Force Majeure Tonight!

Posted in Contemporary Variety, PLUGS with tags , , on October 19, 2014 by travsd

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Laurel and Hardy in “Bacon Grabbers”

Posted in Comedy, Comedy Teams, Laurel and Hardy with tags , , , , , , , on October 19, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the silent Laurel and Hardy comedy Bacon Grabbers (1929).

In this film (not one of their most inventive) the pair play repo men for the sheriff’s department. They have an order to seize Edgar Kennedy’s radio, but they are barely competent enough to even leave the office. Once they make it to Kennedy’s house he is wise to them and most uncooperative. He keeps eluding them so they can’t serve his papers.When they finally manage to do so they are confronted with the second problem – how to take his radio. They try to get up to his second story window with a ladder, with predictable results. Finally a policeman helps them get the radio , but then their day is spoiled by a steamroller.

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Tomorrow A.M. at Film Forum: Harry Langdon in “The Strong Man”

Posted in Comedy, Harry Langdon, Hollywood (History), Movies, PLUGS, Silent Film with tags , , , , on October 18, 2014 by travsd

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Tomorrow morning at 11am, New York’s Film Forum will be screening the Harry Langdon comedy The Strong Man (1926), the very first feature film directed by Frank Capra. 

In The Strong Man, Langdon plays a returning World War I vet who is now touring with a medicine show as an assistant to the titular body builder (whose name Zandow, is an obvious play on Sandow). All the while, he is searching for the girl he had fallen in love with long distance via their wartime correspondence. The task is complicated by the fact that he has never met the girl in person. For awhile, he is led on by a vamp who pretends to be the girl; he eventually wises up. When he finally does meet the true object of his affections, she proves to be the blind daughter of the town minister. If that sounds Chaplinesque, remember that City Lights wasn’t until five years later.

At any rate, the mixture of touching elements with Langdon’s typical grab-bag of unusual gags prompted the critics of the time to laud the film as Chaplinesque as well. It was voted one of the ten best of the year in the annual Film Critics Poll, and the box office was even greater than that of the first film. I reiterate—this was Capra’s very first directorial effort.

Tickets and more info about tomorrow’s screening are here: http://filmforum.org/film/the-strong-man-ffjr-film

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Samuel W. Gumpertz (Dreamland Circus Sideshow)

Posted in BROOKLYN, BUNKUM, Coney Island, Dime Museum and Side Show, Human Anomalies (Freaks), Impresarios with tags , , , on October 18, 2014 by travsd

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Dick D. Zigun gave the Mad Marchioness and me the thoughtful engagement gift of the historic postcard above a few days ago. Since we’ve been spending so much time out at Coney Island performing Dead End Dummy now seems a fitting time to give a shout out to the great impresario behind the attraction it depicts, the Dreamland Circus Sideshow.

Samuel Gumpertz (not to be confused with Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor), born 1868, ran away and joined the circus as an acrobat before he was ten years old. Over the next quarter century in addition to his time in the circus, he worked as an actor in melodramas and Shakespeare, was a trick rider in Buffalo’s Bill’s Wild West, and managed numerous theatre houses.

When Dreamland Amusement Park opened in Coney Island in 1904, it was Gumpertz who ran one of its most celebrated attractions: Lilliputia or Midget City, an entire miniature village populated by 300 actual little people. In less than five years, Gumpertz became general manager of Dreamland itself. One of his projects was to vastly build up its sideshow. When the park burnt down in 1911, Gumpertz immediately resurrected the sideshow and continued to run it through 1929. We have written about many of the famous acts who performed there during these years: Zip the Pinhead, 24 inch tall Baron Paucci, bearded Lady Olga, Lionel the Dog-Faced Boy, the limbless Mademoiselle GabrielleMartin Laurello (who could turn his head backwards), Clico, the Wild Dancing South African Bushman, Violetta the Armless Legless Venus, Susi the Elephant Skin Girl,  and Jean-Jaques Liberra the Double Bodied Man.

In 1929, Gumpertz left Coney so that he could assume his new job: running the sideshow for the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus. He passed away in 1952.

To learn about the history of variety entertainmentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Oct 16 5:30PM | Whitman Among the Bohemians: Book and Website Launch, and Tour of Pfaff’s Cellar

Posted in Uncategorized on October 16, 2014 by travsd

travsd:

About to depart to attend this event. Envious?

Originally posted on in.ter.reg.num:

An exciting upcoming event about Walt Whitman at NYU’s Humanities Initiative. See info on the poster below!

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Harold Lloyd in “Bliss”

Posted in Comedy, Harold Lloyd, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , , on October 14, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the 1917 Harold Lloyd comedy Bliss, directed by Alf Goulding.

Bliss is one of Lloyd’s earliest “glasses” comedies.  Bebe Daniels plays a spoiled rich girl; Snub Pollard is her butler. A bunch of identical suitors arrive to court the girl. Her brawny father beats them all up, then throws them out declaring her daughter will only marry a nobleman. Miraculously, Harold’s rented dress suit happens to have the card of a Count in the coat and so there is an enterlude of masquerade (this was a device that had been used by Chaplin and others more times than one can count by this time).  Harold and Bebe elope at the father’s instigation, then Lloyd has to borrow price of preacher’s fee from the girl.

Here it is, with an original score by Ben Model:

 

For more on silent and slapstick film history see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Buster Keaton in “The Navigator”

Posted in Buster Keaton, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , on October 13, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of Buster Keaton’s 1924 classic The Navigator. 

This film is often ranked with The Gold Rush, City Lights and Keaton’s own The General as one of the greatest of silent comedies. Having heard that the S.S. Buford was slated to be scrapped, Keaton and his production team resolved to build a film around it. Keaton plays a callow young rich boy who, along with his girlfriend (Kathryn McGuire) is stranded on a drifting ghost ship in the middle of the ocean.

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The film was Keaton’s biggest box office success and considered by many to be a cinematic masterpiece. As to the latter, it’s not hard to see what critics read into it. A ship at sea is a metaphor. To be alone on a ship at sea is an existential metaphor. For two useless rich people to be alone and helpless on a drifting ship is a political metaphor. But knowledge of such things generally does more harm at the box office than good. Keaton’s drifting ship gets into a surprising amount of trouble during the films 59 minutes. That’s what captures the allegiance of audiences.

The film was co-directed by Donald Crisp, best known today as an actor in films like Wuthering Heights and How Green was My Valley. 

For more on silent and slapstick film history see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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