Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Endless Legacy of Film Tropes

Cataloging tropes is a job that never ends.  One, two or even three tropes turn up in nearly every film that I come across.  Tropes insistently find their way into scripts much like flood waters flow into every available crevice in their path.   

If there's an image, a word or an action that is guaranteed to make a viewer laugh or cry or tense up, a filmmaker will keep it stored in their bag of tricks and pull it out whenever it can be useful.  Let's take rain for example.  People have an emotional reaction to rain.  It can make them feel sad or happy or anxious.  I addressed this subject once before.  The article can be found at the following link:

The fact is that it's rarely all sunny weather in a Hollywood film.  

Sources of rain images

Straight Shooting (1917)
The Lady Refuses (1931)   
The Road to Singapore (1931)
Consolation Marriage (1931)
The Devil is Driving (1932)  
One Hour with You (1932)
Private Detective 62 (1932)
Another Language (1933) 
The Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Beauty for Sale (1933)
Imitation of Life (1934)
Suzy (1936)
Oh, Mr. Porter! (1937)
Mad About Music (1938) 
Lady with Red Hair (1940)
A Man Betrayed (1941)
Springtime in the Rockies (1942) 
Miss Annie Rooney (1942) 
China (1943)
The More the Merrier (1943)  
The Purple Heart (1944)
The Keys of the Kingdom (1944)
The Green Years (1946) 
The Cockeyed Miracle (1946) 
That Brennan Girl (1946)
The Unsuspected (1947) 
Gangster (1947)
The Egg and I (1947) 
It Always Rains on Sunday (1947)
Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) 
Two Guys from Texas (1948)
Arch of Triumph (1948)
Blood on the Moon (1948) 
Passport to Pimlico (1949) 
Beyond the Forest (1949)
Morning Departure (1950)
Brandy for the Parson (1952) 
The Heart of the Matter (1953)
The President's Lady (1953)  
The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp (1954) 
An Inspector Calls (1954)
Geordie (1955) 
A Man Called Peter (1955)  
The End of the Affair (1955)
Three Violent People (1956) 
A Town Like Alice (1956)
Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957) 
Gun for a Coward (1957) 
Look Back in Anger (1959)
The Hanging Tree (1959) 
The Facts of Life (1960) 
Home from the Hill (1960) 
Black Zoo (1963)
Move Over, Darling (1963) 
The Americanization of Emily (1964) 
Rio Conchos (1964)  
36 Hours (1965) 
Let's Kill Uncle (1966) 
The Way West (1967)
In the Name of the Italian People (1971)
The War Between Men and Women (1972)
Fear is the Key (1972) 
The Victim (1972)
Sorcerer (1977)
Foul Play (1978)
Bronco Billy (1980) 
Bird on a Wire (1990)
The Secret of Roan Inish (1994) 
The Bridges of Madison County (1995)  
The English Patient (1996)  
Hikers (1997)
Dreamer (2005)
A Shine of Rainbows (2009) 
Starbuck (2011) 
Het Leven Is Vurrukkulluk (2018)

The slap has a great tradition in Hollywood.  I have had very little experience with slaps in my personal life.  Yet, this is something that happens in movies on a frequent basis.  Every third film has a rain scene.  Every fourth film has a slap.  Or, maybe, it's the other way around.  Imagine if Hollywood producers were prohibited from including rain or slapping in their films.  How would they cope?

Let us now turn the other cheek for more slapping fun.

