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    Rio Rita (1942)

    Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

    Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949)

    Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950)

    Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)

    Comin' Round the Mountain (1951)

    Lost in Alaska (1952)

    Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953)

    Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)

    Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955)

    Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

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    Buster Keaton was a true comedy athlete.

    It was shocking for me as a kid to finally get a glimpse of Doctor Doom's disfigured face.  This is issue number 182 of The Mighty Thor.  The illustrator is John Buscema (with uncredited assistance from John Romita).  The writer is Stan Lee.  I agree with Don Blake - "I never dreamed -- it would be -- like that!!"
    Howard Morris and Sid Caesar in The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998)

    Pinky Lee and a lion friend

    Louise Fazenda and Charlie Murray in Vamping Venus (1928)

    Charles Hitchcock, Dolores Cassinelli, Eleanor Blanchard, John Steppling and E. H. Calvert in Billy McGrath's Art Career (Essanay Film Manufacturing Co, 1912)

    Vivian Vance and Lucille Ball pretend to be little girls.

    Dwayne Johnson cradles Kevin Hart like a baby in Central Intelligence (2016).

    Augustus Carney in Alkali Ike's Close Shave (1912)

    Plot: A doctor is overwhelmed with guilt when he fails to stop his car in time to avoid hitting a man crossing the street.  The man,  Alkali Ike, is treated to a shave and a new set of clothing at the doctor's expense.  With his nifty new makeover, Alkali Ike is unrecognizable to his wife when he arrives home.  His wife calls out in alarm to several rough men, who take to beating up the hapless fellow.
    Joan Davis pretends to be a mannequin on The Joan Davis Show ("Memory," 1953).

    Robert Ellis gets stuck inside a suit of armor on Meet Corliss Archer ("Dexter's Masquerade Costume," 1954).

    That's all I got for today.

    Parting is such sweet sorrow.

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  • 07/17/16--15:16: Funnyman in a Straitjacket

  • One of the 19th-century’s most notorious establishments was the insane asylum. Comedy can be a response to notoriety or a salve to tragedy.  It was inevitable for comedians to fool with the provocative aspects of an insane asylum.  This brings us to our subject today.

    The burlesque routine "Crazy House" is the most longstanding comedy routine to address the subject of the insane asylum.  I have dug further into a history of the routine, which I wrote about before in a "Comedy Routine of the Day" feature (Click here for the article).  The routine dates back to the minstrel shows, at which time it was called "The Crazy Asylum." 

    Another type of crazy house.
    Burlesque comedian Billy Hart helped to bring about a revival of the routine as a member of The Gay Masqueraders.  Hart performed with the troupe on the Columbia Amusement Company's theatre circuit ("Columbia Wheel") as early as October, 1907.  At the time, the Masqueraders' version of "Crazy Asylum" assumed a fairly traditional form and was known as "Dr. Dopey's Dippy Den" (later, "Dr. Dopey's Dippy Retreat").

    The "Dippy" business quickly became a stock act for burlesquers.  The wacky, fast-paced scene brought about an enthusiastic response from audiences wherever it was played.  A Washington Post critic who saw the act performed at D. C.'s Belasco Theatre referred to this style of comedy as "rip-roaring."

    It was a reoccurring complaint of critics that Hart's version of the act was risqué.  This was an issue raised by a Variety critic who had seen The Gay Masqueraders perform at the Standard Theatre in Cincinnati.  Still, the critic noted, "there is still plenty of comedy in it to make it go."  He found that, all in all, the troupe offered "a very nice show and one that have eminent satisfaction."  A similarly mixed review appeared in Variety when The Gay Masqueraders later brought their show to New York City.  The review read:
    Take Billy Hart out of the show and there would be no Gay Masqueraders. The comedian is on the stage almost continuously from the rise of the curtain.  Mr. Hart is funny — at times, screamingly so; but every now and then he allows a bit of suggestiveness to creep in, which all but kills his better and cleaner moments.  In "Dr. Dopey's Dippy Den," the burlesque, all the comedy is allowed to rest upon the comedian, and he manages to keep things moving at a lively pace.
    I noted in my earlier article that Hart extensively reworked the routine when he transferred to The Crackers Jacks, which was another company that operated on the Columbia Wheel.  Hart repopulated the sanitarium with shapely chorus girls in the new version of the routine, which was now billed as "The Female Sanitarium."  I learned in my latest research that Hart deviated from the original routine much further than I suspected.  The New York Clipper noted on March 13, 1909:
    The Female Sanitarium had the funny idea of having two gay sports, played by Misses [Ruby] Leoni and [Lillie] Vedder, turned into men by means of magic oils.  Billy Hart, as the attendant, and Wm. Bowman, as a patient, took pills that turned them into women.  Some funny situations resulted.  The various dippy inhabitants performed some laughable stunts.  Miss Leoni appeared to good advantage in a sleep walking visit to the men's dormitory to the satisfaction of the male patients.
    The Cherry Blossoms, another burlesque troupe, added the routine to their program in 1907.  Variety said of their show:
    "Dr. Dippy's Sanitarium" is the burlesque, made up of the familiar material as the name implies.  A bed is dragged on the stage and made the subject of a lot of sickly comedy aided and abetted by John Perry.  The rest follow traditions pretty closely.
    In February, 1916, Cincinnati's Empress Theatre presented a variation of the sketch called "Dr. Joy's Sanitarium."  The Labor Advocate called the sketch "fast, frolicsome, farcical fun."  The newspaper added, "A doctor, a nurse and four 'dippy' patients are introduced in a hospital ward - and the things that happen, fast and furious, make the act a scream from start to finish."

    Dr. Dippy's Sanitorium was incorporated into a 1918 Broadway musical comedy called "The Canary."  The production is most notable for featuring music by Irving Berlin.  It is interesting to note the circumstances that brought the play's protagonists to the sanitarium.  The play centers on a famous diamond known as The Canary.  The diamond is stolen and brought by the thieves to an antique dealer.  The New York Clipper reported, "[The diamond] is swallowed by [the antique dealer's] blundering assistant, Timothy.  This causes the latter to be sent to a sanitarium, where an X-ray is taken and, because of the desire of would-be purchasers of the gem, a surgical operation is imminent."  The Three Stooges later used the same diamond-swallowing premise in Crime On Their Hands (1948) and Abbott and Costello used the premise (replacing the diamond with a medallion) in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955).

    A simple but eloquent review of the act appeared in The New York Clipper in regards to a performance by the Morris and Castle players in Beaver, Wisconsin.  The critic wrote, "Fred Baker invites us into the sanitarium owned and operated by Dr. Dippy.  It is a cure for grouches and such things. . ."

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  • 07/17/16--19:56: Reflections in a Soap Bubble

  • I remember the times in my childhood when the foamy lather created by shampoo provided an irresistible opportunity to play.  I could pile layers of foam on my head to create a sudsy Afro that made me feel like Linc from The Mod Squad.  Moments later, I let out a hearty "Ho-ho-ho!" to go along with the frothy white beard that I now sported.  Soapsuds always have been fun.

    In the early days of film, soapsuds were a facilitator of the most exaggerated physical comedy.  Take, for instance, the central comedy action of a 1915 Selig comedy Wipe Yer Feet.  Sid Smith smears a floor with soapsuds, which causes everyone who enters the room to slide and skate about.   During this period, soapsuds played a pivotal role in many slapstick comedies, including Soapsuds and Sapheads (1919), Soapsuds and Sirens (1917) and Black Hands and Soapsuds (1917).  So many comedies worked up a good lather.  Let's see, there was Love and Lather (1916), The Lathered Truth (1916) and Love, Laughs and Lather (1917).

    It wasn't unusual in a Larry Semon comedy to have a bucket of thick and creamy soapsuds topple onto a man's head.  This became a source of frustration for T. O. Service, a critic with Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World.  The critic vented his wrath in an article published on June 14, 1928.  He could not have been more explicit in his dislike for "[c]omedies in which glue, mush, oil, soapsuds or other fluids are spilled upon people's faces, down people's necks, into people's food, or pockets, under people's feet, and comedies in which people are dropped into vats of such fluids."

    Service was not likely to have enjoyed Collars and Cuffs (1923), in which Stan Laurel floods a laundry with suds.  Ted Okuda and James L. Neibaur described the scene ideally in "Stan Without Ollie: The Stan Laurel Solo Films, 1917-1927":
    [A] large washing machine goes haywire, capturing the boss in its soapy confines, covering him completely with lather. . . [T]he soapy water spills out of the laundry and onto the street, causing cars to spin out of control and pedestrians to slip and fall.  Responding police officers hurry into the laundry and are so caught up in the messiness that they dive into a clothes hamper to avoid the tumult.  Stan attempts to flee, but he's unable to produce any traction on the slippery soapsuds and winds up running in place.

    Alice Day in The Soapsuds Lady (1925) 

    In June, 1928, H. A. Woodmansee wrote in Picture Play Magazine, "A gag man at one studio thought it would be amusing to show Junior Coghlan washing his pony in the bathtub, spattering soapsuds and horrifying the English butler.  And, just to top it off, the boy could mount the pony on four bars of soap and skid him around the hallway!"

    Motion Picture Herald was unimpressed with the Colortone short Beer and Pretzels (1933), which the magazine described as "Just four guys sliding around in some soapsuds."

    Lou Costello gets trapped in an industrial washing machine in Rio Rita (1942).

    The manic Elsie Ames wreaks havoc in a laundry in What Makes Lizzy Dizzy? (1942).

    The washing machine was a prominent fixture of the modern post-war home.  This was a time of great prosperity and yet a time of great anxiety.  It could be that an out-of-control washing machine was a perfect symbol of the times.

    The washing machine was a perfectly calibrated instrument for a specialist like dear old mom.  But should dad or the children pour detergent into the washing machine, the viewers knew to prepare themselves for a volcanic explosion of soapsuds.  A similar expectation occurred when Barbara Eden's 2,000-year-old genie tried to operate a dishwasher on I Dream of Jeannie.

    I Love Lucy ("Never Do Business with Friends," 1953)


    Mister Roberts (1955)

    Dennis The Menace ("The Man of the House," November 6, 1960)

    Bachelor in Paradise (1961)

    Perhaps, an extraordinary amount of suds was generated around Doris Day for The Thrill of It All (1963).


    In Palm Springs Weekend (1963), a crowd of fun-loving young people are reveling in a pool party at the La Casa Yates hotel (actually The Desert Palms Inn) when a bratty boy (Billy Mumy) knocks a container of detergent into water.  Actor Troy Donahue remembered a problem that the actors had filming this scene.  He said, "We shot on a sound stage, and they used real soap in the pool, and you can't breathe in real soap.  There's no oxygen and half of us nearly asphyxiated in those suds.  After the first take, they had to have respirators and oxygen tanks ready at all times."

    David C. Tucker, author of "Lost Laughs of '50s and '60s Television," described an episode of the 1963-64 sitcom Grindl in which Imogene Coca "plung[ed] into a bathroom full of soap suds."

    Blake Edwards worked up a good deal of suds for The Party (1968).

    The Doris Day Show ("The Buddy," 1969) 

    This episode was likely meant as a callback to The Thrill of It All.  Fans of Day had come to know that soap bubbles were never far away from the squeaky clean actress.

    A memorable episode of The Brady Bunch, "Law and Disorder" (1973), features Bobby (Mike Lookinland) being engulfed by an excess of foam from an overflowing washing machine.

    Life with Lucy ("One Good Grandparent Deserves Another," 1986)


    Chris Pine and Lindsay Lohan in Just My Luck (2006)

    Today, soapsuds can provide comic relief from the harsh world news.  The Daily Mail reported that, in China, a lorry dumped a ton of washing powder into a sewage plant.  The newspaper noted, "Officials were left bemused when a 15-foot high cascade of foam swept through the plant and outside."

    In an unrelated story, The Daily Mail reported, "Drivers in Florida had to swerve to avoid an enormous bubbly surprise by the side of the road on Monday morning.  And now police in Boca Raton are investigating who committed the age-old prank of pouring entire bottles full of dish soap into the fountain at the entrance to the Loggers' Run neighborhood.  Witnesses described how the joke-gone-wrong caused the fountains on the waterfall to create a huge foamy mess that grew out of control as it spread across the road."

    Have fun with the suds in your next bath.

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  • 07/17/16--23:42: The Incredible Laughable Egg
  • Shemp Howard in Listen, Judge (1952)
    "We've got to speed things up in this hotel.  Chef, if a guest orders a three-minute egg, give it to him in two minutes.  If he orders a two-minute egg, give it to him in one minute. If he orders a one-minute egg, give him a chicken and let him work it out for himself. "

    - Groucho, A Night in Casablanca (1946).


    In vaudeville, the egg was an ideal prop for jugglers, magicians and comedians.  An egg, which could so easily break and create a mess, offered suspense and comedy to a vaudeville crowd.  The magicians might transform an egg or they might simply make it disappear.  A magician could drop an egg in an empty bag and moments later produce a live chicken from the bag.  It took an illusionist of great skill to suspend an egg in midair and then, while the egg was still in plain view, transform it into a full-grown chicken.  The magicians who were best known for egg tricks were The Great Albini, Kara, Horace Goldin and Theo Bamberg. 

    Kara the Magician's egg trick was described in "Vaudeville Old and New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performances in America," an extensive reference source written by Frank Cullen, Florence Hackman and Donald McNeilly.  Here is their description:
    "[Kara's] control was at best when he tossed an uncooked egg high into the air and caught it unbroken on a plate.  The trick was to lessen the impact by lowering the plate at the exact moment of contact, thus sparing the egg a collision.  For laughs, Kara sometimes let the egg splat on the assistant's noggin before successfully executing the feat."
    Variety's Sime Silverman was favorably impressed with juggler Frank Hartley.  In January, 1911, he wrote:
    Frank Hartley is a young juggler of light and heavy objects. . . He works alone, without comedy assistant, interjecting a trifle of humor himself, perhaps the worst the business with the egg, although the juggling with the same bit of food was excellent.  As the "egg comedy" has been done often before, so has a great many of Mr. Hartley's tricks.  Not later than a week or so ago when the Cromwells appeared at the American; also Kara.  Hartley, however, is unfortunate only in following these jugglers so closely. For execution he compares with them, and favorably.  In a couple of new tricks the young man displays fine skill, particularly in the tea cup, saucer and spoon, thrown from his toe to his forehead, one at a time, each settling in place without a miss.
    During the same month, Silverman saw The Great Albini at The Plaza.  He wrote, "[H]is best work in the forward part of the stage was the "egg and bag" matter.  Albini is a skillful palmer, and an excellent workman in every other way.  He makes his turn interesting."

