Elwood Ullman: Comedy Scribe for Columbia

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Today is the birthday of comedy screenwriter Edward Ullman (1903-1985). Initially a humor writer for magazines, he was hired by Columbia Pictures in 1932 to pen comedy shorts for the likes of The Three Stooges, Charley ChaseBuster Keaton, Harry Langdon and Hugh Herbert. Long about the 40s he broke into features writing for the likes of The Bowery Boys, and Ma & Pa Kettle, and later of course the Three Stooges’ features. One of his last pictures was Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine starring his fellow birthday boy Vincent Price.

I am proud? ashamed? to say I have seen Dr. Goldfoot at least 20 times, not because it is good, but because it is so infuriatingly bad, and there is something about bad comedy in particular that causes physical pain. Unlike bad horror or bad science fiction (which of course BECEOMES comedy), bad comedy has nowhere to GO. It merely stays there and hurts like a hot tamale caught in the throat. So I have watched this many times (originally at the behest of Dr. Pinnock), and it has become a kind crash course on what not to do, on what choices not to make. And of course contains the incomparable Vincent Price, who transcends whatever he’s in…and a large number of women in bikinis.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy 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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