Slaps part 1

Slaps part 2

Slaps part 3

Slaps part 4

Sources of slap scenes

The Lady Refuses (1931)  
Flesh (1932)
Three Wise Girls (1932) 
Blessed Event (1932) 
Blondie of the Follies (1932)
Ladies They Talk (1933) 
She Had to Say Yes (1933) 
Wild Boys of the Road (1933)  
The Personality Kid (1934) 
Forsaking All Others (1934)
The Wedding Night (1935)
Meet the Missus (1937)
The Crowd Roars (1938) 
King of Alcatraz (1938)
Men with Wings (1938)
Jezebel (1938) 
Eternally Yours (1939) 
A Girl Must Live (1939)
Sorority House (1939) 
Gone With The Wind (1939)
Spring Parade (1940)
Remember the Night (1940)
The Long Voyage Home (1940)  
I Wake Up Screaming (1941) 
Swamp Water (1941) 
The Mayor of 44th Street (1942)
This Gun for Hire (1942) 
Alias Boston Blackie (1942) 
Old Acquaintance (1943) 
Hitler's Madman (1943) 
Man of Evil (1944)  
The Curse of the Cat People (1944)
Christmas in Connecticut (1945) 
Dead of Night (1945)   
The Sailor Takes a Wife (1945)
Somewhere in the Night (1946)
Claudia and David (1946) 
Wild Harvest (1947)  
Gangster (1947)
Repeat Performance (1947) 
It Always Rains on Sunday (1947) 
That Wonderful Urge (1948) 
Up in Central Park (1948) 
Stop Press Girl (1949) 
Easy Living (1949)  
Sierra (1949)
His Kind of Woman (1951)
Mystery Junction (1951)
Mandy (1952) 
The Heart of the Matter (1953)
Island in the Sky (1953) 
Kiss Me Kate (1953) 
The President's Lady (1953) 
The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp (1954)  
Man Without a Star (1955)  
Portrait of Alison (1955) 
Women's Prison (1955)  
The Last Hunt (1956) 
Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)  
Santiago (1956) 
A Town Like Alice (1956)
Foreign Intrigue (1956) 
Three Violent People (1956)  
Chicago Confidential (1957) 
Forty Guns (1957) 
Abandon  Ship! (1957)
Lizzie (1957) 
Marjorie Morningstar (1958)
Good Day for a Hanging (1959)
Rio Bravo (1959) 
The Hanging Tree (1959) 
The Fugitive Kind (1960)
Cimarron (1960)
Conspiracy of Hearts (1960) 
Full Treatment (1960) 
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962) 
Love with the Proper Stranger (1963) 
Nightmare (1964)
The System (1964)  
The Nanny (1965)
Alfie (1966) 
After The Fox (1966)
Follow Me, Boys (1966) 
The Way West (1967)
El Dorado (1967)  
The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968) 
The Reckoning (1969)
The War Between Men and Women (1972)
Fear is the Key (1972) 
The Laughing Policeman (1973)
Foul Play (1978)
A Little Romance (1979)  
Bronco Billy (1980)  
Rabbit Hole (2010)  

I couldn't decide if it was a slap or a punch in Island in the Sky (1953).

People got upset when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock.  John Carradine upset a few people when he slapped a priest in Hitler's Madman (1943). 

French cinema also makes use of the slap, as indicated by this mass slapping routine in Daddy or Mommy (2015).

In Hollywood's Golden Age, screenwriters never exhausted the varied possibilities for getting a laugh with a hat.  This was a subject that I discussed in my article "The Hat."  I have since come across a few other examples of hat comedy.  A wild, gun-toting cowboy shoots a hat off a man's head in Cowboy from Brooklyn (1938) .  John Wayne loses his hat in an airplane terminal in A Man Betrayed (1941).  A dog sits on an important visitor's hat in The Egg and I (1947).  Wynne Gibson mistakenly sits on Edmund Lowe's hat in The Devil Is Driving (1932).  And, of course, we have a number of hat mix-up and hat try-on routines. 

I no sooner wrote about cattle stampeding into a busy town than I saw this cow show up in town in Puddin’ Head (1941).

Here are other tropes that I have turned up lately.

hat mix-up

Bridal Suite (1939)   
The Doctor Takes a Wife (1940) 
Christmas in July (1940)  
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) 
Big Jake (1971) 
The Strongest Man in the World (1975) 

hat try-on

Marion Davies hat try-on 
My Favorite Wife (1940) 
Father Takes a Wife (1941)  
Kipps (1941)  
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)  
Unfinished Dance (1947)  
The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) 

bridal chase 

The Love Lottery (1954) 


Don't Throw That Knife (1951)
I Love Lucy ("New Neighbors," 1952)  


The Marrying Kind (1952) 
The Love Lottery (1954)

crowded spaces 

The Last Journey (1935)
The Bride Comes Home (1935)
Family Vacation (1949)
Stop Press Girl (1949)


Flesh (1932)  
Wild Boys of the Road (1933)  


That Wonderful Urge (1948) 

home teetering on the edge of a cliff

Don't Make Waves (1967)  

Murphy bed

Vivacious Lady (1938)
The Bride Comes Home (1935)

seltzer bottle

Thunderbolt (1929) 
Three Cheers for the Irish (1940)   
The Heart of the Matter (1953)
The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) 

soap bubbles

The Skipper Surprised His Wife (1950) 
The Trouble with Angels (1966)

unconscious woman 

International Settlement (1938)  
You Can't Take It with You (1938) 
Two Sisters from Boston (1946)  
Folly to Be Wise (1952)  


The Egg and I (1947)  
The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)  

Miracolo A Milano (1951)

Friday, May 6, 2022

Tidbits for May, 2022

Richard Denning and Angela Stevens have fun before the radio-controlled atomic-powered zombies arrive in Creature with the Atom Brain (1955).

