Under the Radar

This forum is nearly identical to the previous forum. The difference? Discussions about comedy from the SOUND era.
Frank Flood
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Under the Radar

Postby Frank Flood » Thu Aug 06, 2009 4:29 pm

Most of us can rattle off a servicable list of the best short sound comedies. In no particular order, I might list HELPMATES, THE MUSIC BOX, ANOTHER FINE MESS, THE PIP FROM PITTSBURGH, THE WRONG MISS WRIGHT, DIZZY DOCTORS, AN ACHE IN EVERY STAKE, THE KID FROM BORNEO, THE SITTER DOWNERS, and GRAND SLAM OPERA.

But what about the great - or at least pretty great - sound comedies that no one talks about? I once read a contemporary review of HEAVE TWO, a 1933 RKO comedy with Harry Sweet and Harry Gribbon that made it sound like funniest film every released. I've never seen it, but have always wondered about it. I would nominate EX-PLUMBER, Lloyd Hamilton's last starring comedy for Educational, Sennett's bizarro THE GREAT PIE MYSTERY with Harry Gribbon, and LOVE ON A LADDER with its focus on a sort-of realistic (for a two reeler) married relationship between Edgar Kennedy and Florence Lake.

Does anyone have any great Warren Doane or Vitaphone comedies that time has unfairly passed by?

Frank

Rob Farr
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Re: Under the Radar

Postby Rob Farr » Thu Aug 06, 2009 4:42 pm

Many of the Shemp Howard Vitaphones are hilarious. Some, like "His First Flame" (1935) are played out in front of stage flats that don't even try to convey the illusion of reality. Shemp's Vita shorts, along with Arbuckle's are long overdue for the box set treatment. Or at least some screenings on TCM.
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep" - Harpo Marx

Brent Walker
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Re: Under the Radar

Postby Brent Walker » Thu Aug 06, 2009 5:08 pm

It's hard for me to say what's absolute greatest among sound shorts (there are so many I like), but NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS is hilarious, and some of the Arbuckle-directed shorts like BRIDGE WIVES and MOTHER'S DAY. Another in the "little seen" category is A HOLLYWOOD THEME SONG, a 1930 Sennett with Harry Gribbon which spoofs early musicals. Also, Harry Gribbon's Vitaphone short MUSHROOMS is great in the "funny strange" category. I also enjoy HOW COMEDIES ARE MADE, an inside joke from Harry Sweet. It's really hard to try say what are the, say, 10 greatest, sound shorts, because--diversity aside--the honest answer might be 10 Laurel and Hardy two-reelers.

Paul F Etcheverry
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Re: Under the Radar

Postby Paul F Etcheverry » Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:04 pm

Best Vitaphone I've seen thus far is Buzzin' Around w/ Roscoe, Al St John and Pete The Pup. Haven't seen any Warren Doane Universals.
Has anyone on this board seen Franklin Pangborn's starring Columbia 2-reeler, The Captain Hates The Ceiling?

I have a weakness for Clark And McCullough comedies and would wager that any short directed and/or written by Mark Sandrich and Harry Sweet is worth seeing at least once. Hope fine grains exist on those early 1930's two-reelers they made for RKO.

Also have a weakness for:

The Gags And Gals musical comedy series, starring comics artist Jefferson Mechamber, made by Al Christie at Educational. They are jam-packed with showgirls, out-of-left-field musical numbers, gratuitous vaudevillian acts and WTF moments, all served up with that distinctive un-PC 1930's flavor.

Help Wanted Female, co-starring Edgar Kennedy, Daphne Pollard, Arthur Housman (as Edgar's dumb as dust sidekick), and Ginger Connelly, a child actor who excels in a truly obnoxious "Spec O' Donnell" role. Hilarious. Ralph Ceder directed.

Various films starring Leon Errol. The Vitaphone musical comedy short Good Morning Eve, in which Vernon Dent (as Nero) sings, is great! Also really like two of Leon's really bizarre but funny Columbias: Honeymoon Bridge and One Too Many. I would love to see the one titled Three Little Swigs!

A Crook's Tour
is a Roach All-Star comedy - very likely many of you on this board have seen it - featuring geeky English comics Douglas Wakefield and Billy Nelson, Baby Alice, Gertrude Astor and a host of thuggy character actors. Robert McGowan directed - and used his "too weird for Our Gang" ideas here.

Cheers,
Paul F. Etcheverry
KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival
Pre-Code Follies

Tommie Hicks
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Re: Under the Radar

Postby Tommie Hicks » Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:27 pm

While they are not under the radar, I think the W.C.Fields Sennett shorts are the high water mark of Sennett sound shorts. I have not seen a short talkie from the other Sennett stars like Clyde , Beebe, or Gribbon, that compare to Fields' Sennett shorts.

