Filmsite Movie 

A Day at the Races (1937)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

The Tootsie-Frootsie Ice Cream Scene:

The film's most classic scene is the next one - the "Tootsie-Frootsie" Ice Cream/Code Book scene. Tony poses as an ice-cream vendor outside the race track - he is actually a con artist selling racing tip books on horses. After receiving a tip from Gil, he knew that in the next race, he could win, with 10-1 odds, with a bet on Sun-Up, but he needs the cash to make the bet - and to also pay Gil's feed bill.

So he sets up the scam as gullible, "sucker" and victim Dr. Hackenbush arrives at the race track. He interrupts him as he tries to bet two dollars on Sun-Up at a betting window. He offers him a $1 hint in an envelope, but when Hackenbush declines, Tony tells him that Sun-Up is the "worst horse on the track."

Tony: Suppose you bet on Sun-Up. What you gonna get for your money? Two-to-one. (He then pushes the $1 hint once more) One dollar and you'll remember me all your life.
Hackenbush: That's the most nauseating proposition I ever had.

Hackenbush succumbs to his greed and buys the $1 dollar envelope with the tip.

Tony: (as he walks away) Here your ice cream. Tootsie-frootsie ice cream. (The $1 hint in the envelope states that horse Z-V-B-X-R-P-L will win the next race.)
Hackenbush: I had that same horse when I had my eyes examined....What about this optical illusion you slipped me? I don't understand it.

Tony offers a free codebook to decode the letters to determine the horse's identity, but it comes at a price, a $1 dollar printing charge.

Tony: ...just a one dollar printing charge.
Hackenbush: Well, uh, give me one without printing. I'm sick of printing.

Tony then offers him a free master code book, without a printing charge, but with a $2 dollar delivery charge.

Tony: ...just a two dollar delivery charge.
Hackenbush: What do you mean delivery charge? I'm standing right next to you.
Tony: Well, for such a short distance, I make it a dollar.
Hackenbush: Couldn't I move over here and make it uh - fifty cents?
Tony: Yes, but I'd move over here and make it a dollar just the same.

Tony continues to offer advice with a $5 set of four Breeder's Guides to decipher the master code book.

Hackenbush: All I wanted was a horse, not a public library.

Hackenbush buys them too. Tony takes the cash acquired from Hackenbush (presumably $7 dollars by this point) to the betting window and secretly bets $6 dollars on Sun-Up, while Hackenbush is distracted balancing all his guide and hint books in his arms and between his legs. Because Tony doesn't have change for a $10 dollar bill for Hackenbush's purchase of a $1 dollar jockey guide, Tony proposes to give him ten jockey's guides (actually eleven) with the names of the jockeys instead of the horses.

Hackenbush: ....Say, you don't handle any bookcases there, do you?

Hackenbush is then advised by Tony to bet on Rosie, a 40-1 shot. At the betting window, Hackenbush bets two dollars on Rosie, but the bookie tells him the race is already over - and Sun-Up is the winner. Hackenbush realizes he has been taken when Tony collects on the winning horse - Sun-Up. He thinks for a moment, then dumps the books back in Tony's deserted ice-cream cart and takes the scammer's place waiting for a victim, crying: "Get your Tootsie-Frootsie. Nice ice cream. Nice Tootsie-Frootsie ice cream."

Efforts to Discredit Hackenbush Fail - Dr. Hackenbush's Impersonation of "Colonel Hawkins" at the Florida Medical Board:

Meanwhile, Judy refuses to take Gil's repeated phone calls at the sanitarium, and rips up his phone-call reminder messages.

The switchboard operator at the Sanitarium has been ordered by Whitmore to connect him to the Florida Medical Board to check up on Dr. Hackenbush's professional credentials. Both Morgan and his sleazy accomplice Whitmore, the sanitarium's financial officer who has already begun to destroy the internal financial structure of the hospital, are upset by the newly appointed head of the Standish Sanitarium - Hackenbush - and wish to discredit him: ("I'll get the dope on that Florida quack"). Before the end of the season, Morgan's plan is to convert the declining Sanitarium into a gambling casino next to his hotel and racetrack: ("I'll have every sucker in America flocking here").

