Charley Chase in “His Wooden Wedding”

Posted in Charley Chase, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , , on December 20, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Charley Chase short His Wooden Wedding (1925), directed by Leo McCarey.

In this hilarious silent short, Chase plays a young man who’s about to get married. Unfortunately (for his own good) he’s a bit shallow. So when his rival for the girl’s hand informs him that she has a wooden leg, he has last minute second thoughts. Misleading evidence seems to corroborate the rival’s story. She has a limp. Charley tries to feel her leg under the table and accidentally feels a man’s cane. So he backs out at the last minute. He decides to take a cruise to leave his worries behind, with many more hijinx on the ship, including a great turn by Gale Henry. Meanwhile (as only happens in movies), his fiance (Kathryn Grant) and her father catch up to the ship in their yacht to try to put things right. Charley is contrite. They throw the rival in the drink.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please 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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To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Tonight on TCM: The Weirdness That is “Santa Claus”

Posted in HOLIDAYS, FESTIVALS, MEMORIALS & PARADES, Movies, PLUGS with tags , , , on December 20, 2014 by travsd

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Tonight (tomorrow morning really) at 2 am (EST) Turner Classic Movies will be showing that new-old strange-oid classic Santa Claus (1959)

This has to have been one of the first movies I ever saw. Three years old? Four? It can’t have been much later than that or the memory wouldn’t be this fuzzy, and truthfully I don’t remember whether I saw it in an auditorium or whether I watched it on tv at a relative’s house, but I do remember some special effort was made and that it felt like a special event of some sort, and that I fell asleep for at least part of it. While the film was made in Mexico, no note of that was taken of that at the time. It was just presented as a nice movie about Santa Claus. The film was over a decade old at that point.

It is a bizarre film; no two ways about. Santa and one “Pitch”, a devil, battle for the souls of several Mexican children on Christmas eve. On Santa’s side are Merlin the Magician, and delegations of children from all over the world. The first 20 minutes of the film are eaten up by a concert featuring songs from each nation. It gets quite preposterous after a while, and I must say the delegates from the U.S.A. make a pretty poor showing indeed.

At any rate, this is the NEW classic around my house…I’ll need to watch it many more dozens of times until I get it out of my system.

Twilight Zone Burlesque at Coney Island Tonight

Posted in Burlesk, Contemporary Variety, PLUGS with tags , on December 20, 2014 by travsd

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Gotham Holiday Swing

Posted in HOLIDAYS, FESTIVALS, MEMORIALS & PARADES, Music with tags , , , on December 19, 2014 by travsd

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Mae West in “Every Day’s a Holiday”

Posted in Comediennes, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Mae West, Movies with tags , , on December 18, 2014 by travsd

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December 18, 1937 was the release date of the Mae West comedy Every Day’s a Holiday, directed by Eddie Sutherland.

From a certain perspective it is the last proper Mae West starring vehicle from the classic studio era, My Little Chickadee (1940) and The Heat’s On (1943) each containing disqualifying elements.

After the uncharacteristic Go West, Young Man (1936) this one represents a return to Mae’s familiar gay 90s/ New York territory of her early films, but is a bit broader and cleaner (with the Hays Code now in full flower). It’s kind of a nice way for her to round out her initial run as a solo star although it’s sad it ended so early.

Sutherland’s touch isn’t perfect. I don’t like the supporting cast playing their parts so broadly comical (there had been no need for that in She Done Him Wrong). But at least she didn’t end her solo career on the discordant note set by Go West, Young Man, which would have been unfortunate. In Every Day’s a Holiday she plays Peaches O’Day, wanted by police for repeatedly selling the Brooklyn Bridge to suckers. It opens on New Years Eve, 1900 — the dawn of a new century. Crooked police commissioner and mayoral aspirant Honest John (Lloyd Nolan) was spurned in the past so now he wants Peaches arrested for good. So now she is on the lam. The good looking detective assigned to arrest her tends to be kind-hearted so she keeps slipping away from the authorities. He exiles her to Boston, but not before she has ridden in a cab driven by Chester Conklin, where encounters an automobile driven by Charles Butterworth and his silly millionaire boss (Charles Winninger). Hustler/producer Walter Catlett gets her to return in disguise in her new show, Ooh La La. She pretends to ba French diva named Mademoiselle Fifi. The police chief falls in love with her. When she won’t date him he closed down the theatre so she does date him and when his back is turned she steals her rap sheet and burns it. she then runs the detective for mayor. He is kidnapped for awhile but emerges just in time to win the election. There is a huge parade and celebration featuring Louis Armstrong. Mae rides away with her triumphant boyfriend.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please 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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To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Charlie Chaplin’s Burlesque on Carmen

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , on December 18, 2014 by travsd

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December 18, 1915 was the release date of Charlie Chaplin’s Burlesque on Carmen .

Chaplin’s last official film for Essanay,  Carmen would represent the fruit of his dawning ambition, of the new direction he hoped to take. 1915 had seen two cinematic versions of the opera Carmen, one by Cecil B. de Mille, one by Raoul Walsh. Chaplin decided that he, too, would throw his derby hat into the ring by making his own parody version, Charlie Chaplin’s Burlesque on Carmen. This master stroke would allow Chaplin to have his cake and eat it too. On the one hand, the film was just what he said it was: a Mack Sennett style burlesque of a popular hit of the day. At the same time, it allowed Chaplin to get his hands on a tragic narrative, to feel his way through the story points, to get inside a real work of art, even if only to caricature it.

Unfortunately, Essanay butchered the film, ignoring Chaplin’s own cut, adding many of his out-takes and a subplot featuring Ben Turpin, in order to pad it to a longer running time. From the existing version it is hard to tell what its merits might have been. Nor was this the last of their villainy. The enterprising grave robbers at Essanay would manage to make three additional movies out of discarded Chaplin footage after he left the studio. Following this, Chaplin made sure contractually that this indignity would never happen to him again.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please 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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To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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W.C. Fields and Chester Conklin in “Two Flaming Youths”

Posted in Comedians, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, W.C. Fields with tags , , , , on December 17, 2014 by travsd

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December 19, 1927 was the release date of the lost film Two Flaming Youths starring W.C. Fields and Chester Conklin. For a period of a few months Paramount tried the pair as a team, hoping to bolster the box office pull of both comedians, although unfortunately the move had the opposite effect. Fields left films in 1928, only to return two years later when talkies came in. The lack of interest in this film at the time resulted in its complete disappearance, and fans today count it as a great loss.

Two Flaming Youths had a carnival setting that anticipated You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man . It was chock full of cameos by top vaudevillians, including Weber and Fields, Clark and McCullough, The Duncan Sisters, Savoy and Brennan, Moran and Mack, Kolb and Dill, Jack Pearl, et al, AND it featured some bona fide sideshow freaks, including Fat Lady Anna Magruder. Thus its loss was not just a blow to comedy fans but to theatre history buffs as well. But ya never know. It just may turn up, though time is running out.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy please 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

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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