    Eggs received prominent attention in the reviews of various vaudeville acts.

    Variety, October, 1913.  Review of Wallace Galvin at the Keith's Theatre in Philadelphia.
    Earlier on the bill Wallace Galvin, a clever fellow with his hands, also uses eggs and breaks several in one of his tricks. . . Galvin makes his egg-smashing trick a funny one and his handling of cards and other articles rounds out a likable act of its kind.
    Variety, February, 1915.  Review of a show at The Palace Theatre in New York City.
    [I]n "Food," a travesty on the high east of living, in which an egg is featured, got a few laughs, and was only moderately received.
    Variety, April, 1917.  Review of The Burlington Four, comedy quartet, at the Royal Theatre in New York City.
    The four characters are all rube, including a storekeeper and a constable.  The biggest bit of fun is when two of the rubes steal eggs out of the grocer's basket and the constable, hitting them with a club, breaks the egg in their pockets.
    Variety, April, 1917.  Review of Roberto in New York City.
    Roberto juggl[es] big ball, marble and egg with plate.
    Variety, April, 1917.  Review of Wallace Galvin at the Majestic Theatre.
    Wallace Galvin displayed his laugh-bringing egg trick and his excellent control of the Chinese rings.
    Talking Machine World, October, 1921.  Review of The Great Rasso on the Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit.
    [A]nother of Mr. Rasso's stunts. . . consists of juggling three articles differing extremely in size and density, the first being a heavy ball about eight inches in diameter, the second a small piece of tissue paper crumpled into a ball and the third a real egg.  Incidentally, the egg is concealed under the rooster statue until he is ready to perform this trick, and when revealing the egg he always gets a laugh from the audience with the remark, "Some rooster!"
    Rasso's act was something like this.

    Variety, May, 1921.  Review of Moran and Mack at the Riverside Theatre in New York City.
    Moran and Mack were next to closing with their burnt cork nonsense.  It is Mack all the way, with Moran alimited straight.  The egg and bookkeeper gag was one of the biggest laughs of the evening, proving newness isn't everything.
    Variety, February, 1923.  Review of Ritter and Knappe at the Jefferson Theatre.
    The juggling of three 45-pound cannon balls manipulation of cannon ball and egg, catching both on plate after tossing both to height of 10 feet, balancing two fish bowls and cannon ball on scaffold apparatus, the latter balanced on chin, and the balancing of a 200 pound torpedo on wooden apparatus on shoulders are included.
    Variety, March, 1923.  Report of an offstage performance.
    The last ones to leave the ball were a group who staged a little party of their own in one of the parlors after the ball ended.  They all went to a lunch place for breakfast.  In the party with our friend, the Broadway comic, who ordered a half dozen raw eggs, and started teaching everyone a new game, of tossing the eggs in the air, and catching them on his head, covered by someone else's hat.  It was great until the owner of the hat discovered it.  The comic tossed one egg too high and it's still decorating the ceiling.
    Variety, May, 1923.  Review of Harry Slighto in New York City.
    Harry Slighto, "The Magic Marvel," broke the world's record for card tricks by doing the same trick for 203 hours.  He might have gone even farther, but the cards melted in his hands and this moisture caused his celluloid cuffs to float into the audience.  Mr. Slighto announced the next week he will try and break the world's record for the "Egg-in-a-Bag" trick.
    Variety, June, 1923.  Review of Kurt Tarzan and Rudolph Wagner at the 58th Street Theatre in New York City.
    The first-named is probably the young Hercules who juggles cannon balls and other heavyweight objects, changing the pace by juggling a plate and egg.  One stunt is the catching of two aquariums in either hand and a cannon ball on the neck.  The funny-looking hairless comic got in his best work with the fish bowls, starting by eating one of the goldfish.
    Motion Picture Herald, September 12, 1931.  Review of Pepito at the Omaha Orpheum Theatre.
    In a stage setting replete with the circus clowns' most extravagant dream, Pepito, assisted by Juanita and Bombo, entertains as prince of entertainers in his chosen field.  His crying baby, egg juggling, cow-milking and other features take hold of the audience as he would have them.
    Variety, January, 1942.  Review of Eddie and Lucille Burnette at the Palomar Theatre in Seattle, Washington.
    Eddie Burnette and Lucille pleased with a fruit, egg and bird trick. . .
    Variety, June, 1943.  Review of Shaw and Lee at the Orpheum Theatre in Omaha, Nebraska.
    June Preisser and Shaw and Lee spark this revue with Miss Preisser coming out after opening and gagging with the comics as sort of ice-breaker.  They [then] do their old egg trick. . .
    Variety, September, 1944.  Review of Coghlin and Talent at the Keith's Theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana.
    Coghlin and Talent display a smart line of patter in a juggling routine with an egg trick that always clears the front rows when the hen-fruit seems to be coming their way.
    Variety, May, 1945.  Review of Paul Rossini at the Hotel Roosevelt.
    Paul Rossini, a smooth showman, has the customers with him from the beginning with his clowning and constant underplaying of his magical talents.  His egg-in-the-bag trick, "deuce-or-spades in a cigarette and thumb tie," and Chinese linking rings nets him plenty of applause.

    You can perform egg gags in the privacy of your own home without the skills of a juggler or magician.   

    Eggs are the subject of two longstanding novelty gags -  The Bouncing Egg and The Fried Egg.

    Eggs were a source of humor in early films.  Take, for instance, Georges Méliès' Prolific Magic Egg (1903).

    In Romance of an Egg (1908), a group of young ladies has fun pelting a farmer with eggs. 

    Kevin R. Niver wrote the following plot summary for Biograph's The Affair of an Egg (1910) in "Motion Pictures from The Library of Congress Paper Print Collection 1894-1912':
    A whimsical farm girl writes a message on an egg that finds its way to a city restaurant where it is served to a young man.  Intrigued, the young man sets out to locate the message-writer.  He makes the long and arduous trip by train to the country and confronts the young woman, who, much to his dismay, doubles up her fist and hits him.  The next scene shows the young woman on her knees beseeching him to return to her.
    Charlie Chaplin had a brief fascination with eggs.  First, he makes a mess collecting eggs from a hen house in The Tramp (1915).  

    The following year, he drops eggs on the shoes of a romantic rival (Lloyd Bacon) in The Vagabond (1916).

    Chaplin in Sunnyside (1919)

    In 1917, Victor Moore brought eggs to the forefront of a Klever comedy called Egged On.  Motion Picture News described the film's set-up as follows:
    Vic is entrusted with a gunpowder formula, which has been put into egg shells to take to the American munition manufacturers.  It is supposed to be the most deadly weapon of its kind invented.  So in order that nothing should happen to the eggs, Vic puts them in a hand-bag, which he keeps close to his side.  On arrival in the States he loses the bag and his wallet full of money.

    Moving Picture World explained the remainder of the plot as follows:
    [A]n heiress that he meets gets his valise and puts the eggs in an incubator when she gets home.  Vic arrives too late to prevent the explosion. . . Vic tries to earn five dollars to send a cable for money when he loses his valise.  He wears a dress suit with a tailor's advertisement on the back.  The heiress pretends to return his eggs to him, but really substitutes real eggs, which are hatched when he opens his valise in the government office.  This is a fair comedy.  No eggs are thrown.
    In The Cook (1918), Roscoe Arbuckle takes the time to juggle an egg and bounce it off the floor during his preparation of an omelet.


    Stan Laurel steals a few eggs in Huns and Hyphens (1918).

    The tropical island comedy Robinson Crusoe Ltd. (1921) featured an ostrich that consumes blasting powder and then, as a consequence of its inappropriate feed, produces a batch of exploding eggs.  The film's star, Lloyd Hamilton, finds this new type of explosive highly useful to warding off hungry cannibals.

    An egg figured prominently in a review of The Counter Hopper (1922) that was published in Exhibitors Trade Review on December 9, 1922.
    Instead of "The Counter Jumper" Larry Semon might have named his comedy something like "The Walking Egg."  For it is an egg with a protruding pair of legs, much resembling those ordinarily associated with a frog, that provides the larger element of mirth in this Vitagraph release.

    The Navigator (1924)

    Charley Bowers demonstrated an obsession with eggs.  Take, for instances, Bowers'Egged On (1926), in which Charley is so unhappy about having an egg broken on his head that he sets out to develop an unbreakable egg.  Mark Bourne wrote of the film's climax, "[A] basket of chicken eggs, warmed on the engine of a Model T Ford, hatch open — and out pour a gaggle of tiny Model T's that unfold like origami and trundle around mama Ford until she snuggles them beneath her chassis."


    Then we have Now You Tell One (1926).  Bourne wrote:
    Bowers takes the prize as an inventor botanist who has developed a potion that will "graft anything."  So through impressive "Bowers Process" effects, we're treated to witty gags worthy of a Tex Avery cartoon, such as an eggplant tree that sprouts hardboiled eggs complete with salt shaker.
    Matthew Ross, author of The Lost Laugh blog, wrote about Bowers'Say Ah-h! (1928):
    Charley accidentally spills cement into the ostrich feed, producing an egg which cannot be broken.  With the feed ruined, Charley improvises by grinding down anything he can get his hands on: cushions, feather dusters, a broom, etc.  After dining on this hearty concoction, the ostrich produces an egg which hatches to produce two miniature animated ostriches, made from collars, feather dusters and collars.
    Notice the "egg shampoo" feature on the control board of Charley's latest invention in A Wild Roomer (1926).

    In The Better 'Ole (1926), a hungry soldier played by Sydney Chaplin steals an egg from a feisty mother hen.  Wikipedia reported:
    After some back and forth jousting, Bill eventually gets the egg and puts it in his pocket. . . Bill [later] realizes that the egg in his pocket had broken and he gets up and walks outside, shaking his leg as he goes, feeling the contents running down his pants leg.  When Bill reaches into his pocket where he'd put the egg, he extracts a baby chick.
    Buster Keaton juggles an egg while preparing an egg cream in College (1927).


    Ben Turpin gives a man an egg shampoo.

    In The Blue Angel (1930), a magician (Kurt Gerron) uses sleight of hand to make it seem as if he produced an egg out of thin air.


    In Our Gang's Mush and Milk (1933), Dickie is annoyed when Spanky interrupts his efforts to milk a cow.  He snaps, "Go sit on an egg, willya?"  Spanky takes the instruction literally.


    The Country Hospital (1932)


    In Dirty Work (1933), a mad scientist who has been experimenting in age regression drops a duckling into a vat of water.  Stan and Ollie watches warily as the scientist adds his new formula to the water and the duckling is instantly transformed into an egg.


    Stan and Ollie employ eggs in a ploy to shanghai sailors in The Live Ghost (1934).

    In Baby Face Harrington (1935), Charles Butterworth embarrasses his wife (Uma Merkel) at a high society party when his awkward efforts to perform a magic trick with an egg result in the appalling splattering of egg yolk.

    The greatest egg routine of all time can be found in Hollywood Party (1934), in which Laurel and Hardy wage an egg battle with Lupe Vélez. 


    The duo found eggs to be useful weapons again in Tit for Tat (1935).


    The Hollywood Party scene was recreated by Laurel and Hardy in The Bullfighters (1945).


    Who Done It? (1942) 

    "Hey, Chick, throw me an egg!"


    Much like Lloyd Hamilton, the Three Stooges were able to defeat foes with explosive eggs in Flat Foot Stooges (1938). . .


    . . . and The Yoke's on Me (1944).

    In Loco Boy Makes Good (1942), Curly's turn on the dance floor is interrupted when his magician's coat produces an unwanted egg.


    Larry climbs the tree to grab eggs from a bird's nest in G.I. Wanna Home (1946).


    An egg in the face is far more discomforting and humiliating than a pie in the face.

    In I'm a Monkey's Uncle (1948), the Stooges defend themselves from attackers by catapulting a bird's nest filled with eggs.


    Listen, Judge (1952)

    Flagpole Jitters (1956)

    It always looked to me as if Warren Oates got hit in the face with a frying pan of hot eggs in The Outer Limits episode "The Mutant."

    Daffy Duck was evidently inspired by The Great Albini in The Henpecked Duck (1941).  While his wife is away, Daffy is entrusted with caring for the couple's egg.  The playful duck is going through a juggling act with the egg when he suddenly loses sight of his little offspring.

    In So You Want to Keep Your Hair (1946), Joe McDoakes searches in vain for any cure that will halt his fast-disappearing hairline.  He considers an egg shampoo.

    The Egg and I (1947) 

    Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert,
     Kirk Douglas demonstrates a talent for juggling eggs in The Juggler (1953).

    Audrey Hepburn learns the proper way to crack an egg in Sabrina (1954).

    Blue Angel (1959)

    The Dennis the Menace episode "Dennis' Obligation" (1961) found Dennis taking great care to assure the proper care and incubation of his eggs.  Other series, including Our Miss Brooks, Meet Mister McNutley and The Real McCoys, used this same premise during this period.  This might have spoke to Baby Boom parents, who were committed to caring for their own little ones.  

    Bewitched ("It's Magic," 1965)


    The Green Acres episode "A Square is Not Round" (1966) finds Mr. Douglas upset that his hens are laying square eggs.

    Donald Pleasence juggles eggs in Cul-de-sac (1966).  Jordan Young, who is working on a book on Cul-de-sac, inspired this article based on this scene.  Thank you, Jordan.


    Batman and Robin are drawn into an egg fight with Egghead (Vincent Price) in the Batman episode "The Yegg Foes in Gotham" (1966).