When Judy asks for a picture of Dr. Hackenbush, to help publicize the Sanitarium and acquire more patients, he attempts to disguise his lack of credentials: "I'm not a famous man. I'm just a simple country doctor with horse sense." Hackenbush hints that he isn't a real medical doctor: "Suppose I were to tell you that I'm not the doctor you think I am." In any event, she requests that he treat Mrs. Upjohn kindly, since she is the sanitarium's lifeline, and Hackenbush answers: "Well, she's not exactly my type, but for you, I'd make love to a crocodile."

In a marvelous scene, Hackenbush learns about Whitmore's phone call, and intercepts the call in the next-door office. He impersonates the receptionists at both ends of the call and a half-deaf, Southern-drawling "Colonel Hawkins" of the medical board. He creates the sound effects of a hurricane with a desk fan and a rustling piece of paper and says:

I'm sorry, sir. There's a hurricane blowin' and you'll have to talk a little loudah. It certainly is the windiest day we ever did have.

But when Whitmore shouts into the phone, Hackenbush buzzes him on the intercom from the adjoining office at the sanitarium and tells him to keep his voice down to avoid annoying the patients who are complaining. Then when Whitmore returns to the phone, he thinks he has missed essential bits of information:

Hackenbush: ...I hope, sir, that's the information that you require.
Whitmore: I'm sorry, Colonel. I didn't hear it. I was called to the dictagraph.
Hackenbush: What was that you said, sir?
Whitmore (loudly): I was called to the dictagraph....I want to find out something about Hackenbush! (Whitmore is called to the intercom again.)
Hackenbush: ...And in conclusion, let me say...
Whitmore: I'm sorry, Colonel. What was that you said about Hackenbush?
Hackenbush: You mean, Dr. Hackenbush? Oh no. He's not here.
Whitmore: I know he's not there. He's here!
Hackenbush: Then what are you botherin' me for, Yankee?
Whitmore: But I want to know something about his Florida record...Are you sure you're speaking about Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush?
Hackenbush: Who?
Whitmore: Hugo Z. Hackenbush ! ! !
Hackenbush: Who's calling him?
Whitmore: The Standish Sanitarium ! ! !
Hackenbush: Yeah. That's where he works. Yeah. I understand he's doing a mighty fine job up there.
Whitmore: I, I want to get some information regarding his qualifications for the job.
Hackenbush: What job?
Whitmore: As head of the sanitarium!
Hackenbush: Who?
Whitmore: Hackenbush ! ! ! (Hackenbush calls Whitmore on the intercom again)
Hackenbush: Whitmore, are you calling me?
Whitmore (screaming): No, you sap.
Hackenbush: Yes, now, uh, now what was that name?
Whitmore: Hackenbush!!! Hackenbush!!!
Hackenbush: Uh-uh. Well, as soon as he comes in, I'll have him get in touch with you.
Whitmore (slamming down the phone and storming out of the office): No!

Meanwhile, Tony instructs Stufffy to keep watch over Whitmore: "You see, he's no good. He's in it with Morgan and I think they're trying to get the sanitarium away from Miss Judy." His plan is to admit Stuffy into the Sanitarium as a patient, to avoid suspicion.

Dr. Hackenbush At Work:

Dr. Hackenbush is wheeled into his busy office in a wheelchair, where he instructs the attendant: "Pick me up at 5." His secretary asks for an 'OK" on a sheet of paper, and he answers:

Hackenbush: I'm too busy right now. I'll tell you what. I'll put the 'O' on now and come back later for the 'K.'

After recent X-rays, one of the doctors reports that Mrs. Upjohn is absolutely healthy:

Doctor: These X rays show absolutely nothing wrong with her.
Hackenbush: Is that so? Who are ya going to believe, me or those crooked X rays?

He receives a call regarding his "Turkish Bath" and asks: "Will you look in the steam room and see if my frankfurters are done?", and then dismisses his medical entourage to do some research - reading the latest horse race news with his feet up on the desk while smoking a cigar.

Hackenbush's Absurdist Medical Examination of Stuffy:

Tony enters to bring the doctor a new patient - Stuffy (who enters the office playing a flute). Hackenbush orders him to sit for a medical examination: "Sit down here till I snatch you from the jaws of death." As practice for his later diagnosis of Mrs. Upjohn, Hackenbush takes Stuffy's pulse, while speaking one of comedy's most famous one-liners:

Either he's dead or my watch has stopped!

