Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Smile, Bud Duncan, Smile
I watched a number of Bud Duncan comedies in preparing to write a book about Duncan's more famous partner, Lloyd Hamilton. My favorite performance by Duncan appears in the courtroom spoof Smile, Buttercup, Smile, an installment of an FBO series based on the "Toots and Casper" comic strip.
The comedy opens up with Toots, Casper and baby Buttercup strolling along a pier. The couple let a minor argument, whether they need to travel north or south to get to San Diego, escalate into a divorce action.
Toots takes the stand to testify. Her lawyer leans over to whisper in her ear. "Don't forget to use your personality," he says, gesturing for her to hike up the hem of her skirt. Men's eyes are drawn to Toot's shapely legs. Casper's lawyer remarks, "Some scenery."
Toots proceeds, in her testimony, to make fantastic accusations against Casper. A flashback depicts Casper interrupting a stroll with Toots and Buttercup to plant kisses on a variety of women. At one point, he takes a woman in a solid embrace and bends her backwards to kiss her full on the lips. In another flashback, Casper is shown driving around in a chauffeured limousine as Toots does grueling construction work to earn money to buy their baby milk.
Casper's lawyer shows no interest in Toots' testimony, playing solitaire instead. Casper desperately tugs on his sleeve to get his attention. "About my case, counselor," he insists. The lawyer becomes annoyed. "Don't always be talking shop," he scolds his client. When the lawyer stands to cross-examine Toots, he gestures dramatically and asks, "Did this man beat you for pleasure - or only when you needed it?"
Everyone is moved to tears as Toots describes Casper knocking her to the ground and giving her a hard kick. Even the couple's dog Snookums cries, jets of water shooting out of his eyes.
Toots is granted a divorce decree but she is upset to see Casper's tie undone and rushes to his side to fix it. She ends up ripping the decree in half and leaving the courtroom arm-in-arm with Casper.
This silly little comedy effectively captures the nastiness of divorce proceedings. Duncan, as Casper, looks truly anguished throughout the trial and it would be hard for me imagine someone watching this film and not feeling sorry for him. Duncan also gets a chance, during the flashback scenes, to provide an outlandishly cocky performance as a pint-sized, cane-twirling lady-killer.