    Cool Hand Luke (1967)

    Dean Jones discovers a duck that can lay golden eggs in The Million Dollar Duck (1971).

    Coluche, a novice clown, practices his juggling skills in L'Aile ou la cuisse (1976).

    Leslie Nielsen attends to a sick woman in Airplane! (1980).

    Mork (Robin Williams) laid an egg on Mork and Mindy ("Three the Hard Way," 1981).

    In Ödipussi (1987), three construction workers unwind during their lunch break by juggling eggs.

    Married with Children ("What Goes Around Came Around," 1990)

    "This is your brains.  This is your brain on marriage."  He slams the egg on the floor.  "Any questions?"

    Albert Finney juggles eggs while making breakfast in The Green Man (1990).

    Eggs (1995)

    Yahoo Serious in Mr. Accident (2000)

    An egg helps a soccer player to refine his skills in Shaolin Soccer (2001).   

    This screen capture is from an episode of Everybody Hates Chris called "Everybody Hates Eggs" (2007).  For a class project, Chris has to take care of an egg as if it were a baby.

    An egg is part of an experiment in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, "The Proton Resurgence" (2013).

    Let us close with a bit of egg juggling.

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  • 10/07/16--11:37: An Idle Man

  • In the last few months, I have fallen victim to that most terrible of vices - laziness.  I have nine unfinished articles that I need my attention, but I have been unwilling or unable to put forth the energy to get them done.  It is a phenomenon that I have come to call "plonking."  I plonk the unfinished article into a folder and then I promptly forgot about it.  Perhaps, I am simply burned out from years of hard work and my sudden laziness is my body's way to take a much-needed rest.

    In my childhood, my mother made a point to instill a strong work ethic into me.  My mother lectured me at every opportunity about the importance of hard work.  It was never a delicate lecture.  It usually centered on the idea that a person has a responsibility to "get off their ass," or "break their ass," or "work their ass off."  A person's ass was, in one way or another, an important element to this valuable set of work principles.  Ass + Effort = Work Ethic.  It is the reason that I have never in my life been afraid of hard work.  But getting older means slowing down.

    My decline began when I developed back problems two years ago.  This past summer, my back was hurting me more than usual.  The pain limited my physical activities.  I sometimes let my home become more than a little dusty because cleaning requires constant bending and kneeling, which triggers the worst possible pain.  The most important goal in my life has become to avoid the pain. 

    Nonetheless, I have committed myself now to getting my ass in gear.  So, expect to see more articles soon.

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  • 10/09/16--09:02: Good Reading

  • Let me share a few good articles that I read recently.

    Ivan Shreve explores the history of a short-lived RKO comedy series, "The Blondes and the Redheads."

    June Brewster of "The Blondes and the Redheads."
    Trav S. D. takes a look at slapstick sailors in films.

    Abbott and Costello in In the Navy (1941)
    Peter Reitan writes about Irish comedians of early vaudeville.

    Lea Stans examines the imaginative filmmaking style of Segundo De Chomon.

    Segundo de chomon's Ah! La Barbe (1905)
    Animator Jonathan Lyons explains the nature of "funny anger."

    Lyons also finds humor in eating.

    John Towsen is an exceptional authority on the history of comedy.  Let me bring to your attention three of Mr. Towsen's recent articles.  First, we have an article on the acrobatic chase scenes that climaxed the nineteenth century English pantomime shows.

    Next, we have an article about Foottit & Chocolat, groundbreaking circus clowns that performed together in France from 1895 to 1910.

    People are interested in the team today because Chocolat, also known as Rafael Padilla, was one of the first black entertainers to achieve celebrity in France.  Padilla was the subject of a recent biopic, Chocolat (2015).

    Comic tumbling is discussed in the third article.

    Towsen's new book "How Many Surrealists Does It Take to Screw in a Lightbulb? or, Why did the Intellectual Cross the Road and Walk into a Bar?" is available on Amazon.

    I am now off to swab my kitchen floor.  Have a good day, everyone.

    Collinson & Dean

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  • 10/09/16--09:17: Film Images from the 1920s

  • I want to thank Tamara Flynn for the photos used in this article.

    Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman take a break during filming of The General (1926).

    Ben Turpin is at the ready as a tough old sheriff.

    A revenge plot brings together gangsters and spiritualists in The Hole in the Wall (1929).  The photo below features, from left to right, Barry Macollum, Edward G. Robinson, Nellie Savage, Donald Meek and Alan Brooks.

    Manslaughter (1922), directed by Cecil B DeMille, involves a young society woman (Leatrice Joy) whose reckless driving brings about the death of a motorcycle cop (Jack Mower).

    Here is a clip from the film.

    Tamara provided me with several bathing beauty photos that she received from Jim G. Davis.

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    I offer today a pictorial tribute to Victor McLaglen and Edmund Lowe, who appeared together as rowdy and wisecracking rivals in a series of feature comedies from 1926 to 1942.

    What Price Glory? (1926, Fox)

    The Cock-eyed World (1929, Fox)


    Women of All Nations (1931, Fox)

    Guilty as Hell (1932, Paramount)

     Hot Pepper (1933, Fox)

    No More Women (1934, Paramount) 

    The Great Hotel Murder (1935, Fox)

    Under Pressure (1935, Fox)

    Call Out the Marines (1942, RKO)

    Lowe and McLaglen had cameo roles in three films - Happy Days (1929), The Stolen Jools (1931) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956).   The images below are fromthe steamship segment of Around the World in Eighty Days.  When the steamship runs out of coal, the engineer (Lowe) and the helmsman (McLaglen) stoke the ship's furnace with kindling wood gathered from doors and furniture.


    Fox planned to feature Lowe and McLaglen in the 1932 crime drama Disorderly Conduct, but a dispute arose in regards to pay and the studio replaced the actors with Spencer Tracy and Ralph Bellamy.

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    Ken Levine, who lent his many talents to creating classic episodes of M*A*S*H, Cheers and Frasier, brought up the caught-in-an-elevator comedy trope in a recent article. He wrote:
    It's a comedy staple and I've resorted to it many times.  People trapped in an elevator. I've written scenes using that premise, directed scenes using that premise, and in improv class I've performed that scene almost as many times as "two people meet on a blind date".
    Hey, it works.  You can get two people together who otherwise wouldn't be and place them in a highly stressful situation that they can't escape and could lead to a complete emotional and physical breakdown.  What could be more fun than that?

    You got panic jokes, claustrophobia jokes, indigestion jokes (always a crowd pleaser!), trying to be stoic, pleading with God, and don't forget those million-dollar sight gags.  Attempting to open elevator doors or climb through the ceiling.  Throw in a pregnant woman going into labor and no air conditioning and you've got comedy GOLD my friend!!!
    I wrote about these scenes before.  My article references an ample number of elevator scenes, but a few elevators scenes were overlooked in my research at the time.  Let me now bring those scenes to light.

    Night Court
    used the trope twice.  First, it came up in the 1984 episode "The Blizzard."  This time, the twist is that womanizer Dan Fielding (John Larroquette) finds it distressing to be trapped in an elevator with a gay man.

    The writers must have decided that no one would notice they were recycling the elevator idea when they used it again six years later in the 1990 episode "The Blues of the Birth."  This time, one of the people trapped in the elevator is a pregnant woman who suddenly goes into labor.

    How I Met Your Mother ("Mom and Dad," 2013)

    John Lithgow and Frances Conroy
    Frasier ("Perspectives On Christmas," 1997)

    Niles is crowded into an elevator with an unpleasant assortment of people and an oversized Christmas tree. 


    Moonlighting ("Between a Yuk and a Hard Place, 1988)  


    Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) and David (Bruce Willis) have been avoiding each other since Maddie suffered a miscarriage of their baby.  Their friend, Agnes (Allyce Beasley), arranges for the couple to be stuck together alone in an elevator to force them to talk about the baby's death.

    Burnistoun, a Scottish sketch comedy series, provided a funny alternative to the standard trapped-in-an-elevator routine.

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  • 10/10/16--08:22: The Unreality of Movie Money
  • The Brink's Job (1978)
    It has always bothered me that money can look so fake in old movies.  I can accept a fake baby in a scene more than I can accept fake money.  Look at this scene from 13 Ghosts (1960).  It seems silly for these people to get so excited over bills that no sighted merchant could possibly believe are real.

    The scene really got me thinking about this subject.
    Chris Tucker shows his love of money in Rush Hour 2 (2001).
    In 2000, a film crew got together to stage an explosion at a Las Vegas casino for Rush Hour 2 (2001).

    You see the fake bills floating through the air?  Extras and passersby stuffed these bills into their pockets and tried later to pass off the bills as legal tender throughout town.  Zachary Crockett of Priceonomics website wrote, "Secret Service agents glided in, swiftly detained somewhere north of $100 million worth of prop money, then accused the prop maker - Independent Studio Services (ISS) - of counterfeiting, and ordered a cease and desist on all of their faux cash."

    Fred Reed compiled the history of movie money in a 2005 book, "Show Me the Money."  Reed found that the earliest known film to make money part of the action was Cockfight (1894).

    A brief history of movie money was provided by Crockett as follows:
    [J]ust as film began to flourish in the early 1900s, counterfeiting crimes rose; as a precaution, Federal laws were enacted that barred the use of real currency in full-scale photography.  Studios found a replacement in 1920: when the Mexican Revolution ended, vast quantities of Mexican currency, rendered worthless by the war, were acquired by Hollywood producers and used in lieu of U.S. tender.  When the supply of these notes diminished a decade later, studios began replicating other Mexican currencies.  By the 1960s, this crude prop money was in widespread use.

    Gradually, prop houses in Hollywood began sensing producers' demands for more believable U.S. currency, and a new era of movie money was born.  Between 1970 to 2000, nearly 270 types and 2,000 sub-varieties of movie money were produced for Hollywood's use.
    According to the Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992, the money used in film production must be significantly larger or significantly smaller than real money, it must be a different color than real money, and it can only be one-sided.

    Gregg Bilson Jr., the CEO of Independent Studio Services, does whatever it takes to produce believable movie money without getting himself arrested for counterfeiting.  He said that, if you get a good look at his bills, you'll see that they look "pretty god awful."  He pointed out that the writing on his bills include the phrase "In Dog We Trust."  He believes that he still has an obligation to make the bills look real on screen even if it means skirting the law.  He said, "Honestly, if you followed their instructions, you may as well use Monopoly money.  Feature films demand a certain bar of quality, so everyone is asked to break law in a sense by making prop money."

    The manufacturers of prop money are always busy in Hollywood.  It's raining money in crime films.  The climax of the original Rush Hour (1998) had an even bigger money shower than its Las Vegas sequel.


    Other films have had their own showers.

    Peter Sellers and Ian Carmichael in I'm All Right Jack (1959)
    Queen Latifah, Diane Keaton and Katie Holmes in Mad Money (2008)
    Robert Downey Jr.
    Owen Wilson in Masterminds (2016)
     In films, a person will sleep like a baby in a bed filled with money.
    Lavell Crawford and Bill Burr in Breaking Bad ("Buried," 2013)
    Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw in The Getaway (1972)
    Money turns up in films in all sorts of places.

    Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad
    Phil Collins in Buster (1988)
    Don Cheadle and Chris Tucker in Rush Hour 2 (2001)
    The Hangover (2009)
    The Other Wife (2016)
    Masterminds (2016)
    Crockett wrote, "Today, [Bilson] manufactures stacks of blank paper, then tops them with one real hundred-dollar bill - a practice that is permitted legally."

    Robert Downey Jr.

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    Bert Lahr was neurotic about other comedians stealing his material.  I wrote in a previous article about Lahr threatening to sue Warner Brothers because he believed that Joe E. Brown copied his style of mannerisms in Hold Everything (1930).  A tenacious lawsuit, a threat of a lawsuit and just plain harassment arose in later situations in which Lahr perceived that his material had been stolen.

    In 1934, Lahr starred in a popular musical revue called "Life Begins at 8:40."  The comedian received raves for his performance.  Critics singled out Lahr's work in the musical number "Things" and a sketch called "A Day at the Brokers." Lahr always contributed a good deal to the material that he was given.  Writers admired the comedian for using his many unique talents, including his line deliveries, gestures and facial expressions, to elevate their dialogue and situations.  The music for "Things" was written by Harold Arlen and the lyrics were written by E. Y. Harburg and Ira Gershwin.  Arlen said, "[Lahr] fussed and fumed and was frustrated, and extemporized to get gimmicks into 'Things'—for instance, his toupee falling a certain way.  It was an endless game for him, until he finally got as many laughs as possible out of it."  Lahr's son John agreed that his father's special touches were evident throughout the act.  He indicated that he made the toupee an important element of his performance.  He wrote, "Lahr came on stage in a tuxedo and sporting a brown hairpiece that brought his hairline, like a dorsal fin, to an abrupt point on his forehead.  A piano player sat beside him, elegantly poised for the recital."  The inelegance of the toupee comically contrasted the elegant aspects that otherwise defined the recital.

    Bert Lahr sings "Things" in "Life Begins at 8:40."
    Here is Brad Oscar singing "Things."

    Milton Berle was booked to replace Lahr in a road tour of "Life Begins at 8:40."  Berle's success in the play was a great boost to his career.  Critics made a point to praise Berle for his work in "A Day at the Brokers."  Lahr resented this.  The broker sketch was his sketch.  It was he, with his various gimmicks, who had spun comic gold out of the sketch.  Berle, he believed, did nothing more than copy his gimmicks.  One wonders if he made use of Lahr's dorsal fin toupee.  Lahr reportedly sent Berle a telegram that read, "Thanks for doing me."

    Karin Adir, the author of "The Great Clowns of American Television," wrote:
    [This] marked the beginning of a longstanding feud between the famed "Cowardly Lion" and the brash young comic, occasioned for the most part by Lahr's jealousies and insecurities.  It was simply fate that, as far as versatility was concerned, both comedians had much in common, and a lot of material Lahr performed was tailored for Berle's talents as well.  Lahr took it personally and never forgave his replacement in "Life Begins at 8:40."
    But it got worse.  Berle was in consideration to play the lead role in RKO's New Faces of 1937.  When he was asked to make a screen test, he decided to perform the broker scene.  "The test was good," he said.  It was good enough for the producers to put Berle in the film and also buy the rights to fit the broker scene into the story.  