Vincent Price and Nancy Kovack in Diary of a Madman (1963) 

Aline MacMahon, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Ginger Rogers in Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Géraldine Pailhas and Benoît Poelvoorde in Hikers (1997)

Mary Astor and Ann Harding as sisters in Holiday (1930)

Randolph Scott and Nancy Carroll in Hot Saturday (1932)

Ann Dvorak and Ruth Donnelly in Housewife (1934)

Pierre Richard in Le Distrait (1970)

Pat O'Brien is an ace reporter in Consolation Marriage (1931).

John Darrow and Daphne Pollard in The Lady Refuses (1931)

Doris Day and Jack Carson take an ocean cruise in Romance On The High Seas (1948).

Carolyn Seymour and Harry H. Corbett in Steptoe and Son (1972) 

Alberto Rabagliati lights director Frank Borzage's cigarette on the set of  Street Angel (1928).

Annabella Incontrera in The Assassination Bureau (1969)

Clive Revill and Annabella Incontrera in The Assassination Bureau (1969)

Paul Meurisse in The Black Monocle (1962)

Dom DeLuise and Doris Day in The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

Trevor Howard and Maria Schell are ill-fated lovers in The Heart of The Matter (1953).

Boys find a new way to watch movies in The House of Flickers (1925).

Catherine Spaak in The Way of the Baboons (1974)

A Town Like Alice (1956)

Black Rainbow (1989)

Charles Conklin is an ice cream man in Because of You (1952).

Edward Everett Horton

Peter Sellers sings the George Formby classic "When I'm Cleaning Windows."

Scott Adams has wisely spoken out against modern films on his Twitter feed.  He wrote on August 3, 2021: 

Movies have always been part entertainment, part brainwashing.  But now that the brainwashing part is the dominant element, movies no longer have a useful place in society.

He wrote a few months later:

Movies are no longer a viable product.  We get 2-3 hours of nothing but feeling uncomfortable and bored.

An article that I published in July, "How to Pretend to Be Drunk," spotlighted character actors who specialized in playing comic drunks.  I gave special attention to Arthur Housman and Frank McHugh.  Today, I have additional clips of both actors at work.  Here, Housman arrives thoroughly drunk at a speakeasy in Her Bodyguard (1933).

McHugh gets drunk during a long stagecoach ride in Virginia City (1940).

Fans of The Odd Couple (1968) are familiar with this classic remark from Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau):

I hate little notes on my pillow.  Like this morning. "We're all out of cornflakes.  F.U."  It took me three hours to figure out that "F.U." was Felix Unger.

A similar joke occurs during this conversation between Glenda Farrell and Mary Brian in Girl Missing (1933).  

This clip is a good addition to my "Stair Masters" article.

Billy Bevan as a copper in Rebecca (1940)

Bevan runs into trouble as a motorcycle cop in Widow From Monte Carlo (1935).


I have updated my previous Tidbits article.  I included a couple of more examples of the head through a painting gag.  I also posted one more example of a split screen joining a man and woman together in a suggestive side-by-side tableau. 

Here is an extensive update of my camera-in-the-fireplace article.

I added postscript to my "Two Guys from Texas" article.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Suspense Spoof

Foul Play (1978) is an affectionate spoof of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers.  Hitchcock had a clear notion of what suspense was.  He famously said:

<blockquote>The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there.  The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor.  The public can see that it is a quarter to one. . . The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: "You shouldn't be talking about. . .  trivial matters.  There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!</blockquote>  

Let replace the danger of a bomb with the danger of a snake.  We have seen this in many films.  

A Bullet is Waiting (1954) 

A Town Like Alice (1956) 

In Foul Play, a snake is approaching two characters.  The audience sees the snake but the characters don't.  They are having an innocuous conversation.  The audience is worried that the characters won't notice the snake before it attacks them.  But, as it turns out, the snake is a harmless pet, which is something the characters know very well.  So, Hitchcock's suspense premise is turned on its head.  The audience thought they knew something that the characters didn't when, in fact, the characters knew something that the audience didn't.