The Fuller Brush Man

The Fuller Brush Man

Theatrical poster
Directed by S. Sylvan Simon
Produced by S. Sylvan Simon
Edward Small
Written by Devery Freeman
Frank Tashlin
Based on story by Roy Huggins
Starring Red Skelton
Janet Blair
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
May 12, 1948 (premiere)
June 1948
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $950,000[1]
Box office $3.1 million (US rentals)[2] or $2.5 million (worldwide)[1]

The Fuller Brush Man is a 1948 comedy film starring Red Skelton as a door-to-door salesman for the Fuller Brush Company who becomes a murder suspect.


Success doesn't exactly stare the unfortunate street cleaner Red Jones (Red Skelton) in the eye, and when he decides to propose to his sweetheart Ann Elliot (Janet Blair), who is a secretary at the Fuller Brush company, she demands that he makes something more of himself before she can accept the offer. She suggests he should follow the example of a salesman and friend of hers, Keenan Wallick (Don McGuire), who works at her company. Red gets a chance to prove himself worthy sooner than he had expected when he is fired from his job as a cleaner by his boss, Gordon Trist (Nicholas Joy), because he accidentally sets a trash can on fire in the line of duty, and smashes Trist's car window. Ann gets him a chance to show his skills as a door-to-door salesman for the Fuller Brush company, and he is teamed up with her friend Keenan. Both Ann and Red are unaware that Keenan himself had a romantic interest in Ann, and wants to get Red out of the way as soon as possible, so he can pursue Ann without competition. Keenan assigns Red a list of the hardest homes, and Red fails tremendously with his task of selling to an almost impossible potential customer. He has a comical run-in with a troublesome small boy, and a beautiful model at another home tries to seduce him.

Seeing how unsuccessful Red's sales attempts are, Keenan comes up with the idea of a bet - the winner gets to pursue Ann without interference of the other man - which he suggests to Red. The bet is that Red won't be able to sell a single brush to the households on their run. Red takes the bet, and the next household on their run is the mansion of his old boss Gordon Trist. After Red tries to hide from Gordon and the groundskeeper, Gordon recognizes Red and sends him packing, but his wife comes after Red and buys ten brushes from him.

Red returns to Anna and Keenan with high spirit, until he realizes he forgot to collect the payment money from Mrs Trist. When Red comes back to the Trist home, he overhears a conversation between his former boss, Keenan, Gregory Cruckston (Donald Curtis) and a few other persons, as they discuss their involvement in a racketeering operation. Red is caught eavesdropping and knocked unconscious after he is brought into the house. When he comes back to life, Gordon has been murdered in the dark, and everyone present in the house is arrested by police lieutenant Quint (Arthur Space), all suspected of murder.

Red is released since there is no evidence pointing to him being the killer, and when he comes home he discovers Mrs Trist (Hillary Brooke) waiting for him with the money. Soon after, Anna arrives to his home, and shortly after that Freddie Trist (Ross Ford), Gordon's son, with two armed gangsters. The gangsters hold everyone hostage as they search in vain for the murder weapon that killed Gordon. Ann and Red concludes that the weapon must have been a Fuller brush, molded into a knife-looking object. Cruckston stops them from telling policeman Quint about the weapon, and it turns out Cruckston, who is Gordon's partner in crime, is the murderer. Ann and Red escape from him and his gangsters. Cruckston is arrested and Red is the hero of the day, winning Ann's heart in the process.[3]



The project had been in development for four years. Producer Simon got permission from the Fuller Brush company and wrote the story with Skelton in mind but was unable to secure studio interest until the success of Miracle on 34th Street (1947) showed the benefits of commercial tie-ins for feature films. He set the project up at Columbia conditional upon MGM agreeing to loan him out.

Producer Edward Small was owed a favour by MGM as he agreed not to make a film called D'Artagnan to clash with their production of The Three Musketeers (1948). Small and Simon then purchased a story in the Saturday Evening Post by Roy Huggins.

Fuller Brush gave their final approval provided it was clear in the final movie that the character Skelton played was an independent dealer and not an employee of the Fuller Brush company.[4]

See also


  1. 1 2 Variety 16 June 1948 p4
  2. "Top Grossers of 1948", Variety 5 January 1949 p 46
  4. ROUND THE HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS: United Artists Buys RKO Pictures to Bolster Program -- A Bit Of Horatio Alger in Wonderland -- Libel Suit -- Other Items By THOMAS F. BRADY. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 05 Oct 1947: X5.
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