Tuesday, April 21, 2009

DVR-TiVo-Or whatever recording device strikes your fancy-Alert!

Because George Burns lived to the ripe ol’ age of 100, he was afforded the opportunity to appear solo in the many films he made after the death of wife Gracie Allen in 1964—including his Oscar-winning turn in The Sunshine Boys (1975), Oh, God! (1977), Just You and Me, Kid (1979) and Going in Style (1979). By contrast, Gracie appeared in only three films without her straight-man husband: The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939), Mr. and Mrs. North (1942) and Two Girls and a Sailor (1944; in which she performs her classic “Concerto for Index Finger”).

TCM is going to show Mr. and Mrs. North at 3:30am EDT on what is technically early Wednesday morning, so you might want to rev up the recorders in order to capture this oddity. It’s based on the series of popular short stories (published in The New Yorker) and novel (The Norths Meet Murder) by Richard and Francis Lockridge (and the play by Owen Davis), which later became a long-running radio mystery series (“mystery liberally sprinkled with laughs,” as CBS used to promote it) and early TV offering as well. I haven’t seen the film myself, but it’s one I’ve been actively seeking out for a while now; I saw Gracie’s Murder Case a while back and enjoyed the hell of it, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that this will be enjoyable as well.

Speaking of TiVo alerts, I was bowled over by the breathtaking quality of the Ruggles of Red Gap showing last night on TCM; the practically pristine print made the viewing experience ever so much nicer. I also got a kick out of seeing Kelly the Second (which had been on my must-see list for ages), an entertaining movie that I thought really captured the wonderfulness of the Hal Roach two-reelers…and it saddened me when I stopped to think how Roach wasted the talents of star comedian Charley Chase (who stole the show in Kelly, particularly when he and star Patsy Kelly cut loose with a fiery Irish jig) by letting him go instead of making a more concerted effort to fashion feature films for him. (Chase’s 1936 short Neighborhood House was originally previewed as a feature, but the audience reaction was tepid, prompting it to be re-edited in two-reel form. While I shouldn’t blame Roach for this, Chase’s supporting performance in the Laurel & Hardy classic Sons of the Desert [1933] demonstrates that Chase certainly had something to offer in a feature film.) My only nitpick with Kelly is that Pert Kelton didn’t have a lot to do—a shame, really, because I’ve seen her in a few early features and she could really be first-rate if she had the right material (check out Bed of Roses [1933] sometime and see what I mean). Leonard Maltin observed in The Great Movie Comedians that Chase was originally considered for the comic relief in the Fred Astaire musical A Damsel in Distress (1937)—but that deal fell through, and which sort of brings this back to George & Gracie, I guess.


faustina said...

Sam Johnson died unexpectedly and was found today by his older brother, Anthony. The obit should be in a day or two, according to the family. I am so sorry to let you know this way, but i know Sam would have wanted you told.

georgegracie said...

Oh, I wish I could have seen it... I have been collecting Burns and Allen films and have not been able to find this one either on VHS or DVD. I can say that there are quite a few of their films still available. I found another of Gracie's solo projects, "The Gracie Allen Murder Case," on amazon.com and am looking forward to getting it in the mail.

Anonymous said...

Great post on "Kelly the Second"...though it does appear as if the rumors of the negative reaction to the Chase feature that was cut down to two reels (and released as "Neighborhood House") is a myth. Previews of the feature length film (called "Bank Night") were actually rather positive, and the main reason the feature was never released was the trouble Roach got into because the film played with the idea that the "bank night" theater raffles could be rigged...an unfortunate end for Chase's feature-film bid.
-- Yair