The Great Diamond Robbery (1953) starring Red Skelton and Cara Williams
In The Great Diamond Robbery, Red Skelton plays Ambrose C. Park, a jewel cutter who was abandoned on a park bench as an infant (hence his name – Ambrose Central Park). He is looking for his family, thinking that finding them will fill the void in his life. He eats his lunch in Central Park every day across from the bench where he was left as an infant. Hoping that his parents will come by – to no avail. In his work life he is a jewel cutter.
He works for a rich man who has sunk his entire fortune of $2 million dollars (in 1953, a large fortune) into the purchase of a single gem: The ‘blue goddess’ (similar to the Hope diamond) – which is too expensive to sell. So he plans to have a great jewel cutter cut it in two, so that each half is more easily sold. But despite Ambrose having worked for him for twenty years, he doesn’t trust Ambrose to do the job.
Ambrose celebrates his ‘birthday’ at a diner where where brings along a birthday cake – since he has no friends to celebrate with. The man behind the counter surprises him, however, with a foreign bottle of wine made from prunes – ‘prune juice’. And he’s soon a stewed prune, who becomes arrested for being drunk and disorderly. This leads to his being represented by a shyster lawyer named Mr. Remlick (played by a young James Whitmore), who begins to try and fleece poor Ambrose out of his life savings – in exchange for finding his ‘real’ family.
The con builds
This leads to a an acquaintance of Remlick’s, Mr. Fargoh, who agrees to play the part of Ambrose’s father. Who coerces his girlfriend and her daughter to play the part of Ambrose’s mother (played very well by Dorothy Stickney) and his sister Maggie (played by Cara Williams). This is where the plan begins to unravel, however, as “Mom” begins to legitimately care for her “son” Ambrose. “I leave him on a park bench, and he gives me earrings …”. Also, unknown to the dishonest lawyer, Mr. Fargoh has brought in a much more successful, and more dangerous, criminal into the false family – “Uncle” Tony Medeli, who intends to use Ambrose to steal the diamond.
Along the way, Ambrose tries to rescue his “sister” from her job of dancing at a night club, and asks the family where they go to church? Leading to a funny scene where the “fish out of water” family goes to church to maintain the appearance of a normal happy family. As well as to a conversation between Ambrose and Maggie. They each reveal a little bit about themselves to each other. This paves the way for the ending’s romantic conclusion.
Comedy and drama
After the attempt at having the strait-laced Ambrose steal the diamond fail, “Uncle Tony” and the rest of the family convince him to let them come along for the cutting of the diamond. After tying up “mother” and Maggie, who refuse to go along with hurting “their boy” Ambrose. The ending is actually both comedic and dramatic, with a finale that’s cute and funny as well. Ending up in the hospital delivery room, and “happily ever after.
A funny movie, that oddly doesn’t have room for any of the unique things that we normally associate with Red Skelton. Sadly, it’s not currently available on DVD – I was fortunate to see it on Turner Classic Movies. Update: Good news! The Great Diamond Robbery is available on DVD as of July 13, 2012.
- This was Skelton’s last film for MGM. He had been under contract with the studio since 1940.
Updated January 17, 2022