Sunday, October 22, 2017

Tidbits for October, 2017

Chaplin imitator Billy West in unidentified film
Let us begin today with a nostalgic look at the supermarket checkout of the 1960s.

I am a big fan of Francis Veber comedies.  This is the trailer for Veber's 1974 comedy The Return of the Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe.

It was widely reported that, in his creation of John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), director Chad Stahelski was influenced by the work of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd.  Here is a video on the subject created by Christopher Aguiar.

In an episode of Review with Forest Macneil ("Life as a Little Person," 2015), TV host Forrest MacNeil (Andy Daly) surrounds himself with oversized props to understand what it's like to be a little person.

Here are screen captures of the lovely Phyllis Coates in Panther Girl of the Kongo (1955).


In The Taming of the Snood (1940), Buster Keaton climbs onto a high building ledge to retrieve a parrot that has escaped out a window with an expensive ring.

A hat mix-up bit is featured in I've Lost My Eyeglasses (1906). 

To my knowledge, this is the earliest version of the routine to appear in a film.

Hat mix-up business continued for decades.  Here is another example from Road to Rio (1947).


I really enjoy this bit of business performed by Hank Mann in J-U-N-K (1920).

A bar of soap is confused for a brick of cheese with the expected results in The Bowery Boys comedy Let's Go Navy! (1951).

An old comedy standard - the lion in the backseat of a car - is revived by Jackie Chan for Kung Fu Yoga (2017).

Zach Galifianakis. Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper in Hangover (2009)

Discussions of the renowned mirror routine often make reference to A Rolling Stone, a 1919 Billy West comedy in which the routine is performed by West and Leo White.

Billy West and Leo White in A Rolling Stone (1919)
But another West film has recently turned up in which the comedian confronts a perplexing lookalike.

The print is among the holdings at Cinematek, a film archive in Brussels, Belgium.  The lack of opening titles has prevented the archive from identifying the film.  It seems to be one of the films that West made for the  King Bee Studios in 1917.  My best guess is that it's either The Villain or The Millionaire.

I talked months ago about the "money shower" trope.  Here is a recent example of that trope from Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017).  Spider-Man disrupts a robbery in an ATM vestibule and high-powered blasts from the robbers' advanced weapons sends the ATM's cash swirling through the air.

Cash also floats through the air in The House (2017).

Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler and Jason Mantzoukas in The House (2017)
The evolution of Oliver Hardy's camera looks is something that has long intrigued me.  I recently came across an early example of Hardy engaging viewers with a camera look.  It is, in fact, the earliest example of the comedian's camera look that I have been able to find.  The film, which features Hardy as a villainous landlord, is Bungs and Bunglers (1919).

Roscoe Arbuckle's classic barber routine in The Bell Boy (1918) was recreated by his nephew, Al St. John, in the 1945 western Shadows of Death.

Roscoe Arbuckle in The Bell Boy (1918)

 Al St. John in Shadows Of Death (1945)

I neglected in my article on egg comedy to mention that I Love Lucy obtained big laughs with eggs on more than one occasion.  Here is a scene from a 1952 episode, "Ricky Thinks He’s Going Bald," in which Lucy gives Ricky an egg shampoo.


The series received its longest laugh (65 seconds) when it employed eggs as comic props in "Lucy Does the Tango" (1957).  Ricky and Fred are feuding because the hens they bought for their new egg business aren't laying eggs.  Lucy gets the idea to settle the feud by buying eggs at the grocery store and sneaking them into the hen house.  Lucy has dozens of eggs hidden inside her blouse when Ricky arrives home to practice a tango routine that he and Lucy are supposed to perform at a PTA talent show.  Lucy awkwardly dances with Ricky, not wanting him to learn about her scheme.  The dance climaxes with Ricky thrusting Lucy to his chest, which causes the eggs to break.

Peter Reitan, author of the Early Sports and Pop Culture History Blog, sent me this stage show review from 1891.

He pointed out the following line:
In "Incog," no one wants to sing, no one attempts to dance, no one falls down stairs or gets an involuntary bath from a siphon or any other source.
This suggests that a comedian being blasted in the face by water from a "siphon," which could be anything from a seltzer bottle to a water fountain, was already an overused gag decades before it became a staple of film comedy.

Asta Nielsen in The Little Angel (1914)
I wish that I was aware of the 1914 German film Little Angel when I wrote my last book, "I Won't Grow Up!: The Comic Man-Child in Film from 1901 to the Present."  The film's plot involves a 17-year-old woman, Jesta, who must impersonate a 12-year-old girl so that her family will acquire a large inheritance.  I learned about the film reading Steve Massa's excellent new book, "Slapstick Divas." 

Massa also wrote about Ernst Lubitsch's 1918 comedy I Don't Want to be a Man, in which a teenage girl looks to have fun by impersonating a man and realizes amid her drag frivolities that she has fallen in love with her oblivious male guardian.  The film was a forerunner to Little Old New York (1923), which I wrote about in my "I Won't Grow Up!" dissertation.

Ossi Oswalda in I Don't Want to be a Man (1918)
Here is an excellent article by Chris Seguin about Laurel and Hardy's Atoll K (1951).

I have always enjoyed the ukulele.  Here is British music hall star Billy Scott playing the ukulele in A Night of Magic (1944).

This is an interesting YouTube video for Three Stooges fans.  It compares scenes from Stooges films with recreations of the scenes for the 2000 television biopic The Three Stooges.

Here is a full-page magazine ad for Fox's Sunshine Comedies.

According to this ad, chimpanzee stars  Napoleon the Great and Sally outdid human comedians in providing comedy that was clever and devoid of vulgarity.  That's a bold claim from my perspective.  I once knew a funny chimp whose best gag was to fling his excrement at people he didn't like.

Gregory La Cava, the stylish director of Gabriel Over the White House (1933), My Man Godfrey (1936), Stage Door (1937) and Fifth Avenue Girl (1939), started out in live-action films as a writer for Lloyd Hamilton.  La Cava was hired by the Hamilton-White Company in July, 1921.  Hamilton's head writer at the time was Archie Mayo, who received sole writing credit on the comedian's films.  La Cava was promoted to director at the company the following year.  The director said in later years that he directed films in Hamilton's series and Charlie Murray's "All Star Comedies" series.  But, from what I can find, he only received credit for the Murray films.  He remained with the company for more than two years, after which time he graduated to feature films with C. C. Burr Productions.  Hamilton's series was at its peak from 1921 to 1924.  It intrigues me to consider which Hamilton films that LaCava directed. 

La Cava also stepped in briefly to direct new framing scenes for His Nibs (1921), a film that had been abandoned by Robertson-Cole Pictures and picked up by Exceptional Pictures.

Chic Sales' comic versatility was the focus of the marketing for His Nibs (1921).

Reference source

John Chapman, "La Cava Likes 'Em All. . . But He's a Respecter of None," Chicago Tribune, June 15, 1941.

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