Dr. Hackenbush orders Stuffy to open his mouth to take his temperature: "Open up those pearly gates. Flip this under your flapper." Stuffy eats the thermometer like a stick of candy when it is inserted into his mouth. Hackenbush jokes: "That temperature certainly went down fast." Stuffy tries to wash it down with a drink from a medicine bottle in the cabinet labeled POISON. Hackenbush warns: "Hey, don't drink that poison. That's four dollars an ounce." To test his joint reflexes, Hackenbush gets down on hands and knees. Immediately, Stuffy gets on his back to ride him. Examining him further, Hackenbush has his auriscope mirror improperly positioned and reversed on his forehead and is really examining himself. He finds his patient staring back at him, and says: "Don't look at me! What do you think I am? A peep show?" He declares a judgment: "It's rather a strange-Iooking sight....I haven't seen anything like this in years. The last time I saw a head like that was in a bottle of formaldehyde....That's all pure desiccation along there."

Hackenbush finally delivers his diagnosis:

...He's got about a fifteen percent metabolism, with an overactive thyroid and a glandular affectation of about three percent...with a one percent mentality. (Stuffy smiles.) He's what we designate as the crummy moronic type. Hmm. All in all, this is the most gruesome looking piece of blubber I've ever peered at.

When Tony reminds him that he has been looking at himself, Hackenbush dances and explains it away, as Stuffy plays his flute:

I knew it all the time. That was a good joke on all of us, wasn't it? Let's do it again sometime, huh?

The medical exam continues as Hackenbush asks him to say "Ah," but doesn't hear anything. He then presses Stuffy's chest. Out pops an inflating balloon from Stuffy's mouth. Hackenbush wonders: "Say, am I stewed, or did a grapefruit just fly past?...If that's his adam's apple, he's got yellow fever." When the balloon pops out again, Tony thinks: "He's got in-grown balloons" or "a blister on his tongue."

Hackenbush grabs Stuffy's neck to keep it inflated. Tony says: "I think he's a Ubangi." Hackenbush puns: "Well, I'll get the hammer and u-bang-i that right off." As he grabs a hammer, Stuffy's head falls forward, and it appears the balloon has sprouted curly red hair ("Say, it's grown considerably hasn't it, eh? What's that hairy fungus all over it?"), but then realize they are looking at his hairy round head. Hackenbush gives up:

Hackenbush: I can't do anything for him. That's a case for Frank Buck. [Note: Frank Buck was a famous wild animal hunter and collector in the 1930s-1940s.]
Tony: Alright, put him in the room till Frank Buck gets here.
Hackenbush: Oh, fine, shall we say a fifty-buck room, or would you prefer something better?
Tony: We'll take something better.

The two negotiate the price-tag for a room at the sanitarium, and Hackenbush insists on payment: "Money on the line, or out you go."

Hackenbush - A Horse Doctor!

When Tony discovers that Hackenbush is a horse doctor rather than a medical doctor, Hackenbush cautions him to not divulge his lack of credentials to Judy and endanger the hospital's future. Tony stresses that he is there to save the hospital with Mrs. Upjohn's support: "Miss Judy, she's depending on you." Hackenbush admits he was caught: "You've caught me with my coat down," and threatens to leave. Tony proposes to keep Hackenbush on the job: "All right, you stick-a on this job. You make Mrs. Upjohn happy, or we're gonna have you thrown in jail....Nobody must know you're a horse doctor, do you understand? You make-a one false move, and we fix you good."

Meanwhile as they talk, Stuffy injects Hackenbush's left leg with a large hypodermic needle filled with novocaine, as Hackenbush admits and concedes: "I hate to admit it, but I haven't got a leg to stand on." He stands on his unsupportive, stiff leg, falling to the floor. As he exits the room, walking awkwardly with one leg wrapped around the other one, Tony and Stuffy loyally imitate his unusual gait and follow him.

In the next short scene at the racktrack, Tony informs Gil of Hackenbush's masquerade as a medical doctor: ("Hackenapuss, he's a horse doctor"). They decide that the only way to help Judy is by entering Hi-Hat into a race to win "plenty of money," but Gil worries that Hi-Hat is too hungry and malnourished to run. Gil vows to get paid extra for singing at the water carnival that evening, while Tony will sell more books. Unfortunately, the Sheriff arrives to confiscate Hi-Hat for non-payment of the feed bill, and leads him away: "I'm gonna put him where nobody will take him out." The two unattach Hi-Hat's reins, rescue their race horse, and gallop away on horseback.

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