Tuesday, June 2, 2009

“Ya got these four guys living on the Ponderosa and ya never hear them say anything about wanting to get laid…” – Sam (Jackie Gayle), Tin Man (1987)

Yesterday, I took great pains to set up my DVD recorder to capture a copy of The Kid from Spain (1932), which TCM was showing as part of their Great Directors film festival this month; the last time it was on…well, I didn’t have a recorder then. (I don’t know why I like Eddie Cantor films so much—many of them are dated as hell, particularly the numbers he performs in blackface—but then we all have our guilty pleasures.) I did everything necessary to secure recording this film…except press the timer button. (Clearly I’m not the individual you want operating heavy machinery.)

I did, however, record the 1926 Charley Chase two-reeler Be Your Age that morning; a short I found rib-ticklingly funny—in fact, like Laurel & Hardy, I often find myself preferring the Chase silent shorts over the sound efforts as well. Chase is an extraordinarily bashful clerk whose lawyer boss (Frank Brownlee) helps him out of a financial scrape, and all the boss man wants in return is for Charley to woo and win a client (Lillian Leighton, whose deceased husband has left her two million simolians and has announced her intentions to marry a younger man) so that he continue to administrate the estate. Complicating Charley’s pursuit of the widow Leighton is her son, played by none other than Oliver Hardy himself—there’s a riotous scene where Charley brings Ollie a toy drum as a birthday present, unaware that he’s not five-years-old. I enjoyed this one quite a bit, and I was curious to see the Milestone Films logo before the short; apparently this short was going to be one of many featured on a DVD set entitled Cut to the Chase: The Charley Chase Classic Comedy Collection which was in the hopper about two years ago and no further news has been heard about it since.

I also got to see Soup and Fish (1934), a breezy Thelma Todd-Patsy Kelly comedy in which the girls are mistakenly invited to a society matron’s big bash and—I think it’s safe to say—chaos ensues. One thing I’ll say about the Todd-Kelly two-reelers: even when they’re not knee-slappingly funny the personalities of both Thelma and Patsy are often all that’s needed to make these efforts a pleasant way to spend twenty minutes. Fish features appearances by Roach players Don Barclay (who recites his “Thank you gigantically” line here, a bit that is later reprised in the Our Gang comedy Honky Donkey), Baldwin Cooke, Charley Hall and of course, Billy Gilbert—who just might very well be the funniest second banana in the history of cinematic comedy. Patsy, who in this short is prone to playing practical jokes, pulls one off on Gilbert—who turns to Thelma and says in his priceless German accent: “She’s very comical, yes?” “Oh, yes…always clowning,” replies Thelma dryly.

TVShowsOnDVD.com is announcing that CBS DVD-Paramount will release half of the penultimate season of The Untouchables on August 25th; an encouraging sign even though—as both myself and my esteemed colleague Rick Brooks have stated on many an occasion—that these split-season releases really bite the moose. But the biggest news (again, so far this week) is that CBS/Paramount is also planning to release one of the most-requested classic television shows to disc—Bonanza, the popular TV oater telecast over NBC from 1959-71. Bonanza hasn’t exactly been a stranger to DVD due to the fact that about thirty-odd episodes from the long-running program available on various public domain releases but this one is officially sanctioned by CBS-Paramount so you can rest assured you can purchase it without having to sit through that painful music they have to use on the PD's because the theme song is still under copyright. The entire first season will be made available on September 1st—but the kicker is…wait for it…you’ll have to buy two releases to get all thirty-two episodes from Season Numero Uno. Yes, the split-seasoners strike again! (This always leaves me thinking of that line from Chinatown: “Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What can you buy that you can't already afford?”)


Anonymous said...

The Kid from Spain is the very first Eddie Cantor movie I've seen and I think it was very funny!
Hope to see more like that one.


Samuel Wilson said...

Eddie Cantor is pretty cool. I never cared for his singing or dancing, but there was something about his attitude even when he was playing the typical coward that impressed me in those Goldwyn films. He was great in Thank Your Lucky Stars as well.