I moved last month. There has never been a funny film about moving because moving is a miserable experience. Chaplin could have gotten a great deal of pathos out of the subject. A picture with moving boxes is a picture with tears. But I am happy to say that I am settled into my new home and busy at work on a new book.
The title of my new book is I Won't Grow Up!: What Comedy Films Have to Teach Us About Maturity, Responsibility and Masculinity. I started out my research watching five films: Hail the Conquering Hero (1944), The Seven Year Itch (1955), Mister Roberts (1955), Being There (1979) and 10 (1979). I had no intention of including a silent film comedy in my viewing schedule as I believed that I had fully addressed the important silent film comedies in my previous books. But I couldn't watch Hail the Conquering Hero without thinking of Buster Keaton's Battling Butler (1926), I couldn't watch Being There without thinking of Harry Langdon's The Strong Man (1926), and I couldn't watch Mister Roberts without thinking of Charlie Chaplin's Shoulder Arms (1918). I realized that I could not thoroughly examine the films on my schedule without putting them into context with many earlier classics. This meant that I ended up taking another look at Battling Butler, The Strong Man and Shoulder Arms. To be honest, though, I have such a great affection for these films that I didn't at all mind watching them again.
During my study of the new films, I have occasionally found a gag or routine that reminds me of something that I wrote about before. This happened twice the other day.
Not long ago, I wrote an article about The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). A principal scene in the film features Leonardo DiCaprio fighting desperately to resist the disabling the effects of Quaaludes. DiCaprio, who needs to tell a business associate that Federal agents have them under surveillance, struggles to talk coherently on the phone. No matter how hard he tries, nothing that he says is comprehensible. It occurred to me as I was watching this scene that I had seen a similar scene in another film. I wracked my brain, but I couldn't remember the other film, or the actor, or the context of the scene. It just so happened that, during my latest film study, I found that other scene again. The film was 10 (1979). Under the influence of Novocain, Dudley Moore struggles to talk coherently on the phone to his girlfriend (Julie Andrews). Moore is desperate to make up with his girlfriend, who he insulted the night before with an insensitive comment. Andrews assumes that a crazy man is at Moore's home and phones the police.
The next film on my agenda was The Seven Year Itch (1955), which is another film about a middle-aged man obsessed with a beautiful young woman. This time, I found an early version of the "toe stuck in bathtub spout" routine. I have included details of the scene in an update on my article "The Toe Stuck in the Bathtub Spout Routine." Click here for the article. (I also updated my "Sam and Diane: Delayed Romance Strategy" article. Click here for the article.)
The Seven Year Itch's most famous scene, in which a breeze from a subway grate blows up Monroe's skirt, has precedent in a 1901 Edison comedy, What Happened on Twenty-Third Street, New York City.
You know, I just thought of a comedy film about moving that did have a few laughs. The film, which starred Lupino Lane, was Fool's Luck (1926). Let me end this blog entry with a clip from that film. Watch out for a familiar gag at the end.
I remembered another old routine that is, in other ways, similar to The Wolf of Wall Street scene. The routine, which was presented on a 1969 episode of The Carol Burnett Show, featured Tim Conway as a trainee dentist and Harvey Korman as his unfortunate patient. After accidentally injecting himself in the hand with Novocaine, Conway finds that his hand has gone numb and he can't grip forceps to extract his patient's tooth. When he tries a second time to inject his patient, his limp hand drops to his side and the needle get stuck in his leg. Now, he has trouble standing. He supports his leg on an office chair, which he uses to wheel himself across the office.
I think that, this morning, I will have a bath rather than a shower.