Monday, February 20, 2017

Tidbits of February, 2017

Happy days, my friends!  I have a few tidbits for you today.

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) is the most infamous sequel of all time.  Dr. Gene Tuskin (Louise Fletcher) and Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) are attached together by a "synchronizer," a biofeedback device that allows two people to synchronize their brainwaves.  It is, in effect, a mind meld machine.  A horror franchise moved into the realm of campy science fiction with this absurd device.  In the end, the film was laughable rather than terrifying.  It seems at times that director John Boorman was anticipating David Lynch by having his actors provide stilted line readings as a way to create a camp surrealism.

Wikipedia: "The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is.  Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive inability of those of low ability to recognize their ineptitude and evaluate their ability accurately."

Lloyd Hamilton was highly respected in his day, which is evidenced by the following quote from Moving Picture World (September 1, 1923, p. 61): "[Lloyd Hamilton's] work of the last couple of years has won him undisputed right to a place as one of the 'Big Four' of screen comedians."

In August, 1927, Hamilton went on location in Huntington Lake to film a supporting role for the M-G-M production Rose-Marie.

The studio was so displeased with the film's leading lady, Renee Adoree, that they scrapped everything that was produced and reshot the film with an entirely new cast.

It was reported in Photoplay (January, 1928, p. 47):
There is a lot of cruelty in this business.  And whether it is deliberate or accidental, doesn't hide the fact that it is cruelty, nevertheless.  Take the case of Renee Adoree, a capable and good-natured trouper.  Miss Adoree was promised the title role in Rose-Marie.  She started work in the picture and thought she was giving general satisfaction.  But one day, in the costume department, she happened to hear that Joan Crawford was being fitted for costumes for the role.  On Friday, so our spies say, Renee was given notice that she was out of Rose-Marie.  On Monday, Miss Crawford stepped into the picture.
Adoree didn't returned before the cameras until January, at which time she starred opposite John Gilbert in The Cossacks (1928).

I have heard different stories about Adoree's departure from Rose-Marie.  I heard that she fought with the director.  I heard that she put on weight and her face looked puffy in close-ups.  Her weight looks fine in photos taken on the set.  Sometimes, it is simply that an actor is not right for a role. 

Hamilton's role went to character actor George Cooper.

I discovered a Hamilton gag that I never knew about before.  The gag, which was used at the opening of F. O. B. (1923), was described in Exhibitor's Trade Review (May 5, 1923, p. 1133): "To get the Dog aboard the Boy sits in the doorway of the boxcar, with his coattails hanging outward. The Animal springs from the ground, connects and is safely landed."

Hamilton dresses up like President Teddy Roosevelt for Ham the Explorer.  Moving Picture World (July 1, 1916, p. 72): "Ham, in a makeup which has him closely resemble a famous Oyster Bay explorer, meets with some terrifying experiences in the land of wild men and pretty maidens. . ."

Neely Edwards' entire village is wiped out by a cyclone in Flying Finance (1923).  Chester J. Smith of Motion Picture News wrote, "This Mermaid comedy moves with all the speed of the cyclone which it features and is as full of humorous situations throughout as the air is with debris.  Just what havoc a healthy cyclone can accomplish is aptly demonstrated.  Houses, animals and people are tossed about with reckless abandon and comedy situations follow each other so closely that it is just one laugh from start to finish. There is no need for any more story than is provided.  When that cyclone starts blowing up, no more plot or action is necessary."

Critics often do not agree with the general public about the quality of a film.

Since my recent article about prop money, I have become acutely aware any prop money that turns up in a film.

In God We Trust (1980)


Golden Years (2016)

Bad Santa 2 (2016)

Al St. John could put an energetic twist on standard comedy situations.  Here, he attempts to leave our cruel world by hanging himself in Ship Ahoy (1920).


The comedian gets stuck in a revolving door in The Door Knocker (1931).


The hanging business has sustained to modern day.  Just look at this scene from Bad Santa 2 (2016).

One of my favorite John Wayne westerns is Rio Bravo (1959).

I sometimes get nostalgic for 1980.  It was fun hanging around with curvy, purple-haired girls on Moonbase.

DVD Recommendation: Accidentally Preserved, Volume 4

Three films stood out for me on the new DVD release Accidentally Preserved, Volume 4.

A Man's Size Pet (1926) involves a pair of cowhands who must interrupt their romantic rivalry to flee an aggressive bear.

Nonsense (1920) provides a number of amusing scenes, including a man careening down a road atop his bed. . .

. . . and a pair of men wearing stilts under oversized slacks to exaggerate their stature.

A bed has occasionally traveled down a road in a comedy film.  Take for example this scene from Abbott and Costello's Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942).


Meet Father (1925) includes a number of familiar gags, many of which were pilfered from Larry Semon's gag-a-second comedies.  But Bobby Ray, as a blank-faced simpleton, is interesting. 

One original routine stood out for me.  Ray is unable to get his car around a dog in the road.  He finds that, no matter where he moves his car, the roving mutt is sure to wind up in his path.  This would have been a perfect routine for Lloyd Hamilton. 


This catsup gag from Meet Father should be familiar to fans of The Three Stooges. 

Curly Howard performs the same gag in An Ache in Every Stake (1941).

The Origin of the Test Screening

Irving Thalberg credited Harold Lloyd with creating the test screening, but I have my doubts that this is true.  More likely, Lloyd applied his unique talents to refining the test screening, eventually achieving enough success with the practice to inspire the film industry as a whole to adopt his version of it.

As early as 1913, film producers were conducting what they called "advance showings." This was a private showing attended by invitation-only guests (largely theatre chain officials). The guests were invited to comment after the showing. The idea to test a film with the general public and have the audience fill out questionnaires came later. 

David Yallop claimed that Roscoe Arbuckle engaged in audience testing as early as 1917. 

In 1918, Lloyd Hamilton described an informal type of audience testing.  He would slip into a theatre after the lights went down, find himself a seat in the back, and take notes of the audience's reactions. His findings did not lead him to reedit or reshoot the film at hand, but it did affect his approach to his subsequent films.

Newspapers confirm that Louis B. Mayer was conducting sneak previews in 1919.  Exhibitors Herald documented Mayer's test screening of the 1919 melodrama Mary Regan.

Mr. Lloyd is known to have started test screening his films the following year. 

Another man known to be involved in test screenings in 1920 was director George D. Baker.  Baker spoke at length about his test screenings in interviews.  He stated, "I am making it an invariable rule that all George D. Baker productions are shown before a theatre audience, preferably in a small town house, before they are released.  My assistant and myself attend this test showing, and carefully note the likes and dislikes of the audience to the various sequences of the story.  After the film has been run we compare notes and carefully eliminate the scenes which do not appeal to the typical theatre patron."

Test screenings were common by 1923.

The Unconscious Woman Returns

I have discussed the unconscious woman routine many times in the past.  You can click here for one of those discussions.  I now present for today's post a few other examples of unconscious women comedy.

A Hole in the Head (1959)

The Man from the Diners' Club (1963)


How to Murder Your Wife (1965)


California Suite (1978)


I thank you for visiting today.