    The scene became a highlight of the film and lead to Berle being considered by RKO for other films.  For a time, he was in consideration to star opposite The Marx Brothers in Room Service (1938).  As it turned out, RKO cast Berle and Jack Oakie to star in Radio City Revels (1938).  Margarita Landazuri, a contributor to the TCM website, wrote, "[New Faces of 1937] features a classic Berle vaudeville skit, a hilarious stockbroker routine that's full of the shtick that would become his trademark as a television performer."  So, the broker sketch, which Lahr saw as his sketch, established Berle as a nationally recognized star.

    David Sterritt, a contributor to the TCM website, wrote:
    [Berle] was ticklish about the issue as late as 1975, when his memoir was published.  Remarking on a Bert Lahr sketch that he reprised in the RKO musical New Faces of 1937, Berle stressed that the producer had bought rights to the routine from its author.  "I said words that Bert Lahr had first said on a stage," Berle wrote, "but they were David Freedman's words, and their use had been paid for.  Yet I heard grumblings and lousy remarks that Bert Lahr was making about me for stealing the sketch from him."
    Berle did not hold a grudge against Lahr.  When he was contracted to star in Always Leave Them Laughing (1949), he got the producers to hire Lahr for a key supporting role.  The film involved a comedian who achieves success by stealing an older comedian's act.  Lahr was to play the older comedian.  Did Berle recognize the irony?  Presumably, Berle arranged Lahr's casting as a peace offering, but it was obvious throughout the film's production that no peace was to be found.  In the end, the film only increased the tensions between the two comedians. 

    Lahr signed a contract to work five weeks but he found on his arrival in Hollywood that he had been almost written out of the picture.  He said, "When I got there, there was hardly a thing for me to do.  I made one appearance as the cop in my old cop act, and that was only included as a plot point, to show audiences how I worked so that Berle could copy me."

    Bert Lahr and Virginia Mayo perform the "cop act" in Always Leave Them Laughing (1949).
     John Lahr wrote in "Notes on a Cowardly Lion":
    The script was rewritten to give Lahr a song and a sentimental scene where the old comic shows the young one how to be professional.  Off camera, the same struggle was taking place.  [Lahr said,] "Berle was watching the picture very carefully - it was his picture."  This attitude led to conflicts.  The first was the day in which Lahr's "sentimental scene" in the hospital took place.  "We shot all morning.  I came in early to see what I was going to do.  I look out by the camera, and there is Berle.  He stayed there all morning watching my scene.  I was so upset I blew my lines.  The only way that it got into the picture was that I convinced him there were no laughs in the scene.  I don't think he knew the difference at the time.  It's just as much value getting interest and sympathy as it is to get laughs."

    In another scene, where Lahr and Berle did a song and dance routine together.  Berle protested and almost brought the two performers to blows.    "When we were doing this song and dance together, I had on a Sulka tie with a little design in it.  Berle objected to the tie because he said I was trying to take attention away from him."  Lahr capitulated, but the experience remained "one of the most unpleasant situations I've ever had in pictures."
    Lahr was angrier than ever.

    Berle discussed the matter with writer Mark Evanier.  Evanier recalled Berle saying:
    [I]t was my idea to cast Lahr as the older comic.  I thought he'd be great in the part and he was.  He was a terrific comedian and actor.  However, after the film came out, Lahr was suddenly telling everyone that I tried to cut him out of the picture, that I ruined his best scenes.  Bert's son wrote a book about him [Notes on a Cowardly Lion] in which he repeated these charges.  They're bull but don't take my word for it.  Read the book. See what Lahr said about the movie and what he says I did.  Then watch the movie.  It's on The Late, Late Show every ten minutes.  You'll see that Lahr is terrific in that movie.  Yeah, one or two of his scenes hit the cutting room floor.  Ten or fifteen of mine got cut. Scenes get cut out of every movie.  But you watch the movie and see if Lahr isn't great and if I'm not supporting him in every scene we have together, letting him be great.  He's got this great dying scene and I could have horned in on it, had them cut away to my reactions more and stuck in a lot of dialogue for my character but I didn't.  Because it was Bert's scene and it worked best to let it be his scene.  But like I said, don't take my word for it.  Read the book, watch the movie and if you believe I tried to hurt his performance, then all the things they say about me must be true.  I will stake my reputation on that.

    Lewis Hardee wrote in The Lamb's Theatre Club:
    The great comedian Bert Lahr loathed the great comedian Milton Berle. . . [Lahr] repeatedly blackballed Berle for membership [in The Lamb's Theatre Club].  During one of Lahr's absences in 1954, Berle was finally admitted.  This enraged the Cowardly Lion, who quit the club.  (As savvy Mike Mearian said, "He was resigning all the time."). Tom Dillon (later shepherd) understood how much Lahr loved the Lambs, gathered a delegation, headed to Sardi's where Lahr was hanging out, and coaxed him back into the fold.
    Let us take a look at a television commercial from 1958. The commercial was broadcast nationwide for a cleaning product called Lestoil.

    As you might have noticed, the cartoon duck speaks an awful lot like Lahr.  The voice was provided by comedian Sid Raymond.  It is unknown how long this commercial aired or at one point Lahr saw it, but the comedian did finally get around to filing a lawsuit against the product manufacturer, Adell Chemical Company, and the commercial producer, Robert Lawrence Productions, in 1961.  He demanded $500,000 from the defendants for their "misappropriation" of his "creative talent" and "trading upon his fame and renown."  The defendants argued that Lahr had waited too long to sue them.  This argument prevailed in the lower court, but the argument was not sufficient to deny Lahr the right of appeal.  The suit was ultimately settled out of court.

    In 1962, Lahr threatened to file a similar lawsuit in regards to yet another cartoon character that mimicked his vocal delivery to hawk products on television.  The character, voiced by Daws Butler, was Snagglepuss, who was introduced in 1959 on Hanna-Barbera's The Quick Draw McGraw Show.

    Lahr threatened to sue Kellogg's, Hanna-Barbera and Screen Gems (the distributor of Hanna-Barbera's cartoons).  Martin, a commenter on the Cartoon Research blog, explained the outcome of the situation ideally, "Lahr did some saber-rattling. . . Given the circumstances, Kellogg's and company were, for obvious reasons, inclined to come to terms with him, too."  This is the reason that the Cocoa Krispies commercials featured the printed line: "Snagglepuss voice by Daws Butler."

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  • 10/10/16--11:07: Tidbits for October, 2016

  • I have accumulated a large collection of tidbits for the month.  Let me not waste time getting to our first item of the day.  It has to do with the legendary and unstoppable mirror routine.

    In this first clip, the mirror routine is provided in dance form by Alexandre Desplat's "The Mirror."

    Here is proof that the mirror routine appeals to us on the most fundamental level.

    Bruce Campbell engages in the mirror routine with a faux shadow on Ash vs. Evil Dead ("Home," 2016).

    Like the film series that preceded it, the Evil Dead television series features Campbell performing old-fashioned slapstick comedy.

    While browsing through the Cinemagraphe website, I came across this screen capture of Harold Lloyd performing the mirror routine in Marathon (1919). 

    I cannot talk about the mirror routine without acknowledging the most famous rendition.

    Warren Hymer, Weldon Heyburn and Asta provide food-stuck-on-the-ceiling comedy in Sea Racketeers (1937).  

    The clip is from Shiksa Ravelli's Warren Hymer Fan Club page on Facebook. 

    I wrote about a sticky collection of pies and pancakes hanging off ceilings in The Funny Parts.  The earliest version of this business that I could find was featured in a 1934 Andy Clyde comedy called In the Dog House

    The Three Stooges recreated this gag on three occasions.  First, it turned up in a breakfast scene at the opening of Movie Maniacs (1936).  Curly is having trouble flipping a pancake that has become stuck in the pan.  He applies greater force to jar the pancake loose, but he doesn't notice that he has launched the pancake into the air and it has become stuck to the ceiling. 


    The gooey consistency of the pancake fails to provide a secure hold.


    A pie replaces a pancake when the Stooges returned to the gag in Half-Wits Holiday (1947).  This time, Moe is trying to make a good impression at a high society party.  He is desperate to get rid of a pie that Curly has stolen off a banquet table.  He tosses away the pie, which becomes stuck to the ceiling.  Footage from this scene was later recycled in Pest Man Wins (1951) and Pies and Guys (1958).

    Moe repeats the gag one last time with a pancake in Wham-Bam-Slam! (1955).


    I got this great image of Lloyd Hamilton from Ed Watz.

    Thank you, Ed.

    The following clip was posted to Facebook by Jonathan M. Smith.  It is a faithful rendition of the classic "Crazy House" sketch that was excerpted from a 1951 burlesque revue film called French Follies.

    The lead comedian in the scene is Bob Carney.  Twenty years earlier, Carney had been the slim and handsome star of the "Checker Comedies" series for Pathé.

    Roddy McDowall takes greed, arrogance and hatred to a parricidal level in Rod Serling's Night Gallery (1969).  The actor is so entertainingly gleeful and flamboyant in his villainy that it would be hard not to be charmed by him.


     The highlight of his performance is the deliciously vindictive way that calls out the name of his disapproving servant Osmond Portifoy.  Each syllable trips off McDowall's tongue with a thick and slick coating of rancid honey.

    This video came from a YouTube channel hosted by JGonspy.

    I wrote an article five years ago about decapitation comedy.  I regret having overlooked this cringe-worthy act of a mistaken beheading from Blackadder ("The Foretelling," 1983).

    Chris Schneider noted after reading my "Reflections in a Soap Bubble" article that soap suds played a role in a couple of Hollywood musical numbers.  First, dancers glide through a mountain of soap suds in the "Beauty" number of Ziegfeld Follies (1946).  The lovely singer is Kathryn Grayson. 

    Second, sudsy pink shampoo is on prominent display in the "Think Pink" number of Stanley Donen's Funny Face (1957).

    I am always grateful to people who contribute to this site.  Thank you, Chris.

    This clip from New Faces of 1937 (1937) features Harry Einstein and Joe Penner.  Penner was a man-child comedian who, both chronologically and stylistically, fell somewhere between Harry Langdon and Lou Costello.


    Charles Coburn and Jean Arthur room together during a housing shortage in The More the Merrier (1943).

    Meet Eddie Foy Sr. and his family of little vaudeville stars.

    Childish dictators Charlie Chaplin and Jack Oakie are about to engage in a food fight in The Great Dictator (1940).

    I examine this scene in my comic man-child study I Won't Grow Up!.

    On a number of occasions, I have discussed the stock routine of a comedian lifting and carrying an unconscious women.  Take for instance Buster Keaton struggling to lift an unconscious Charlotte Greenwood in Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931).

    In his later years, Keaton performed this routine on stage with his wife, Eleanor.


    Boeing, Boeing (1965) furnished yet another example of the carrying an unconscious woman routine.  The actors are Tony Curtis, Christiane Schmidtmer and Thelma Ritter.

    Later, Jerry Lewis becomes involved.

    The scene figures into the movie poster except, curiously, the poster shows Schmidtmer wide awake and laughing as Curtis hauls her around.

    This photo was posted on Facebook by Cheryl Middleton Peterson.

    As silent film comedy fans know, the man in the top hat is comedy star Snub Pollard.  The small boy to the far right is Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison, who was Pollard's sidekick at the time.

    In a number of films, Pollard and Morrison functioned as a finely coordinated comedy team.


    You can read more about Morrison at the following links:

    A grown-up Morrison is about to be frightened by Bela Lugosi in Ghosts on the Loose (1943).

    I wrote about the meat freezer routine in an earlier article.  I have recently come across three other examples of frosty comedians.  First, Harold Lloyd becomes trapped in refrigerated boxcar in Professor Beware (1938).

    Then, in The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), Inspector Clouseau's manservant Cato Fong (Burt Kwouk) arranges one of his surprise ninja attacks by hiding in an icy refrigerator.

    Steven Martin and John Candy ride in the back of a refrigerated truck in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987).

    A few ice crystals on the face or clothing is always effective.

    Julian Barratt in The Mighty Boosh ("Tundra," 2004)

    Jimmie Adams has retrieved Ann Christy's new dress from a brawny blacksmith in No Sparking (1927).

    Harold Lloyd's clock stunt from Safety Last! (1923) is recreated with Sylvester Stallone to publicize John Landis' 1991 gangster comedy Oscar.

    Here we have the original leads of "The Odd Couple" - Art Carney and Walter Matthau.


    Shemp Howard is strangely unaware of the gorilla looking over his shoulder.

    Marion Davies encounters The Keystone Cops in a 1928 publicity photo.

    Eileen Sedgwick was a dauntless heroine in the 1921 serial The Diamond Queen.

    Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams and David Zucker were great at highlighting the absurdities of popular entertainment.

    The Egg Trick

    The Big Phone

    As I pointed out in a recent article, eggs are always good for a laugh.

    Let us end today with a photo of a bathing beauty.

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  • 10/10/16--22:42: Pack Up Your Troubles!

  • Comedy can be unpacked from a standard travel bag, including a suitcase, a trunk, a duffel bag or a backpack.  Filmmakers realized this fact early on.

    Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton and in The Bell Boy (1918)
    Bebe Daniels and Harold Lloyd
     Many films have derived humor from a suitcase filled with money, or a suitcase filled with jewels, or a suitcase filled with a variety of other valuables.  At times, comedy films have revolved around a suitcase packed with explosives.  It took a 1916 Cub comedy, Going Up, to combine both types of suitcases.  Here is a plot summary provided by Motography:
    Two mysterious individuals, Blouie and Zowie, with a suitcase full of money, fall prey to Jerry [George Ovey].  The suitcase with the money and another which contains explosives, get mixed frequently, the latter case, however, being in the hands of Jerry's enemies when it explodes and blows up the ship.
    A suitcase bomb played a key role in the 1961 Romanian comedy S-a furat o bomba (A Bomb was Stolen).

