Thursday, July 1, 2021

How to Pretend to Be Drunk

I am a great admirer of Joan Crawford.  Believe me, I have no interest in besmirching Crawford's reputation as an actress.  But I cannot help but find fault with the drunk act that the actress performs in Sadie McKee (1934).  

It is not only that her silly performance is out of place in the otherwise melodramatic film.  The bigger problem is that the actress isn't at all believable.  Can you really accept that you are watching an intoxicated woman?  

Drunk comedy can be traced back to the earliest days of film.  The 1907 Pathé comedy Not' fanfare concourt (aka Our Band's Going to the Competition) involves a marching band that engages in mass drunkenness while celebrating their surprising victory at a band competition.  

Frank McHugh could have taught Crawford how to act drunk in an amusing but still credible way. 

Lilly Turner (1933)

The Irish in Us (1935) 

Manpower (1941) 

F Troop (1966, "Will the Real Captain Try to Stand Up?")

Film sources: 

Here Comes the Navy (1934)
Millie (1931)
The Irish in Us (1935)
Three Men on a Horse (1936)
Manpower (1941) (with Alan Hale)

Let's see a few other actor effectively convey comic intoxication.

Franchot Tone and Raul Roulien in The World Moves On (1934)

Herbert Mundin in Black Sheep (1935)

Film sources:

Roland Young and Charles Ruggles in This Is The Night (1932) 
Eugene Pallette in Friends of Mr. Sweeney (1934)  
Maureen O'Sullivan, Joel McCrea and Erville Alderson in Woman Wanted (1935) 
Billy Dooley in Calm Yourself (1935)
Brian Aherne and Walter Abel in Skylark (1941) 
Mary Boland and Greer Garson in Julia Misbehaves (1948) 

The master of comic drunkenness was Arthur Housman.

City for Conquest (1940) 

The man that Housman is helping to golf is Charles Irwin.

Film sources: 

Hello Sister (1933)
Public Hero No. 1 (1935)
Double or Nothing (1937)
Secrets of an Actress (1938)
Sergeant Madden (1939)
City for Conquest (1940) 

A Crawford peer, Claudette Colbert, provides a fairly convincing performance as an intoxicated woman in Torch Singer (1933).

I like this performance by Douglass Montgomery in Five and Ten (1931).

Alcoholism is at the center of the story in Merrily We Go to Hell (1932).

In addition. . .

While searching for Frank McHugh drunk scenes, I came across this funny scene of a sober McHugh greeting his wife and child at a train station.  

Indianapolis Speedway (1939)

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