A while back someone told me there was an early talkie short with Harry Sweet and Bud Jamison where they play themselves straight working out a short comedy from behind the scenes and playing it comically while being filmed in the studio? Anyone with a clue to this or is it available? For that matter, do any of Sweet's Universal silent two-reelers exist? From the promotions it looked like Harry copied the Al St.John look.

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Richard M Roberts
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Re: Under the Radar

Postby Richard M Roberts » Fri Aug 07, 2009 8:56 am

Tommie Hicks wrote:While they are not under the radar, I think the W.C.Fields Sennett shorts are the high water mark of Sennett sound shorts. I have not seen a short talkie from the other Sennett stars like Clyde , Beebe, or Gribbon, that compare to Fields' Sennett shorts.

A while back someone told me there was an early talkie short with Harry Sweet and Bud Jamison where they play themselves straight working out a short comedy from behind the scenes and playing it comically while being filmed in the studio? Anyone with a clue to this or is it available? For that matter, do any of Sweet's Universal silent two-reelers exist? From the promotions it looked like Harry copied the Al St.John look.


The talkie short with Sweet and Jamison is the aforementioned HOW COMEDIES ARE MADE (RKO 1932) which also stars Harry Gribbon and is indeed delightful and strange. It all takes place not in the studio, but in one of the comedians homes as they all meet to set up the next comedy short to be filmed, and manage to do damage to the household in working out comedy routines. The early talkie Pathe'/RKO comedies (which are indeed the same group of films as the Pathe' short comedy units became the RKO comedy units as the one studio was absorbed into the other) are indeed an interesting batch of films. The several Harry Sweet comedies I've seen all have a wonderful oddball quality to them, the Clark and McCullough comedies are also a lot of fun, as are the Edgar Kennedy comedies (although I'm fonder of the earlier ones than the later ones). Daphne Pollard also made several early talkie Pathe' shorts that are a very interesting. I recently picked up one called DANGEROUS YOUTH (1930) that will probably go into the Slapsticon 2010 schedule.

At least one of Harry Sweet's Universal silents partially exists, we ran it in the Slapsticon LOC Unidentified's show in 2005.

RICHARD M ROBERTS

Steve Massa
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Re: Under the Radar

Postby Steve Massa » Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:35 am

Hi guys
There doesn't seem to be much of Harry Sweets' silent work (starring or directing) around - just dribs and drabs. In addition to the unidentified LOC film that Richard mentioned MoMA has LION JAWS AND KITTEN PAWS ('20) and THE KICKIN' FOOL ('22). There's a few more of his directorial works floating around - I've seen THE FIRST 100 YEARS ('24), ROMEO AND JULIET ('24), THE SLEUTH ('25), HALF A MAN ('25), THREE OF A KIND ('26), WHAT! NO SPINACH ('26 - which he co-stars in with Gale Henry), and IT'S ME ('27). Hopefully there's others. Some of his sound shorts like HIGH HATS AND LOW BROWS and JUST A PAIN IN THE PARLOR (both '32) are great. He's definitely an overlooked talent, and would be ripe for rediscovery if there were more of his films handy.

Steve

Tommie Hicks
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Re: Under the Radar

Postby Tommie Hicks » Fri Aug 07, 2009 4:07 pm

I am of the opinion that the unidentified Harry Sweet short that Zoran showed us was a Fox comedy from the diverse cast and large budget.

I recently saw a lobby card in a private collection of a Harry Sweet Universal entitled SPENDING HIS DIME (omitted from the Universal silents book) that had Bud Jamison and James Finlayson prominently featured in that lobby.

Cole Johnson
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Re: Under the Radar

Postby Cole Johnson » Wed Aug 12, 2009 1:58 pm

My two cents-- I agree with Tommie that the mystery Harry Sweet is likely a Fox comedy. Cleverly presented sight gags, dangerous stunting, and bizarre situations (Harry follows an angelic muse out the window of a tall building) and a high budget seem closer to a Sunshine than your average Universal, ca. 1921. Some more funny sound comedies: ODOR IN THE COURT (Radio 33) Clark & McCoullagh at the best, TRAFFIC TANGLES (Pathe 30) With Nat Carr, Spec O'Donnell, Dot Farley. Kind of "A PAIR OF TIGHTS" if the cop caught them, with the same cop, on the familiar Culver City Main Street. OH! OH! CLEOPATRA! (Radio 31) Everyone's heard of this Wheeler & Woolsey short, few have seen it.

Brian Kirkpatrick
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Re: Under the Radar

Postby Brian Kirkpatrick » Thu Aug 13, 2009 6:54 pm

Some other great ones:
Shemp Howard - Mr. Noisy
Keaton - Pest From the West
Thelma Todd & Patsy Kelly - Air Fright (and what was the one where they are dropping water ballons from a building on people below??)
Laurel & Hardy - Them Thar Hills (Pum Pum!)
Stooges - Dizzy Pilots


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