    The suitcase bomb premise has been escalated in recent years.  Big Trouble (2002) centers around a suitcase that contains a nuclear warhead.

    Jason Lee and Stanley Tucci in Big Trouble (2002)
    A criminal gang gets into trouble after robbing a suitcase filled with money in the 1959 Italian comedy Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti (known in the United States as Fiasco in Milan).

    The Fiasco in Milan robbers are, from left to right, Renato Salvatori, Tiberio Murgia, Carlo Pisacane and Nino Manfredi.
    Robbers Walter Chiari and Gianni Cavina make off with a suitcase filled with money in Passi Furtivi In Una Notte Boia (1976).

    Stanley Kubrick's tense, grim crime drama The Killing (1956), which also involves a suitcase stuffed with loot, ends in a way that could be viewed as tragic or comic.

    Virtually the same ending was used for decidedly comic effect in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). 


    It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is widely regarded as the best money-in-a-suitcase film ever made.

    We have a similar scene in Rush Hour (1998). 

    A bulky suitcase, with its portability and soft stuffing, is a perfect prop for a comedian looking to create playful slapstick mayhem.  Just lift it by the handle and slam it on your foe's head.  Or, you can lift it, draw it back, and pitch it across the room.  The ideal way to pitch a suitcase is demonstrated by Billie Ritchie in A Twilight Baby (1920).  Ritchie is desperate to leave town before his aggrieved rival (Lloyd Hamilton) arrives at his home to deliver a black-and-blue comeuppance.  He packs his suitcase at a furious pace.  When he grabs the handle of the suitcase and spins himself towards the exit, he loses hold of the suitcase, which hurtles across the room and clobbers his slow-witted son (Charles Dorety) in the head.

    Lupino Lane struggles to pack a suitcase in A Friendly Husband (1923).  The comedian crams an overabundance of clothing into his suitcase before having to strain and fuss to squeeze the lid shut.  Just when he believes he has gotten the job done, the suitcase springs open and propels its contents into his face.

    The packing of a suitcase has been a standard premise for a comedy routine.  Take a look at his suitcase-packing routine from Mr. Bean ("Mr Bean Rides Again," 1992).

    Sidney Smith, who has been evicted from his apartment, has packed up his belongings and now considers snuffing out his life in Out Bound (1924).

    Jobyna Ralston and Harold Lloyd hope the train conductor won't learn they've hidden a dog in their suitcase in Girl Shy (1924)

    Tourist Phil Dunham is startled when Paris gendarmes confiscate his suitcases in Night Owls (1927).

    Buster Keaton has arrived in town with a grip and a ukulele in Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928).

    In The Cocoanuts (1929), Chico and Harpo arrive at a hotel with empty luggage in the hope they can fill the luggage with guests' belongings.

    Buster Keaton is stopped from making a quick exit by André Luguetin in the Spanish language version of Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931).

    Carole Lombard is traveling from Chicago to New York City in Twentieth Century (1934).

    Groucho Marx, who never knows when he might have to quickly slip out of town, makes sure that his luggage is always close at hand in A Night at the Opera (1935).


    The Marx Brothers use suitcases as props in a gag photo.

    The Three Stooges used similar suitcases for a gag photo during the same period.

    Harold Lloyd and Lionel Stander are fellow travelers in Professor Beware (1938).

    Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy hide a woman in a trunk in Blockheads (1938).

    Laurel and Hardy get lost carrying a trunk and other luggage through a vast hedge maze in A Chump at Oxford (1940).


    This scene from Abbott and Costello's Hold That Ghost (1941) features one of my favorite suitcase gags.  

    But Abbott and Costello performed the all-time best suitcase routine in a later film, Hit the Ice (1943).  It is their classic "Pack/Unpack" routine.


    The Three Stooges struggle as bellboys in Idle Roomers (1944).

    Jimmy Stewart is looking for a roomy and durable suitcase for his intended world travels in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).

     The suitcase represents his dreams.  The merchant calls it his "magic carpet."

    Sig Ruman is unaware that the Marx Brothers are sneaking around his hotel suite as he packs for a trip in A Night in Casablanca (1946).

    The Marx Brothers have a camel to help them transport their luggage in Casablanca.

    Abbott and Costello are employed as baggage clerks in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

    Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Marie Wilson and Diana Lynn are unhappy travelers in My Friend Irma (1949).

    Joe E. Brown helps Jack Lemmon with his luggage in Some Like It Hot (1959).

    Wally (Tony Dow) and Beaver (Jerry Mathers) are on their way to visit Aunt Martha on Leave It to Beaver ("Train Trip," 1958).

    Suitcases were to be expected in this stewardess comedy Come Fly with Me (1963).

    Bill Dana lugged numerous suitcases during the 1963-1965 run of The Bill Dana Show.


    Robert Redford unpacks his luggage after returning from his honeymoon in Barefoot in the Park (1967)

    In Oscar (1967), Bertrand Barnier (Louis de Funès) has arranged to exchange a black suitcase that contains diamonds with a black suitcase that contains millions of francs.

    Here is the suitcase with the diamonds.

    Here is the suitcase with the money.

    A simple transaction, right?

    The problem is that a third black suitcase filled women's clothing repeatedly gets mixed up with the other suitcases.

    Bertrand is desperate to get his hands on the money to pay debts.

    He becomes frantic and desperate while chasing after the three suitcases.

    An evil fate has caused the man to be dogged by farcical mix-ups.  This is a point in the film that he has his money.  He is ecstatic.

    But he doesn't hold onto the money for long.  Throughout the story, he suffers multiple breakdowns.  Here's one.


    Here's another.


    Bertrand is still chasing after the suitcase of francs when the film ends.

    Renato Pozzetto, a nightclub pianist, lives out of his suitcase in the 1985 Italian comedy È arrivato mio fratello.

    A suitcase played a small but funny role in a 1985 episode of Cheers called "Behind Every Great Man."  Diane (Shelley Long) mistakenly believes that Sam (Ted Danson) wants to take her away on a romantic weekend.  She shows up at the Cheers bar with her suitcase packed.  When she realizes that Sam is actually spending the weekend with another woman, she pretends that her suitcase belongs to an old man (Larry Harpel) who happens to be passing.

    The old man is confused but he accepts the suitcase.  As soon as Sam leaves, Diane angrily smacks the old man and snatches the suitcase away from him.


    Director Wes Anderson has always been careful about selecting his props.  Anderson got Louis Vuitton to create a special collection of luggage for The Darjeeling Limited (2007).  Anderson had specific ideas on how the luggage should look inside and outside.

    The Darjeeling Limited is a film about travelers.  The travelers are the Whitman brothers, Peter (Adrien Brody), Francis (Owen Wilson) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman).  The journey that these men undertake through India is both physical and spiritual.  The luggage is an important part of the story because it belonged to the brothers' deceased father.  We are constantly reminded of this fact as we can see the dead man's initials emblazoned across the front of every bag.  The importance of the luggage is emphasized by the fact that it constantly surrounds the main characters, it serves as a reoccurring prop, and it even occupies the frame alone at times.

    Here is a bit of suitcase slapstick. 

    Let us look at the relationship that the suitcases have to the characters.


    At the end of the film, the brothers realize that they need to fling away the luggage to jump onto the back of a moving train and complete their journey.  It is an obvious metaphor, but it is effective nonetheless.

    An outstanding prop in Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom (2012) is a yellow vintage Samsonite suitcase.


    The film's young leading lady, Kara Hayward, uses the suitcase to carry around fantasy novels.

    In this way, the suitcase represents the knowledge and inspiration that is obtained by abandoning your home and traveling to other worlds.  It represents escape much as it did in It's a Wonderful Life

    Suitcases, ever present and ever useful, qualify for supporting player status in The Bellboy (1960).


    Peter Sellers loses his baggage in a revolving door in The Return of the Pink Panther (1975).


    As we saw with The Darjeeling Limited, road comedies are heavily populated with prop suitcases.  We have two more examples of this today.  First, Jack Lemmon and June Allyson are never apart from their suitcases as they travel cross-country in You Can't Run Away from It (1956).

    We see nearly as many suitcases in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) as we saw in The Bellboy.

    Clark Griswold's enthusiasm for his vacation is reflected in the excess of luggage that he has neatly strapped to the roof of his car.  He intends to enjoy a variety of activities during the vacation.  He needs his family to have enough clothing to go through multiple wardrobe changes every day.  But the Griswolds struggle with travel delays, which means they have to spend most of their vacation trapped in a hot car.  Clark crashes the car on two occasions, both times causing the luggage to break loose and plummet to the ground.  As his troubles mount, he has as much difficulty holding onto his enthusiasm and his sanity as he has holding onto his numerous pieces of luggage.

    Accident 1


    Accident 2


    A suitcase could represent burden.  It could represent dispossession.  It could represent displacement.  We get all that, clearly and effectively, from Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987).


    Unlike Martin and Candy, Tom Hiddleston makes it look like fun to carry a set of luggage.

    Okay, we got it all unpacked.  I hope that you enjoyed that.   

    Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night (1934)

    Additional notes

    Here is an alternate version of Abbott and Costello's "Pack/Unpack" routine.


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    It is farfetched to expect a flat square of pressed cardboard to be a magical threshold into the afterlife.  Look at it.  It has no transmitter, no speaker, no motor, no knobs, no liquid crystal display.  Yet, this is supposed to allow a person to summon a departed loved one from the spirit world for an elucidating conversation.  All that a person has to do, say believers, is to place their fingertips on the planchette and allow their hands to be guided by spiritual vibrations to spell out messages.  Of course, while believers see it as a display of spiritual vibrations, nonbelievers see it simply as a display of involuntary muscle movements.

    In ancient Rome, an augur looked for signs from divine forces when he spread corn around a chicken coop and watched for the chickens' response.
    The Ouija board advanced a longstanding pursuit by the living to communicate with the dead.  Spiritualists introduced other forms of communication prior to the Ouija board.  Gypsy Beth, the host of the Dragon Oak website, wrote, "Divination and spirit communication involving various forms of automatic writing have been used for millennia in many cultures and have their origins in ancient shamanic and magical practices."

    Wikipedia went into further detail on the subject.  The site reported:
    Early references to the automatic writing method used in the Ouija board is found in China around 1100 AD, in historical documents of the Song Dynasty.  The method was known as fuji (扶乩), "planchette writing."  The use of planchette writing as an ostensible means of contacting the dead and the spirit-world continued, and, albeit under special rituals and supervisions, was a central practice of the Quanzhen School, until it was forbidden by the Qing Dynasty.  Several entire scriptures of the Daozang are supposedly works of automatic planchette writing.  Similar methods of mediumistic spirit writing have been practiced in ancient India, Greece, Rome, and medieval Europe.
    People who attended the séances of Nahum Koons swore that, during the automatic writing sessions, they saw a glowing disembodied hand touch their own hand.

    The Hare device was developed to communicate with spirits.
    Here is an interesting video on the subject.

    Then, we had spiritualists claim that spirits could communicate by rapping on tables at a séance.  At first, the raps would signal "yes" or "no" in a simple binary code.  But, in time, those who attended séances demanded more elaborate communication with the spirits.  This prompted spiritualists to find more creative methods.  The spiritualists, who were not lacking in creativity, came up with a number of ideas.  Brandon Hodge, an authority on spirit communication devices, said, "A medium would call the alphabet out to the air, and when the proper letter was arrived upon, a knock would ring out, she would confirm it and then write it down.  In this way, sentences, words, or phrases could be formed and communication established.  But that gets awfully tedious.  A lot of mediums would lay down a board or a card with an alphabet written on it.  Instead of calling out the letters, they would have a pencil and would sweep it over the letters until the raps told them to stop."  A great deal of rapping went on in the séances conducted by the Fox sisters.  One of the sisters later confessed that they created the rapping sounds by cracking their toes, knuckles and knee joints.
    The best of the spiritualists were highly entertaining fellows.  Try to imagine one of their sessions.  The spiritualist runs through the alphabet until he calls out a letter that prompts a rapping from an alleged spirit.  That was exciting stuff at the time.  It was a supernatural version of Wheel of Fortune.  I'd like to buy a vowel, Dead Pat Sajak.  Say "Bloody Vanna" three times and the appropriate letters would quickly be revealed.

    The Ouija board was the creation of American lawyer and inventor Elijah Bond.  Bond and his chief investor, Colonel Washington Bowie, were called upon by the chief patent officer to present a demonstration of their invention.  Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, a contributor to the Smithsonian website, wrote:
    [I]f the board could accurately spell out his name, which was supposed to be unknown to Bond and Peters, he'd allow the patent application to proceed.  They all sat down, communed with the spirits, and the planchette faithfully spelled out the patent officer's name. . . [O]n February 10, 1891, a white-faced and visibly shaken patent officer awarded Bond a patent. . . The first patent offers no explanation as to how the device works, just asserts that it does.
    It was, without a doubt, an improvement over séance participants figuring out what a spirit had on its mind by deciphering various rapping noises. 

    Ouija board patent (1891)

    The Ouija board made a séance something a family could conduct in their parlor.  Reportedly, sales of the Ouija board surged during uncertain or dangerous times, particularly during periods of war.  McRobbie wrote, "[D]uring the Civil War, spiritualism gained adherents in droves, people desperate to connect with loved ones who'd gone away to war and never come home."

    The Ouija board was used by an extraordinary number of people as death reached peak numbers during World War I.  The interest in the Ouija board was reflected in American entertainment.  You might have guessed already that we are not on a movie blog to talk about the Qing Dynasty or the Babylonians.  Our objective today is to examine the impact that the Ouija board had on filmmakers. 

