Tomorrow on TCM: Classic Comedies About Cameras!
Tomorrow on Turner Classic Movies, they are showing comedy related pictures all the live long day. We wanted to point out three comedies we thought would be of especial interest to our readers:
6:00am (EST): Buster Keaton in The Cameraman (1928)
The Cameraman was Keaton’s first film as an MGM contract player. The change would rapidly prove to have been a bad career decision, but nevertheless The Camerman is one of Keaton’s best films. Like Sherlock Jr, it is a film about film. Keaton plays a still photographer who wants to be a movie cameraman for newsreels. He’s terrible to begin with – his first attempts are a chopped-salad of double exposures, backwards footage and erratic film speeds, a kind of marriage of One Week’s cockamamie house and the cinematic tricks in Sherlock Jr. By the movie’s end he will not only perform a daring rescue, but get footage of it, securing the girl and the coveted job all in one fell swoop. This is awfully close to Lloyd territory, but Keaton manages to own it with many deft touches. Some of his most famous moments are in the film. Eager to get footage of a disaster in progress, he leaps onto a passing fire truck…only to have it pull immediately into the fire station. And there is another scene where he goes to Yankee Stadium to cover a game…but it turns out to be an “away” day. Undaunted, he mimes an entire baseball game by himself, an homage to the famous circus clown Slivers Oakley.
7:30am: Bob Hope in My Favorite Brunette (1947)
Hope’s parody of Sam Spade pictures, following up on the success of My Favorite Blonde. Hope is a baby photographer with an office right across from private eye Alan Ladd. This allows him to get mistaken for a shamus himself by Dorothy Lamour. From here, the story gets played too straight for my tastes. Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney Jr play bad guys.
10:30am: Red Skelton in Watch the Birdie (1950)
Essentially a remake of Keaton’s The Cameraman, with Red as a professional photographer who tries to dig himself out of debt by becoming one of the paparazzi, and ends up getting involved with a glamorous heiress (Arlene Dahl) and a vivacious starlet (Ann Miller).
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