Friday, July 2, 2021

Crowded Out

This well-known scene from The Cameraman (1928) features Buster Keaton and Edward Brophy struggling futilely to change outfits while stuck together inside a small dressing room.

Others copied the routine.  Take, for instance, a scene from e i giovani d'oggi (1960).  Due to a tailor's mix-up, Aldo Fabrizi and Totò have to hastily exchange tuxedos in the back of a taxi on a way to their children's wedding.

It didn't alter the routine much to have the setting changed from a dressing room to a cab.  The setting just had to be a tight space for the comedy to work.

How about if the action was transplanted to a phone booth?  A phone booth is far more narrow than a dressing room.  Two men would hardly have much room to operate in this space.

Laurel and Hardy worked out the routine in a phone booth in Our Relations (1936).  They even went as far as to throw an extra man (Arthur Housman) into the mix.

Brophy, veteran of The Cameraman, got into a habit of getting himself trapped in tight spaces.  Here, Brophy find himself crammed into a closet with a half dozen other people in Shadow of Doubt (1935).

Brophy is pushed and squeezed in  a crowded elevator in Skyscraper Souls (1932).

Brophy finds space at a minimum while aboard a train in Speak Easily (1932). . . 

. . . and Mad Love (1935).

Brophy is part of a boxer's entourage huddled together in a ring entrance in The Champ (1932).

Brophy shares the notoriously claustrophobic work space of a submarine in The Destroyer (1943).

Actors most often competed for space in elevators and train cars.

Jimmy Cagney gets crowded out by a fat man in an elevator in Taxi! (1932).  

In The Ambassador's Daughter (1956), Olivia de Havilland and John Forsythe find themselves in an awkward struggle in a cramped elevator.

William Powell and Myrna Loy find it difficult to negotiate a train corridor in The Thin Man Goes Home (1944).

The stateroom scene from The Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera was borrowed from an old play (as described in my book The Funny Parts).  Of course, the scene was changed significantly to suit the surreal and anarchistic style of the brothers.  If you want to get an idea what the original scene was like, you can find a more faithful adaptation in Bedtime Story (1941).  

A bedroom gets crowded quickly in Rosie the Riveter (1944).


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