Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady? (1968)

did you hear the traveling saleslady

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Saleslady saves family farm.

Agatha (Phyllis Diller) is a traveling saleswoman who arrives in a small Missouri town in the summer of 1910 trying to sell a piano that can play by itself. During a demonstration of it one of the townspeople, the kindly, but inept Bertram (Bob Denver) accidently destroys it. Agatha now finds herself stuck with a piano she can’t sell and nowhere to go. Bertram allows her to stay at his family farm, which is at risk of being foreclosed by the town’s greedy banker Hubert Shelton (Joe Flynn). Bertram and Agatha come up with a way to save the farm by winning an automobile race in a wild vehicle created by Bertram using parts from the destroyed piano.

It seems hard to believe in retrospect that eccentric comedian Diller was ever considered star making material, but she did 8 films during the 60’s with 4 of them centered on her flamboyant persona. All of them tanked both critically and at the box office with this one being the last of them. I imagine trying to come up with a scenario using Diller as the centerpiece would be no easy task, but this screenplay penned by John Fenton Murray is too broadly written to be even remotely interesting and seemed already badly dated even for its era. The humor is locked in a kiddie level with a plot that is excessively simplistic and won’t intrigue anyone over the age of 6.

Diller pretty much just plays herself, which would be alright if some her jokes and lines were actually funny, but none of them are. The reoccurring gags centered on her whacky outfits, ugly appearance and horses that go crazy the second she reveals any part of her legs gets old fast. Denver’s character is nothing more than an extension of Gilligan and Flynn is pretty much being the same character he was in ‘McHale’s Navy’.

The film is watchable if you come into it with extremely low expectations, but that is not saying much. None of the gags work and the town’s set was clearly filmed inside Universal’s studio lot, which looks phony and annoying. Denver’s milking machine invention, which can milk 6 cows at once, has potential, but when the cows escape and rampage the entire town it becomes forced humor at its worst, which goes likewise for the climatic and silly car race.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 14, 1968

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Don Weis

Studio: Universal

Available: None at this time.

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