Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

The Billion Dollar Hobo (1977)

by  |  March 29th, 2011  |  Comedy

I grew up watching alot of B Movies and other cult favs from the 1980s – 2000s. I have seen such classics as Grandma’s House (1989) , Class Of 1999 (1990) and Brewster’s Millions (1985) , among others… Now of course that is not to say that I am unfamiliar with movies from before the 1980s, but growing up in the 80s and the 90s, I really have not had much of an opportunity till really the last decade to enjoy those classics.

With that said, since then I have been opened up to a whole other side of brilliant filmmaking that until about a decade ago, I didn’t even know existed!

One of these movies that I have recently seen that I have found that I really like is, is the classic comedy with Tim Conway (The Private Eyes) called The Billion Dollar Hobo

Now first off let me say that everything I have seen Tim Conway in has been simply hilarious.  I mean his way of just sort of being the bumbling, mostly just mumbling an agreement type is hilarious! And with The Billion Dollar Hobo being probably the oldest thing that I have seen him in, is a rare treat!

With that said, Written by: Tim Conway and Roger Beatty (Mama’s Family) and Directed by: Stuart E. McGowan (Mr. Too Little) and starring Tim Conway, Al Stellone (Car Wash) Frank Sivero (Hotel California)

The Billion Dollar Hobo tells  the story of Vernon Praiseworthy (Conway). Praiseworthy is a good man, who cares for the inner city youth that he personally mentors, he treats these kids as if they are basically his own. He would like to give these kids what ever they need to have the childhood that they deserve!

The problem is, is that Vernon also happens to be a major klutz!  He has had roughly 40 jobs in most of the United States… He has even managed to make the head lines because of a few of them… A few examples being that when he was working for the parks service, he cut down a rare 300 year old tree.  After that mistake, he becomes a short order cook, and during this time, he gets overwhelmed by the number of orders, and as food is piling up on the stove,  a fire develops on the food!  Of course like everyone, they grab a pale of water and throw it on the fire… Not him. He accidently grabs a bucket full of grease and throws it on the fire, nearly burning down the entire neighborhood! All this till one day when he finds out that he has an uncle.

Just after Vernon nearly burns down the neighborhood where he was working as a short order cook. He goes to the ball park where a group of kids are playing base ball.  During this time, he ends up accidentally ends up sitting on some gum and gets mercilessly teased by the kids he is supposed to be taking care of.  During this time a man with a badge comes up to talk to him.

Figuring that he was going to be arrested, he ends up taking off with the man.  Instead of arriving at the county lock up, Vernon and the detective end up at a palatial estate.  As Vernon heads in to the mansion, he is of course almost completely oblivious to the situation, and is just marveling at how strange the prison is, until the guy that Vernon thinks is the Warden, turns out to be his long lost uncle Choo-Choo Trayne (Played by: Will Geer).

Vernon Praiseworthy (Conway) with his uncle Choo-Choo Trayne (Geer)

Now Choo-Choo Trayne, happens to be an eccentric billionaire who literally is a rags to riches story in that ole Choo-Choo actually started out as a homeless man that was riding the freight rails from place to place (It is not actually explained how he becomes a billionaire, just that he is by the time that Vernon and he meet up.)

With that said, Choo-Choo is looking for an heir to his massive corporation, and after seriously exhaustive research, it turns out that he is related to the suprisingly un-lucky Vernon Praiseworthy… Of course with Vernon’s questionable track record, and in a truly awesome fashion, Choo-Choo decides that the best way for Vernon to learn what it is to have the cajones to take over his business, was to have Vernon learn what Choo-Choo knows the same way that Choo-Choo learned… By becoming a Hobo himself!

This is when things really begin to get interesting. First off, there is a few rules that ole Vernon is going to have to remember… First off, that he can’t mention that it was old uncle Choo-Choo  that decides to put Vernon through all of this, but that the first step in all of this is that he is supposed to be there in six days… And to make matters more interesting, he is supposed to do this under the name of ‘Joe.’

Beau and Vernon setting off on their grand adventure!

With that said, Vernon sets off on his adventure, with pack in hand and his new companion at his side (An incredibly smart Dog).  Of course when he get to the train station, he ends up on the wrong track, and ends up in Texas.  Not only that, but while waiting for a ride as a hitchhiker (The first person to pick him up is a couple of crooks!)

When he gets in their van, Vernon is completely oblivious to this fact, and agrees to ‘help’ these guys by driving the van for them the next day in what will later turn out be the getaway vehicle…

With that said, and after being treated well by the crooks, everyone sets out toward their final destination…

With that said their destination is to the Airport, where two of the crooks (Played by: Eric Weston and Frank Sivero) dress up as Security Guards, and where their girl friends go to their jobs.

The reason why they are all their, is that a very rare prized dog is being given as a gift from the Chinese to the U.S. President, and with that dog being worth a lot of money if it were kidnapped and held at ransom… Of course this goon squad decides to steal the animal!

Thank god for Vernon and his dog Beau, though. Because when Beau catches wind of what is going on, he causes a great ruckus that almost ruins their plans.

With that said, and after the crooks and Vernon meet up and are on the road headed to their next destination. Beau notices that the satchel they were carrying starts wriggling and whining.  This prompts Joe who get suspicious to pull over and discover that the rare dog that had been given to the United States (By the name of Li Chien Wu) is actually in these crooks bag!

Well of course this changes Vernon’s opinion of the guys who up til that point he had actually kind of liked.  At this point Vernon refuses to drive them further (at least till they hold Joe up at Gun point that is!)

Vernon being held captive by his former 'friends.'

Now it is up to Beau and Joe to do whats right and rescue Li Chen, and get him to the proper authorities before the bad guys can succeed in their plot to get away with two hundred thousand dollars scout free!

Beau the Dog being chased with the ransom money in his mouth.

What makes this an Awesome B Movie? Well a couple of things.

1. First Off I gotta say that I am surprised that Tim Conway has not attained the level and status in the comedy world that people like Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd or Bill Murray has.  The reason that I say this, is that Tim Conway is utterly hilarious! I mean in this movie alone, their was so many funny moments that I must have laughed my through at least half the movie!

2. I thought that the supporting cast was utterly incredible in  their various forms.

3. I also gotta say that it was great to see Will Geer in this as Choo-Choo Trayne.  I mean besides the fact that his portrayal as the slightly off his nut eccentric billionaire in this movie.  I also found that it was great to see such a power house in action, I mean he has worked along side some of the real greats, like Robert Blake in In Cold Blood (1967) and Cesar Romero in Deep Water (1948).

Well of course Tim Conway went on to have a role in a great TV sitcoms such as playing  ‘Greg’s Dad’ in the sitcom Yes Dear.  Will Geer would retire from the industry after this film and sadly passed away in 1978.

With that said, if your looking for just a total fun good time, then I highly recommend checking this one out! You might really like it!

Unfortunately there is no trailer available for this movie, but I thought that you might enjoy this segment of the Carol Burnett Show featuring Tim Conway titled: No Frills Airline.

Nathan Strack


Nathan Strack is a Writer/Director/Filmmaker & Owner/Founder of: Hell In Space, Strack Web Design Service & Strack Store.

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