    In an article that appeared on the Los Angeles Daily Mirror website, Mary Mallory examined the effect that Ouija boards had on the residents of Hollywood in 1919.  She wrote:
    [The] Los Angeles Times described an increase in the occult, seances, and playing of the game because "so many splendid men and women have recently crossed the vale which the faithful believe leads from life to life."  Playing the game allowed participants to communicate one last time with dear departed loved ones, allowing some solace.
    Christians believed that a vast number of spirits inhabit the afterlife.  What was wrong in inviting one of these spirits to a party on a Saturday night?  But the fad brought on attacks from religious leaders, who saw the Ouija board as an evil instrument that could turn users into devil worshipers.  Dr. Herbert Booth Smith of Immanuel Presbyterian expressed his concern that the homes of university students contained more Ouija boards than Bibles.  Did the Ouija board deliver evil forces into our world?  William Fuld, the president of the Ouija company, died under eerie circumstances in 1927.  McRobbie wrote that Fuld's death occurred "after a freak fall from the roof of his new factory — a factory he said the Ouija board told him to build."

    We know nothing about the 1918 Vitagraph film A Little Ouija Work, but it may have been the first film to feature a Ouija board.  The earliest film that we know for sure showed a Ouija board was a Douglas Fairbanks comedy, When the Clouds Roll By (1919).  David Bordwell wrote, "[O]ur hero is neurotically superstitious.  He will climb over a building to avoid letting a black cat cross his path."  As a firm believer in supernatural forces, Fairbanks is more than willing to consult a Ouija board for advice.

    Douglas Fairbanks and Kathleen Clifford in When the Clouds Roll By (1919)
    The Ouija board turned up in more films in 1920.  The Hallroom Boys satirized the fad in Tell Us, Ouija.  The Film Daily said of this send-up, "Many of the incidents are funny, the Ouija Board stuff being certain to register. . . In view of the popularity of spirit theories just at present, this should get over in good style."  The Film Daily said of A Fool and His Money, "[T]here's some Quija board stuff dragged in for a laugh that has nothing to do with the story."  Johnny Hines revealed a Ouija board in his den in Torchy In High.  Max Fleischer's 1920 animated cartoon Ouija Board, which can easily been found on YouTube, shows the havoc created when an animator and a janitor take a break from work to play with a Ouija board. 

    Mallory wrote:
    Early in January 1920, composers William Jerome and Harry Von Tilzer took advantage of the national craze for the game to create the first song about it, "Wee Gee, Wee Gee, Tell Me Do," which soon became a major hit, which their publishing company, owned by Von Tilzer, called "The craze of the country, the Great Ouija Board Song."  The patter of the second verse stated, "This little board is the ruler of the nation now," which appeared to be the case in many places."

    The craze took off in other forms of entertainment as well, with the one-act play "Ask Ouija" and Crane Wilbur's successful play "The Ouija Board" employing it as both title and theme.
    Motion Picture Classic said of "The Ouija Board,""Crane Wilbur's thriller [is] built around spiritism.  Real spooks invade a fake seance, solve a murder mystery and provide plenty of surprises.  Guaranteed to keep you on edge."
    Ruth Hammond and Crane Wilbur  in "The Ouija Board."
    This was a change.  Before Wilbur's thriller, it clear that filmmakers and songwriters only saw humor and frivolity in the Ouija board.
    Gladys Leslie and Matt Moore in Straight is the Way (1921)
    Three films addressed the Ouija craze in 1921.  Bobby Vernon attempted to make contact with forces beyond the grave in Ouija Did It!, a lighthearted Christie comedy that likely featured plenty of false frights and not a single trace of a real spook.  Straight is the Way, which was based on the story "The Manifestations of Henry Orth," involves a young women who uses a Ouija board to contact her departed uncle, who secreted away his fortune without confiding its whereabouts to anyone.  In The Devil's Confession, Harold Foshay (Neil Drake) manages while playing with a Ouija board to inadvertently confess to a murder.  But it was soon after the release of these films that interest in the Ouija board faded.

    For the next thirty years, it was wealthy old women that retained the greatest fascination with the Ouija board.  This was clearly depicted by filmmakers in The Bat Whispers (1930) and Charlie Chan's Secret (1936).

    Grayce Hampton and Maude Eburne consult a Ouija board in The Bat Whispers.

    Mrs. Lowell (Henrietta Crosman) has one of her nightly sessions with a Ouija board in Charlie Chan's Secret.

    The spookiness of the Ouija board reached new heights with The Uninvited (1944).

    But, then, the television sitcom came along and, for a time, the Ouija board became silly again.  Lucille Ball gets her hands on a Ouija board on I Love Lucy ("The Séance," 1951). 


    Gale Storm learns from a Ouija board that she will meet three bearded men on Oh! Susanna ("The Ouija Board," 1958).

    Jay North uses a Ouija board to help him win a raffle on Dennis the Menace ("The Raffle Ticket," 1960).

     A chimpanzee figures how to use a Ouija board on The Hathaways ("Swami Chimp," 1962).

    The Ouija board got back much of its horror cred with 13 Ghosts (1960).


    Interesting use of the Ouija board was made in a plotline on One Step Beyond ("Signal Received," 1961).  Two sailors, George Breed (Terry Palmer) and Johnny Watson (Mark Eden), both receive premonitions that their ship, the HMS Hood, will be sunk on its next voyage and its crew will perish.  A shipmate, Robin Hughes (Richard Gale), is assured by a Ouija board and then a fortune teller that he will live a long life.  Hughes tells Breed and Watson that, if he won't die, they won't die either.  But Hughes is reassigned to another ship minutes before the Hood is scheduled to sail.  Later, he hears on the radio that the Hood was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck and its crew was lost at sea.  The story introduces the intriguing idea that the Ouija board has the power to predict the future.

    Lost in Space ("Ghost in Space," 1966)


    Bewitched ("Double Split," 1966)

    Tales From the Crypt (1972)


    The Exorcist (1973)

    Robert Murch, Chairman of the Board at the Talking Board Historical Society, has said that it was The Exorcist that made the Ouija board scary.  He remarked, "It's kind of like Psycho— no one was afraid of showers until that scene."  But this is not exactly true.  As we have seen, the spooky nature of the Ouija board was made evident by filmmakers in earlier films, including The Uninvited and 13 Ghosts.

    Down and Dirty Duck (1974)

    An unlikely source of a Ouija board story was The Waltons ("The Ghost Story," 1974).  The Walton children become obsessed with a Ouija board.  Olivia (Michael Learned) and Grandma (Ellen Corby) believe that it is wrong to disturb the dead.  John-Boy (Richard Thomas) comes to believe that he has made contact with his mother's friend Allison, who died from influenza five years earlier.  Allison's ghost appears to be manipulating the Ouija board to send a warning to her young son, Luke.  As the family rides in their truck to get Luke to a train station, the truck mysteriously swerves off the road and gets stuck in the dirt.  This delay causes the family to miss the train, which proves to be fortunate as the train becomes involved in a fatal accident.  The episode ends with a comforting message that our loved ones persist after death to look after our well-being.  The story's supernatural theme caused the episode to be removed from the series' syndication package for many years.


    In Satan's Blood (1978), a young couple has no idea that playing with a Ouija board can stir up forces of black magic and open the gates of Hell.


    This set a trend.  In the coming years, the standard plot of a Ouija board movie would begin with a group of friends conducting a séance for a laugh.  The group gathers happily around a Ouija board and manages with incredible ease to establish contact with a spirit.  The spirit sometimes lures the group into a false state of security by pretending to be a benign entity.  In The Exorcist, the vile demon Pazuzu pretends at first to be the friendly Captain Howdy.  The spirit will behave in a polite manner to gain the trust of the person who has made contact with it.  In Witchboard (1986), a spirit pretends to be a dead ten-year-old boy.  The spooky little visitor proves itself to be helpful by telling Tawny Kitaen where she can find her lost diamond engagement ring.

    A person is less likely to be afraid of a spirit that identifies itself as a little girl named Maddy, which happens in the film Is Anybody There? (2002).  In the end, the spirit will be unleashed from the portal unlocked by the Ouija board, possess the first available person in the room, and manage in its new corporeal form to murder anyone within reach.  Horror comedies have played around with this possession idea.  The spirits will typically possess one of the people who summoned them, but they have also possessed a doll (Black Devil Doll, 2007), a robot (And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird!, 1991), a mechanical monkey (The Devil's Gift, 1984) and a hamster (Night of the Hell Hamsters, 2006).  Let us take a look at the hamster possession.

    These films have established rules for communicating with spirits.  To start, you never ask the spirit its name.  This somehow gives the spirit a connection to you, gives the spirit power and influence outside of its own astral plane, and allows it to fully cross over into our world.  Second, you do not ever end a Ouija session without moving the planchette to the word "goodbye."  This closes the session and sends the spirit back to the place from which it came.

    The Ouija board was a versatile little device, which allowed it to play a crucial role in a film inspired by Carrie, a film inspired by The Blair Witch Project, and a film inspired by The Ring.  Whenever a writer had to bring evil forces into a situation, the Ouija board provided an all-too-ready portal. 

    Ouija board films became commonplace at this point.  Let us take a long look at this trend in films.  Beware, foolish mortals, Ouija board tropes have been conjured up with a mind-numbing repetition.  After going through a couple of dozen scenes, you may not want to see another Ouija board movie again.  I will go as far as to say you may not want to see another candle again as the efforts to summon spirits by Ouija board almost always have to be done by candlelight.  Now, everyone, gather together in a circle, light a candle, and place your fingers on the planchette.

    Alison's Birthday (1979, Australia)

    Amityville 3-D (1983)

    The Devil's Gift (1984)

    Spookies (1985)

    Deadly Messages (1985)

    Newhart ("Much Ado About Mitch," 1985)

    Michael (Peter Scolari) and Stephanie (Julia Duffy) think it would be fun to play with a Ouija board.  Michael jokingly asks the Ouija board if Julia will ever be unfaithful.  He becomes distressed when the Ouija board answers, "Yes."

    Girls' School Screamers (1986)

    Witchboard (1986)

    Don't Panic (1988)

    Robin Williams tries using a Ouija board to communicate with catatonic Robert DeNiro in Awakenings (1990).  

    Repossessed (1990)

    And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird! (1991)

    Radio Flyer (1991)

    Sorority House Massacre 2 (1992)

    Witchboard 2: The Devil's Doorway (1993)

    Only You (1994)

    An eleven-year-old girl, Faith, asks a Ouija board who her future husband will be.  The planchette spells out "D-A-M-O-N-B-R-A-D-L-E-Y."  Faith still remembers the Ouija board's message as an adult.  Now, while making preparations to marry, she is astonished to hear that one of his fiancé's friends knows someone in Italy named Damon Bradley.  She immediately calls off the wedding so that she can board a plane to Italy and finally unite with the man she believes is her destined soulmate.

    Witchboard III: The Possession (1995)

    Grim (1995)

    The Ouija board was featured regularly on the television series Charmed, which aired from 1998 to 2006 on The WB.


    What Lies Beneath (2000)

    Eugene Orlando, host of the online Museum of Talking Boards, wrote, "This is the first movie ever to feature the séance in the bathroom."

    Sugar and Spice (2001)

    Long Time Dead (2002)

    Is Anybody There? (2002)

    Ouija (2003, Spain)

    The Ouija Board Movies provides the following description of the film:
    Clara decides to spend her vacation in a charming little town.  There, she meets Victor and his friends, who like to spend their time playing with a Ouija board.  Together, they conduct a séance and manage to establish contact with a spirit called "Audscias." After an initially fun conversation with the invisible guest, scary phenomena starts unfolding around them and soon the true nature of the entity starts showing.
    That is all the plot that any of these films need.

    In Bunshinsaba (2004, Korea), a girl uses a Ouija board to put a curse on the girls who have been bullying her in school.  The curse is established by writing the names of the bullies on the board, which is something new to the Ouija board mythology.  The girls understand that it would be dangerous to open their eyes before the spell is completed, but one of the girls is so curious that she cannot resist opening her eyes as the spell is taking effect.  She is shocked to see a pale ghost-like girl standing beside her.  After the 1998 Japanese horror Ringu and its 2002 American remake The Ring, it was the vengeful spirit of a murdered girl that was usually conjured up by the Ouija board.  

    In Dead Friend (2004), a group of high school students conduct a séance.  The séance is interrupted before they can send back a ghost that they summoned.

    Spirit of the Glass (2004, Philippines)

    Vem Är Du? (2005, Sweden)

    Spirit Trap (2005)

    Kyle XY ("Blame It on the Rain," 2006)


    Night of the Hell Hamsters (2006)

    Satanic (2006)

    Ouija (2006, Egypt)

    Séance (2006, German)

    Séance (2006)

    Left in Darkness (2006)

    Greetings (2007)

    Ouija (2007, Philippines) was released internationally under the title Séance.  Two sisters try to use a Ouija board to contact their dead grandmother.  Instead, they bring forth a malign paranormal entity that exploits the sisters' fears and conflicts in its effort to pass into the physical world.

    Black Devil Doll (2007)

    Paranormal Activity (2007)

    Credo (2008)

    Ouija Board (2009) reworks the plot of Girls' School Screamers.  A group of friends are driving on a dark rural road when, suddenly, a blood-soaked woman appears in the middle of the road.  The driver doesn't have enough time to stop the car and the woman is struck and killed by the car.  The group later arrive at their destination, a cottage in the remote Scottish countryside.  When they realize the cottage is being haunted by the dead girl, the group try to use a Ouija board to communicate with the girl and learn who she is, but the Ouija board releases the tormented spirit into the world to take vengeance on her killers. 

    Necromentia (2009)

    A man has had a Ouija board tattooed to his back.

    The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010)

    Ouija (2010, Brazil)

    Castle ("He's Dead, She's Dead," 2010)

    A Ouija board turns up unexpectedly in Breaking Bad ("Caballo Sin Nombre," 2010).  We already saw the Ouija board used as a tool to communicate with the disabled in Awakenings.  Now, a pair of hitmen see a similar use for the Ouija board when they consult a drug lord incapacitated by a motor neuron disease.

