Three Men on a Horse: Mervyn LeRoy’s Version of George Abbott and Holm’s Broadway Play

Mervyn LeRoy directed Three Men on a Horse, a low-key comedy adapted from the Broadway play written by George Abbott and John Cecil Holm.

Erwin Trowbridge (Frank McHugh) is fed up with his sneering brother-in-law, Clarence Dobbins (Paul Harvey), unappreciative boss, greeting card publisher J.G. Carver (Guy Kibbee), and lack of support of wife Audrey (Carol Hughes).

Erwin goes on a drinking binge and ends up in a hotel bar. When he overhears Charlie (Allen Jenkins), and Frankie (Teddy Hart) bemoaning their bad luck betting on horses, he gives them his pick. They ignore the drunk, but when Erwin proves right, their friend Patsy (Sam Levene) places the money on Erwin’s next choice.

It wins, as do all his other selections, making the jubilant trio rich. They decide to hang onto their newfound goldmine. Patsy calls his boss and demands raise for him as his “manager,” but the plan backfires; Carver fires Erwin.

Erwin is upset, but Patsy gives him percentage of the win and convinces him that he can make more money betting than writing greeting cards.

Erwin makes his picks, but discards his first choice for the sixth race, which arouses Charlie’s suspicions. Patsy forces Erwin to bet all his winnings on his second selection, but Erwin had told Patsy’s girlfriend Mabel (Joan Blondell) that he never bet on horses, fearing that it would take away his ability.

The gang go to the racetrack, and Erwin’s discarded choice wins, edging his second pick. When they get back to the hotel, Patsy starts beating Erwin. When they hear on the radio that the winner has been disqualified, Erwin punches Patsy back. Clarence shows up, and Erwin punches him too.

Carver, desperate to fulfill a contract for Mother’s Day cards, offers Erwin a raise and a new office. Erwin bids farewell–having finally bet for real, he has lost his knack.

TCM showed this movie on April 25, 2019.