The Lemon Drop Kid

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For the racehorse, see Lemon Drop Kid.
The Lemon Drop Kid
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sidney Lanfield
Frank Tashlin (uncredited)
Produced by Robert L. Welch
Written by Damon Runyon (story)
Edmund Beloin (story)
Screenplay by Frank Tashlin
Robert O'Brien
Edmund L. Hartmann
Irving Elinson
Starring Bob Hope
Marilyn Maxwell
Lloyd Nolan
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography Daniel L. Fapp
Edited by Archie Marshek
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • March 8, 1951 (1951-03-08)
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2.3 million (US rentals)[1]

The Lemon Drop Kid is a 1951 comedy film based on the short story of the same name by Damon Runyon, starring Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell. Although Sidney Lanfield is credited as the director, Frank Tashlin reportedly was hired, uncredited, to finish the film.[citation needed] The story had previously been adapted as a movie in 1934 starring Lee Tracy, with a bit part for actress Ann Sheridan.

The song "Silver Bells," sung by Hope and Maxwell, was introduced in the film.[2]

On October 19, 2010, the film was released on DVD through Shout! Factory under license from the film's current distributor, FremantleMedia North America.


Just before a horse race at a Florida track, notorious tout Sidney Milburn (Bob Hope), known as "The Lemon Drop Kid" because of his fondness for the candy, talks an attractive stranger into changing the $2,000 bet she is placing for her "gentleman friend," unaware that the bettor is the gangster Moose Moran (Fred Clark). Moose's original horse wins and his thugs drag The Kid to his home to recover the $10,000 he would have won. Moose threatens The Kid, who insists that he can raise the money. Moose warns The Kid to deliver the money to him on Christmas Eve at his illegal but closed down casino on Long Island or face the fatal consequences. With three weeks to raise the money, The Kid returns to frigid New York City where he tries to borrow money from old friend Nellie Thursday (Jane Darwell) to get his winter clothes out of hock, but she has problems of her own: her safe cracker husband, Henry, is being paroled from prison on Christmas Eve and she is about to be evicted.

The Kid next drops in on his sometime girlfriend, night club dancer Brainey Baxter (Marilyn Maxwell), and cons her into giving him money by vowing to marry her and get a job. The Kid visits racketeer Oxford Charlie (Lloyd Nolan), the owner of the club where Brainey dances, and asks for a loan to cover his debt. Charlie throws him out. The Kid next pretends to be a street corner Santa Claus collecting donations but is recognized by a policeman and arrested. The judge convicts The Kid of panhandling. On his way to jail, The Kid learns that Nellie has been evicted. Moose's enforcer, Sam the Surgeon (Harry Bellaver), visits The Kid to remind him that the literal "deadline" is just 15 days away. The Kid however reveals a "can't miss" plan to raise the money: obtain a charity license from the city by shilling Moose's closed casino as an "old folks' home" for "old dolls," use the beloved Nellie's presence to dupe all the small-time gamblers and con men who are her friends into acting as street corner Santas, and collect "donations" to pay off Moose.

Brainey pays The Kid's $50 fine to get him released, to force him into an immediate marriage, but he persuades her to join him in helping Nellie first. The Kid and his cohorts hustle Nellie to the casino, renamed the Nellie Thursday Home for Old Dolls, and begin gathering up homeless old women to fill it. The boys convert the craps tables, rigged to electronically revolve into the walls in case of a police raid, into beds with wrestling mats and "donated" linens, and the place is bustling with elderly women. The scheme brings in $2,000 in the first four days. When Brainey quits her job to supervise the home, Oxford Charlie decides to "muscle in" on the lucrative scheme. He kidnaps Brainey and the old women and steals the collected money. The Kid finds Oxford Charlie's footprint in the snow at the deserted home and with his friends goes to the gangster's Nyack mansion, where Nellie and the other women are being held in the relocated "home." Charlie has Moose Moran on the telephone to prove to The Kid's disbelieving friends that the money was being raised to save his own neck. The Kid flees but Charlie cunningly tells the con men that Moose will take care of The Kid and that they should continue their activities for a cut of the action—working for him.

On Christmas Eve The Kid finds Nellie, who managed to escape, pawning her wedding ring for enough money to welcome home Henry. Surrendering to his conscience, he convinces Nellie that he has "an angle" and she should round up the boys to meet him at the courthouse. Posing as an old lady, The Kid cons Charlie into accepting him into the "home" by mentioning she has nowhere to go "except maybe the authorities." The Kid reveals himself, ties up Charlie and steals the bag containing the sizable proceeds. The Kid eludes Charlie's pursuing goons and makes it to the casino to keep his appointment with Moose. Just after paying him off, Oxford Charlie also shows up and demands the money. The Kid activates the revolving walls to reveal "gambling" apparently taking place—Nellie and her friends acting out the parts. The casino is raided by the police as arranged by The Kid and the gangsters are arrested. The Kid is cornered by the judge, who tells that The Kid that the money is going to be used to run an honest retirement home for the old ladies. The paroled Henry arrives for the long-awaited reunion and The Kid proposes to a forgiving Brainey.



  1. ^ 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1951', Variety, January 2, 1952
  2. ^ Furia, Philip and Lasser, Michael (2006). America's Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley. Routledge. p. 233. 

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