    Downton Abbey ("Christmas at Downton Abbey," 2011)

    Rizzoli & Isles ("Bloodlines," 2011)

    The Unleashed (2011, Canada)

    My Babysitter's A Vampire ("Three Geeks and a Demon," 2011)

    Supernatural ("The Mentalists," 2011)

    Seance: The Summoning (2011)

    The Ouija Experiment (2011)

    Ouija (2012, Denmark)

    Grave Encounters 2 (2012, Canadian-American)

    The Pact (2012)

    I Am ZoZo (2012)

    A Haunted House (2013)

    Don't Move (2013)

    American Horror ("The Axeman Cometh," 2013)

    The Ouija Experiment 2: Theatre of Death (2014)

    Ouija (2014)


    Inherent Vice (2014)

    Ouija Summoning (2015)

    The Conjuring 2 (2016)

    Satanic (2016)

    Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

    Ghost Team (2016)

    An important reference source to this article was

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    The one thing that occurs to me as I watch old movies is that actresses were so pretty back then.  Yes, the ladies of Hollywood's Golden Age had exquisitely formed faces that were perfect for a close-up.  Modern-day Hollywood has rejected classic beauty as something elitist, privileged and overly feminine.  Today, a pretty girl is a terrible person who deserves to be scorned and stifled.  This is as much about race as it is about looks or style because, from the perspective of many, classic beauty is seen as a white thing.  In the 1940s, Americans venerated the beauty of Carole Lombard and Veronica Lake, but today that is seen as a veneration of whiteness.

    Betty Grable
    Blake Lively received scorn from critics for daring to look pretty, sexy and white in the recent shark-at-the-beach thriller The Shallows.  When a critic described Lively's character as "blonde surfer girl," what he likely meant to say was that she was an "entitled white girl."  Nico Lang of Salon bluntly attacked Lively's whiteness in an article titled "Yet another white lady in jeopardy."  Glenn Kenny of The New York Times wrote, "Ms. Lively's screen presence has always traded on a healthy confidence.  That quality skates close to entitlement much of the time; her appeal is very Girl Next Door, provided the street in question is Rodeo Drive."  It is somehow mean to be pretty and to make other people feel bad about their less attractive selves.  It is old-fashioned jealousy in its most vitriolic form. In the process, we are all called upon to accept and participate in the vitriol. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, "Who doesn't want to see a hot blonde in a bikini get attacked by a great white shark?"

    In London, feminists freaked out over this ad because it featured a pretty blonde in a bikini.

    This was put forth by protesters as a more appropriate image.

    It is seen by critics to be crass and shallow for a filmmaker to have a beautiful bikini-clad actress headline their film.  Peter Debruge of Variety Debruge grumbled, "[Nancy's] beach bod and bikini. . . will account for 90% of this thriller's summer box office."  He indicated that the film reached a same level of "schlocky" as The Deep (1977) did when it "immortalized by the sight of Jacqueline Bisset in a wet T-shirt."

    Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset in The Deep (1977)

    The point, I think, is that the ugly woman is invariably profound while the beautiful woman is invariably superficial.  Wesley Morris of the New York Times wrote, "[Lively's] performance in The Age of Adaline. . . was like watching a mermaid ride a bike.  She tries.  But her acting hasn't yet caught up to her algorithm-generated beauty.  Alas, there may be no algorithmic solution for that."  But it is not that Hollywood is committed to realism.  Hollywood is not producing kitchen sink dramas and, even if it was, it doesn't mean that every actress has to look like a kitchen sink. 

    "Are you a puffer fish or are you just glad to see me?"
    Even a pretty actress is made to look ugly today.  Consider Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

    When my mother was young, she wished that she could be Jane Wyman.

    Today, we have young women who wish they could be Harley Quinn.

    Travers blamed "crass Hollywood thinking" for "spawn[ing] a summer throwaway like The Shallows."  From his perspective, the conflict between the pretty girl and the brutish shark does not make much of a film.  He said that The Shallows is "one of those movie titles that serves as its own review."  Tim Grierson of Screen Daily wrote, "[T]he film's uncluttered suspense. . . requires little more than a lone woman in peril, a terrifying shark, and a large body of water that separates the woman from help."  At the center of The Revenant was a pretty (though shaggy) boy and a brutish bear.  The film has little more plot than The Shallows.  Leonardo DiCaprio gets mauled by a gargantuan, toothy predator.  He is bloodied and bruised, but he kills the predator and drags his own broken body back home.  The film demonstrates the importance of perseverance and resourcefulness in the face of overwhelming odds.  Yet, no one called The Revenant crass and shallow.  Instead, the film was nominated for 12 Oscars.  DiCaprio won the Oscar for Best Actor.


    Kenny sees Lively as too glamorous to be taken seriously.  He wrote, "The movie's makeup crew does its bit by showing that every time Nancy resolves to take action against her aquatic tormentor, her face regains color, and her lips become unparched."  The film does not bear out this claim.  Lively's physical condition worsens throughout the film.  She hardly looks glamorous as she spends hours bleeding and shivering on a rock.

    Megan Garber of The Atlantic found it significant that "the audience isn't privy to the biological sex of this modern-day megalodon."  Garber is desperate to know the shark's motivation and believes that gender has an important impact on its motivation.  What Garber really wants to know is if the shark is male because this would make the shark attacks on Lively male-on-female violence.

    The male shark does not have a penis.  Instead, it has a pair of organs called claspers. 
     The shark in "The Jaws" novel was specifically identified as male, but the shark was never at any point during the film's production identified as male (The references to "Bruce the Shark" came later).  Savanna Teague of ScreenPrism believes that, if accept that the shark is male, we must accept that the film is delivering a specific metaphor.  According to Teague, authoritative Brody, intelligent Hooper and physically strong Quint "create a triad of acceptable masculine presences."  They were, according to Teague, "class variations on the white American male."  She wrote, "Hooper as the upper class, Quint as the working class, and Brody as the middle class man [are] ultimately endorsed by the film as the bedrock of civilized society."

    The story uses the rule of three.  It reminds me of "The Three Little Pigs."  The three little pigs occupy different classes, too.  Look at the one pig living like a peasant in a thatched hut.

    It was the pigs' ethics and approach in regards to work that placed them into different classes.
    "Little pig, little Pig, let me come in."
    "No, no, not by the hair on my chinny chin chin."
    "Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your shark cage in."
    The first two pigs were eaten by the wolf.

    Hopper was in the script (as in the novel) torn out of the shark cage and eaten.

    Quint was eaten as the film came to its bloody conclusion.

    Do we explore these parallels?

    Looking at the film from another angle, we can see Quint as the id, Hooper as the super-ego, and Brody as the ego.  That's another rule of three situation.  I am sorry if this seems to be a digression.  My point, simply, is that a film can be open to multiple interpretations.  Everyone will look to find their own personal meaning in a film.  For a feminist, personal meaning is always to be found in gender.

    Let us not mince words about the one other male prominent in the story.  Yes, I am referring to you, Mayor Vaughan.  Vaughan, who dishonorably obstructs the trio's efforts to protect the community and destroy the shark, is an unmanly sack of ocean sludge.  He is as much an antagonist as the shark.  This is pretty much Teague's point and I have no reason to disagree with her. 

    Teague asserted that the brutish shark represents "natural, primal man without the constraints of society."  She concluded, "The triad's triumph over Bruce (though at the expense of Quint, who is marked as the closest of the three protagonists to Bruce's primal state) is a defeat of the natural, untamed world by modern masculine authority."

    Teague can see an alternative metaphor in the film if we prefer to read the shark as female.  According to Teague, this makes the film about "anxiety at the potential loss of masculine power to a wild feminine force."  This puts the shark into the "monstrous female" category, which is also occupied by the scary baddies of Carrie, The Exorcist and Alien.

    Like Teague, Garber insists on interpreting life only in terms of gender.  She claimed in her review of The Shallows that she and other audience members were disturbed to see a woman being cut and bruised through most of the film.  She wrote, "Even before the shark appeared, the audience in my screening was audibly gasping at the violence displayed onscreen."  Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian wrote, "[H]ere's the key thing: the group of jaded and highly intellectual New York critics that made up the audience at my screening went from snickering at the arguably unnecessary early cleavage shots to gasping, cringing and even murmuring "Oh, no!" as our leading lady suffered increasingly ferocious setbacks."  Garber found this to be "its own form of cinematic sadism" that betrays the film's reoccurring message of female empowerment.

    I find it hard to imagine these critics erupting in a collective gasp to see a man being cut and bruised.  The New York Film Festival maintained a twenty-year ban on Brian DePalma because activists were appalled at the violence against women depicted by DePalma in Dressed to Kill.  Throughout that same period, the New York Film Festival expressed shameless adoration of Martin Scorcese, whose ultraviolent films focused on violence against men.  Remember Scorcese's Casino, which featured a scene in which a man's head is squeezed so tight in a vise that his eyeball pops out?  Only men died in the blood-soaked climax of Scorcese's Taxi Driver (1976).

    Women were not shielded by DePalma in the blood-soaked climax of Carrie (1976).


    It is unfair for violence against men to be more acceptable than violence against women.

    In comparison, The Revenant seemed to satisfy an appetite for gore.  Geoffrey MacNab of The Independent called it "bloody marvelous."  Of course, it's not impossible for the bloodshed of a man to cause an audience to gasp.  Christian Toto of Hollywood in Toto wrote, "Few movies pack as many gasp-inducing moments as The Revenant."  Travers wrote, "Note to movie pussies: The Revenant is not for you. . . [Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu] damn near tortures his cast and his audience in telling the story. . . [I]t's one brutal, badass epic.  But hang on for its unforgiving 156 minutes and you get to experience the power of cinema unleashed."  Stephen Galloway of The Hollywood Reporter wrote:
    A pre-Thanksgiving Academy screening led to a few walkouts and a number of moans and groans, even as many audience members were awed by the film’s scope and ambition.  No scene shocked and awed the audience as much as the one where DiCaprio stumbles across a bear and its cubs, and then is ferociously (and repeatedly) assaulted by the beast, which spins, turns and eventually sits on him, after throwing him around and ripping great scads of flesh from his back.  The sequence is a monument to CGI, and also perhaps to (some) viewers’ willingness to endure the unendurable.  One otherwise admiring pundit [Jeffrey Wells] was slammed on social media for tweeting, "Forget women seeing this."
    Feminists were so upset by Wells' remark that they came out en masse to brag they, as strong independent women, could sit through the film's most brutal scenes without flinching.  Wells said in his defense that a female friend who accompanied him to the screening was "shielding her eyes" and "chirping like a chipmunk during the extra-violent or extra-gross scenes," and he added that a fellow critic had told him that his wife "wouldn’t last five minutes" if she watched the film.  But we do not know if either woman was a feminist.  Likely not.  I now understand that a feminist will bravely watch a man being mauled by a bear, but she will be driven to express moral outrage at seeing a woman mauled by a shark.

    Garber decided in the end that the shark was male.  She said of the shark, "He isn't attacking her so much as he is stalking."  The shark is a batterer.  The shark is a stalker.  The shark is, metaphorically speaking, an abusive boyfriend.  He is Teague's "primal man without the constraints of society."  Teague asked, "Does the shark's urge to destroy this beautiful woman suggest that Bruce is, perhaps, the darkest aspect of masculinity?"


    Garber commented, "Maybe the shark has somehow realized, on a spiritual level if not an intellectual one, that humans are responsible for the decline of the global shark population, and figures he should do his part to correct the imbalance?"  Really, we are going to go there?  The shark is now a social justice warrior.  Shark Lives Matter.  Kyle Smith of the New York Post made a similar point by writing his review from the shark's perspective.  He explained in the shark's voice, "I was munching on Dead Willy's carcass when the lady came surfing by.  You could tell there was potential for misunderstanding since one of us has a brain the size of a plum, but enough about blondes."

    Brad Wheeler of The Globe and Mail wrote, "[Lively] ends up bitten, bloody and bikinied on a rock. Guarding its dead-whale supper, a shark – a circling symbol of greed – sees her as a threat.  At high tide she'll be flooded off safe ground – an allusion to oceans rising and the threat of global warming, perhaps."

    A man versus shark story is hero versus villain, prey versus predator, or man versus nature.  I can accept any of those interpretations.  But I cannot look at this simple thriller and see it as a story of shark versus greed or shark versus global warming.  Just as sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, sometimes a shark is just a shark.

    Let us get back to Hoffman's reference to the audience at a critic screening "snickering at the arguably unnecessary early cleavage shots."  This is, in fact, a point worth examining.

    Garber wrote, "[W]e get several slow, languorous, almost-uncomfortably-close-up shots of Lively stripping down to her (tiny) bikini.  And then rubbing sunscreen on her back, slowly and languorously (even though, moments later, she'll don a neoprene jacket that will render that effort completely unnecessary).  And then zipping that jacket up just enough to tighten her cleavage, but not to cover it.  And then, once in the water, straddling her surfboard.  [Director Jaume] Collet -Serra delights in angles that focus on the surface level of the water; what that amounts to when it comes to Lively, however, are a series of crotch shots."

    Garber's assessment of the scene is unfair.  Collet-Serra presents the scene in a series of quick cuts.  I would not describe these shots as "slow, languorous."  Positioning the camera behind Lively as she paddles her surf board out into the ocean is not a crotch shot. 

    This is a crotch shot.

    But Garber was not alone in her view.  Grierson wrote, "With The Shallows, this penchant for B-movie baseness is apparent in his slow, leering pans over Lively's shapely bikini body. . ."  Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "Nancy waxes her board and strips down to an orange bikini, which Collet-Serra's leering camera probably lingers on a couple beats too long.  Then again, he isn't exactly making The Suffragette here.  He's making a Blake Lively shark movie, and he knows precisely which side his bread is cocoa-buttered on."  Alonso Duralde of The Wrap wrote, "Collet-Serra and cinematographer Flavio Martínez Labiano (The Gunman) spend a little too much time accentuating her wet-suit cleavage and arching back in the early sequences. . ."  The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy, who assessed the film to be "pandering," noted that "[t]he camera is in her face and all over her body all the time." 

    Garber at least conceded, "This is a movie, of course, about a lady-surfer; you would expect, given that, a certain amount of lady-surfer-in-her-bathing-suit images."  Yes, this is the female form, which we get to see to an extraordinary extent on a beach.  Thank God for the female form and thank God for beaches.  It is not as if the filmmakers had Lively fixed up to look like Lara Croft.

