Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Repeat Routine

Film sources:

Goodbye Again (1933) 
Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)
The Two Ronnies ("The Man Who Repeats Things," 1976)
Malcolm In The Middle ("Shame," 2000)
Cop Out (2010)

More Examples of The Fake Musical Performance Routine

Here is a follow-up to my 2013 article "Sing, Clown, Sing."  

Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart take on the classic lip syncing routine in On Our Merry Way (1948).

The routine turned up in a 1962 episode of The Andy Griffith Show, "Barney and the Choir." Barney (Don Knotts) is happy to be a member of the Mayberry choir, unaware that his off-key singing is upsetting the other choir members and jeopardizes their chance to win an upcoming competition. Andy (Andy Griffith) tells Barney that they are giving him a highly sensitive microphone for the competition and he will need to sing in a low voice for the microphone to work properly. The truth is that he has given Barney a dead microphone and has hidden a virtuoso singer backstage to do the real vocalizing for him.

More recently, the routine turned up in the television series Mr. Winner.

The Torn Dress

In Laurel and Hardy's Double Whoopee (1929), Jean Harlow is unaware that the train of her dress has gotten caught in a limousine door.  She walks on, causing the back of her dress to be torn off completely.  The identical gag was performed three years later by Thelma Todd in This Is The Night (1932).

A classic gag from Bringing Up Baby (1938) involves Katherine Hepburn accidentally tearing off the back of her gown and Cary Grant walking discreetly behind her to obscure the fascinating new view.  

The gag was recreated with Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds in It Started with a Kiss (1959). 

A gender swap variation of this scene occurs in A Shot in the Dark (1964).  Peter Sellers splits the back of his pants and Elke Sommers acts promptly to shield his exposed bottom.


Are Pies Needed for a Pie Fight?

In browsing old trade journals, I came across another pie fight film, The Band Leader (1914, Vitagraph).  Moving Picture World reported, "[Wally Van] leads the band and beats the pieman in the battle of love.  Pies are the weapons.  In the midst of fire and smoke Van is the victor."  The film received further attention in a second Moving Picture World article: "[Band leader Van] and Lillian decide to elope during an attack on the band by some of the pie factory employees."  

Constance Bennett and Joel McCrea in Rockabye (1932)

It occurred to me recently that a pie fight doesn't need a pie.  A sloppy comic melee, which is all that a pie fight is, can come in a variety of forms.  This fish fight from Bride for Sale (1949) closely resembles a pie fight.

So does a milk bottle battle in Flirting With The Movies (1927).  

The film can be viewed at

A cake fight looks no different than a pie fight.

Sea Legs (1930) 

Yes, the comic melee can take many forms.

A Chump At Oxford (1940)


More Examples of The Carrying an Unconscious Woman Routine 

I doubt I have written about any routine more than this one.  The examples presented in this article are just the tip of a very large iceberg.  So, what makes the routine so popular?  We could dig around these scenes to root out a great social and psychological meaning regarding the stress and strain that sometimes exists between men and women.  But, for now, let's just say that the routine has a simple premise that allows a comedian to showcase his physicality.

La paura degli aeromobili nemici (1915, Itala Film)

The Waiter's Ball (1916)

Jitterbugs (1943)

The Very Thought of You (1944)

Leon Errol and Joan Davis in Lady Gets Her Man (1945) 

James Stewart, Joan Fontaine and Eddie Albert in You Gotta Stay Happy (1948) 

Charlie Chaplin and Claire Bloom in Limelight (1952)

Rock Hudson and Leslie Caron in A Very Special Favor (1965)