Old Movie Teams

Weren’t they also in that other movie?

Zasu Pitts & James Gleason

Pictured here in RKO’s The Plot Thickens (1936), Zasu (pronounced SAY-ZOO) Pitts was twice Hildegarde Withers to Gleason’s Inspector Piper.  The second outing for them was the 1937 Forty Naughty Girls.  In all Gleason appeared in six Hildegarde Withers comedy/detective films.  Helen Broderick (Broderick Crawford’s mother) preceded Pitts, but played the role just once to replace Edna May Oliver, who bowed out after playing the role in three films.  Eve Arden and James Gregory revived the characters in a 1972 made-for-TV pilot: “A Very Missing Person.”  But the networks passed on launching it as TV series.

Forty Naughty Girls was not only the last film for Gleason and Pitts in their roles as Hildegarde Withers and Inspector Piper; it was the last feature-length film in which Pitts and Gleason shared the bill. In all they appeared together in nine films: the first being the 1931 Beyond Victory. Their collaboration in Hot Tip (1935) is notable for the added role Gleason performed in the production of the movie; he co-directed the film with Ray McCarey (one of only two films for which Gleason served as director — the other being the 1932 Off His Base).

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The Crooked Circle (1932)

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