Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Mirror Routine: From Crocodile Soup to Duck Soup

I return to you today to once again discuss the venerated mirror routine.  Not long ago, I joked that I expected to one day find hieroglyphics to prove that this prolific and longstanding routine was performed in ancient times.  Well, guess what?  German sports historians Wolfgang Decker and Michael Herb found that "mirror dances" were documented in ancient Egyptian pictorial representations.  It's not exactly the scene from Duck Soup, but it establishes some basic elements of the routine.

The mirror has always been an intriguing theatrical device in its ability to raise deeply personal issues of vanity, identity and delusion. 

In honor of my German friends Decker and Herb, I hereby present two German versions of the routine.  This first scene adheres fairly closely to the Schwartz Brothers' version of the routine.

Wolf Albach-Retty and Theo Lingen in Seven Years of Bad Luck (1940)

The Schwartz Brothers deserve much credit for the success of this classic act.  They brought the act into prominence by turning it into a class satire - the crafty servant is able to burlesque his foolish master right under the man's nose.

Otto Waalkes and Olli Dittrich in Otto's Eleven (2010)

Here, as an added attraction, is the mirror routine performed by Bob Hope and Victor McLaglan in The Princess and the Pirate (1944).

Also, here is a version of the routine performed by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes.

Reference Source

Decker, W., and Herb, M.  Bildatlas zum Sport im Alten Ägypten.  Leiden: Brill, 1994.

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