwriters listed in this film's on-screen credits (unless you count director Victor Schertzinger, who also wrote tunes). The songs in this movie are quite lame, easily Rodgers's and Hart's bottom-drawer stuff. I did enjoy some very spirited hoofing by little Billy Taylor during one of Kane's songs: why didn't Taylor ever make it in musicals?

High-society Newport widow Martha Trumbull owns a yacht, the Silver Lady, for the private use of herself and her two daughters Mary and Betty. Mary (Margaret Breen) is meant to be the 'pretty' sister, and Betty (Helen Kane) is meant to be the 'funny' sister, but neither is much of either. The wealthy Mrs Trumbull employs Captain Denny and Skippy Dugan to staff the yacht, but they're often kept idle at the quay because the family aren't using the yacht. So, to make valuable use of his time, the villainous Denny uses the Silver Lady for bootleg runs. He takes her out beyond the three-mile-limit and comes back with hooch.

The galley cook Skippy -- more like a galley slave -- is played by Victor Moore. I've never found Moore funny, but I'm intensely in awe of his career as a performer. Some major Broadway musicals had roles written specifically as vehicles for Moore. I've interviewed old-time Broadway figures who worked with Moore, and they tell me that he was a genuinely modest and self-effacing man. I really want to like him on the screen, but he tends to play the same character every time ... and I find that character very wearying. Here, Moore invents bizarre contraptions that seem more appropriate for certain other comedians of this same period (Ed Wynn, Joe Cook, Clark & McCulloch) rather than for Moore's usual characterisation. Moore keeps mispronouncing his dialogue: he pronounces 'baloney' so it rhymes with 'mahogany'. Most of his other mispronunciations are so subtle, it's not clear whether they're genuine errors or bad attempts to be funny.

The male lead is Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, except that the credits don't include his nickname 'Buddy'. He plays a handsome Coast Guard officer who teams up with gumshoe Gene Gowing to catch the bootleggers. There is, of course, a romantic subplot between Rogers and Breen ... and if you can't guess how it ends, you haven't been paying attention.

The camera-work throughout is wretched. During the cotillion sequence, a shot begins with two people standing slightly off-centre in the frame. The camera nudges itself slightly to starboard, to centre the actors. Then a third person enters at the left, and the camera moves leftward to re-centre the shot. Similar adjustments occur throughout the film. During Kane's most elaborate dance number, we briefly see an overhead shot of the sort which most people think was invented by Busby Berkeley. Elsewhere in this same number, a very personable and beautiful chorus girl does splendid knee lifts right behind Kane: I wish that the camera had shoved Kane out of the way to concentrate on this chorus girl.

I suspect that the title of this movie is a cheeky joke. The phrase 'Heads Up' is never spoken nor sung anywhere in the film ... but the movie has a maritime theme, and guess which part of a ship is the 'head'. Otherwise, the jokes on offer here are slightly mouldy. When villainous Captain Denny (Harry Shannon) asks Victor Moore 'You know what mutiny is, don't you?', Moore replies 'Yes, sir. Mutiny is a show they give in the afternoon.' Get the hook! I'll rate this flotsam 4 out of 10, mostly out of sympathy for the production difficulties of early movie musicals.

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