    The actress, cleavage and all, more closely resembles Australian pro surfer Tyler Wright.

    Tyler Wright
    Michael Phillips of Chicago Tribune is more concise and less judgmental in his assessment of The Shallows.  He wrote, "We're strictly in three-C's territory with this one: character stuff (grieving, doubts, family); cleavage; and chomping."

    Helen Mirren is part of the feminist club, which means that she can flaunt her sexy body all that she wants and none of these rude critics will dare say one bad word about it.  So, let us dig into a discussion of Mirren's "pleasure pillows," which is the nickname that Mirren has coined for her ample bosom.

    In 2008, a YouTube channel called "Caesonia's channel" published a 1975 video in which chat show host Michael Parkinson speaks to Helen Mirren about the effect that her sex appeal has had on her career.  The video went viral recently.  As of September 17, 2016, the 41-year old video has had nearly 4 million views.  I would like to closely examine this interview clip. 

    Parkinson addresses in his introduction the fact that theatre critics have focused a great deal on Mirren's attractive looks.  "The point about her," he says, "is that the critics spend as much time discussing her physical attributes as assessing her acting abilities."  Parkinson offers quotes from critics to validate his point. 

    When Mirren comes on stage, she is clearly furious with her introduction.  She is especially upset that Parkinson quoted a critic who called her "sluttishly erotic."  Should she be angry at Parkinson or the critic that Parkinson quoted?  The critic essentially made the point that Mirren is overtly and shamelessly sexual in her performances.  This would suggest that the actress is making an intentional effort to emphasize the sexuality of her characters.  Is this true or is the critic mistaken?  Mirren has an opportunity to respond to the critic.  Understand, the critic was not necessarily trying to insult the actress.  An erotic performance worked out effectively when the actress took on the role of Lady Macbeth.  Critics were also pleased to see Mirren as a lusty, full-figured Cleopatra.  Why is it wrong to talk about this? 

    Helen Mirren aged 18, between rehearsals for "Antony and Cleopatra" at the Old Vic, 1965.

    I do not know the exact context of the critic's "sluttishly erotic" remark.  Believe me, I did spend time looking for this review and I am sorry to say that I was unable to find it.  I do not know if the phrase was meant as praise or insult.  But Mirren, in any case, has every right to agree or disagree with the critic.  I simply cannot condemn Parkinson for raising the subject and expecting a more professional response from Mirren.

    Mirren was furious then and her fury remained unabated decades later.  "Yes, it was completely inappropriate," she told The Irish Times in 2014.  "And it struck me so at the time.  It was insulting.  It's not as if I was a glamour model.  I was doing pretty challenging work in one of the biggest theatres in Britain."

    It is obvious during the interview that Mirren is too angry to be either reasonable or civil.  Parkinson tries to get her to talk about her feelings rather than have her just sit there and fume.  But she is being so contrary that the interview quickly deteriorates.  She eventually concedes that there is a basis for Parkinson's remarks.  She says, "Their must be some truth in it if people keep saying it."  People keep saying it because this is what Mirren keeps putting out there.  Other critics have put it more delicately, describing the actress as coquettish as opposed to slutty, but they have without question made the same essential point.  Nonetheless, Mirren remains so angry that Parkinson is unable to set the interview on a smooth course.  She admits after a bit of fussing that she has forgotten the question.  Parkinson takes this opportunity to rephrase the question in a way that is least likely to offend her.  He says, "Do you find that your figure - your physical attributes that people are always going on about - hinder you in your pursuit of being a serious actress?" 

    At another point, Parkinson refers to Mirren's physical attributes as her "equipment."  This angers Mirren even more.  She says, "I'd like you to explain what you mean by my equipment in greater detail."

    "Your physical attributes," says Parkinson.

    "You mean my fingers?" asks Mirren.

    Parkinson said that he was talking about her "figure."

    Mirren snaps, "Because serious actresses can't have big bosoms, is that what you mean?"

    "I think it might detract from the performance," Parkinson says, "if you know what I mean."

    "I can't say that would necessarily be true.  I mean what a crummy performance if people are obsessed with the size of your bosom over anything else.  I would hope that the performance and the play and the living relationship between all the people on the stage and all the people in the audience would overcome such . . . boring questions, really."

    When Parkinson spoke about her "equipment," Mirren made the assumption that he was making a specific reference to her breasts.  He insisted (and I believe him) that he was referring to her overall figure.  Maybe, the person most obsessed with Helen Mirren's breasts is Helen Mirren, who has exposed them at every opportunity. 

    Parkinson's comments were grossly distorted by the feminist press, which accused the interviewer of being hideously rude and sexist.  Heather Schwedel of Slate noted, "Parkinson pursued what to him must have seemed like a logical line of questioning: Men, the default gender of people with brains and talent, do not have breasts, so it would follow that Ms. Mirren's 'equipment' hinders her abilities as a dramatic actor, no?"  It is pure fantasy to say that Parkinson was making the point that women have no brains or talent.  Remember, it was Kyle Smith of the New York Post who said a pretty woman has "a brain the size of a plum."  Parkinson made no such remark.  The man never said or even implied that women are lesser actors than men because their acting abilities are hindered by their breasts. 

    Donald Clarke of The Irish Times wrote, "It is worth remembering quite how Neanderthal attitudes still were towards female performers during the 1970s.  [T]he chat shows were still soaked in the culture of the saloon bar and the locker room."  Clarke faulted Parkinson for "behav[ing] so boorishly" and "[m]aking no attempt to conceal his lupine leer."

    Slate used a screen capture that made it look as if Parkinson was staring at Mirren's breasts throughout the interview.  He glanced at her chest once after Mirren, herself, had flamboyantly called attention to her breasts.  Journalists referred to Parkinson as "grotesquely sexist interviewer" (Vanity Fair) and "sexist interviewer" (Stuff).  The rabid comments posted on social media were horrible.  I took a quick look at the comments that accompanied the video on YouTube.  Commenters called Parkinson "a jerkoff,""an insanely dumb wanker" and "an overrated, talent-less twat."  One commenter angrily remarked that Mirren should have punched him.  Ah, yes, the mob does have a tendency to get violent.

    In the end, the caterwauling offered up a gross mischaracterization of Parkinson.  Parkinson is no smutty, fly-by-night interviewer dolt.  The man is the legendary and beloved Parky.  He was a coal miner's son who worked his way up in the news business.  He has had a 58-year, scandal-free career as a journalist, broadcaster and author.  He has been Sir Michael Parkinson since he was knighted by the Queen Elizabeth in 2008.

    He is not a reckless, drooling, self-indulgent womanizer, which is supported by the fact that he has been happily married to the same woman for 57 years.

    Parkinson is a flesh-and-blood human being.  When you cut him, he bleeds.  Others understand this.  His fans were congratulatory when the broadcaster recently came through a two-year battle with cancer.  Internet rabble, have a thimble of civility and stop your vicious name-calling. 

    Mirren discussed her early life with the Radio Times magazine in 2013: "I terribly wanted to be Brigitte Bardot.  I was a fat, spotty girl sitting on the sea front in Southend-on-Sea imagining, dreaming, being absolutely sure that a big producer would drive by in a car with a cigar and lean out of the window and say "Hey, what's your name?  You're the one I've been looking for!'"  She wanted a man to gaze upon her face and figure and be so enchanted by her looks that he was compelled to transform her into an international sex kitten.  She probably saw in her mind a "Birth of Venus" moment.

    Mirren became a sex kitten like Bardot.  She was cast in roles that required her to use a large amount of sex appeal.  She was, as it turned out, showing off her body often in films.

    Age of Consent (1969)


    Savage Messiah (1972)


    The Changeling (1974)


    But she always had to let it be known that, no matter how often she agreed to play these roles and no matter if she seemed comfortable striding around naked for the cameras, she really hated every minute of it.  Why don't I believe this?  Mirren said of her nude scene in Savage Messiah, "The day I had to do that nude scene, where I had to walk completely bollock naked down a flight of stairs, was awful.  It was early days and I was so mortified, embarrassed and unhappy about it.  I remember that morning looking out of my trailer, this funky little caravan thing and wondered if I threw myself off the top step of the trailer I could manage to break my leg and not have to do the scene!  I wouldn't like to do that today.  It's never comfortable.  The best thing would be if all the crew took their clothes off too and then you'd feel fine but it's never comfortable to be the only one without clothes on."

    Parkinson asked Mirren if she felt comfortable taking her clothes off for a film.  Mirren replied, "There are lots of reasons for feeling uncomfortable about taking your clothes off in a movie.  And one of them is that basically whatever the director says, basically it's being done for commercial reasons."  She indicated that the men who have actresses disrobe for a film were male chauvinist pigs.  Actually, she trailed off before using the word "pigs."  She said, "You know [the rest of] that phrase, I'm sure."

    It could be easily argued that Mirren's nudity in Savage Messiah was not gratuitous.  In the film, Mirren plays a free-living suffragette named Gosh Boyle.  Gosh's uninhibited nature is clearly designed to contrast another female character, Sophie Brzeska (Dorothy Tutin), who is sexually repressed.

    Gosh, herself, is willing to abandon feminism to devote her nude body to artistic expression.  This is evident in a later scene in which poses naked for sculptor Henri Gaudier (Scott Antony).  I am not allowed to post a nude scene on my blog, so let us simply examine the dialogue.
    Gosh: "Do you think I'm beautiful?"

    Henri: "You'll do."

    Gosh: "Sexy?"

    Henri: "Sexy?!  I thought that was a dirty word to you suffragettes."

    Gosh: "I'm bored with politics.  I want to be an artist."
    It is the scene that people most remember from the film.  An IMDb critic said that he found it pleasing to see Mirren "descending the staircase nude in all her youthful and voluptuous glory."

    As I noted earlier, Chris Nashawaty does not believe that a suffragette should show off her healthy body in a bikini.  What would he think of a suffragette descending a staircase nude?  I am frankly confused as to when a nude woman celebrates women and when a nude woman demeans women.  Maybe, it would have been better if Lively had worn a black burka at the beach.  Wouldn't those Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello beach romps have been fun with burkas?

    Mirren comes across as being vain about her appearance.  She wants to look attractive.  She wants to be appear before the public in her voluptuous glory.  She said, "I remember when I had my first costume fitting for The Queen, and they laid all of these sensible shoes out, kilts, barbour jackets, head scarves, and these sort of dresses. . . . I cried.  I thought, I can’t play anyone who'd wear these clothes.  I just can’t do it."

    The Telegraph approached Mirren about the viral video.  She said, "That's the first talk show I'd ever done.  I was terrified.  I watched it and I actually thought, bloody hell!  I did really well.  I was so young and inexperienced.  And he was such a fucking sexist old fart.  He was.  He denies it to this day that it was sexist, but of course he was."  In an interview with Bust magazine, she described Parkinson as "an extremely creepy interviewer."

    Parkinson was no "old fart."  He was only 40 years old at the time.  Mirren was not "so young."  She was 30 years old, which made her only ten years younger than Parkinson.  Also, this was not Mirren's first talk show.  Contrary to the characterizations that she made of herself and Parkinson, she was not a trembling young virgin and he was not a dirty, bullying old man.   

    Feminist journalist have talked about 1975 being the Dark Ages.  Yet, today, film critics who regard themselves as enlightened modern men and women are unwilling to take Blake Lively's performance in The Shallows seriously because of the actress' physical attributes.  Despite delivering a strong performance, Lively has had to suffer derision from a number of critics.


    Unlike Mirren, Lively isn't being overt in her sexuality.  Lively is simply looking the way she does in a bikini.  What's wrong with that? 

    Mirren has always been explicit in her sexuality.  Let us compare Lively's beach girl with the beach girl that Mirren depicts in Age of Consent.


    Here's Mirren having a swim underwater.

    Lively's beach girl keeps her clothing on.

    I must say in Mirren's defense that she makes her sexuality a part of her performance.  Her sex appeal should not distract from her acting as her sex appeal is part of her acting.  At least, Mirren should be grateful that no one likened her attempts at acting to a mermaid riding a bicycle. 

    The first couple of reviews that I read for The Shallows were unkind towards Lively, but I did find when I looked further into the matter that the bad reviews represented a small percentage of the overall reviews.  How bad did the worst reviews get?  Craig Mathieson of The Sydney Morning Herald wrote, "A damp Blake Lively leaves The Shallows toothless."  Andrea Gronvall of The Chicago Reader wrote about Lively's "limited emotional expressiveness."

    Lively received faint praise from many other critics.  Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called her "game" and James Berardinelli of Reelviews called her "credible."  Michael Walsh of Nerdist wrote, "[Lively] gave a sincere effort."  Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out wrote, "[B]eautifully and boldly, [Lively] go[es] it alone. . . The Shallows is her Speed, and she’s Keanu."  That last one might be a high compliment, I can't tell.

    But let's us look at the good reviews.
    Edward Douglas of The New York Daily News wrote, "Blake Lively keeps the shark thriller afloat. . . Despite the genre and setting, this is still very much a performance piece, and Lively is more than just a pretty face and bikini bod."

    Stephen Whitty of Newark Star-Ledger wrote, "Lively can act, and she does a good job with a very difficult role here - holding our interest and sympathy for a feature-length movie with no one to talk to for most of it."

    Scott Mendelson of Forbes wrote, "Blake Lively gives a terrific solitary performance in this effective little horror drama."

    David Ehrlich of Indiewire wrote, "[The Shallows] is the most convincing argument for [Lively's] stardom since 2009’s The Private Lives of Pippa Lee."

    Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair wrote, "[Lively's] gradually becoming an appealing movie star, a youthful, elegant American with a rare and mysterious quality — she seems both near to us and far away, a close, indifferent moon beaming its pale light upon us lowly mortals gazing up in wonder."

    Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Lively is a real gamer in a physical role that calls for her to swim, surf, endure shark bites and jellyfish stings, and we’re just getting started.  Even when she’s suffering from dehydration, gaping wounds, early onset gangrene, hunger and thirst, she still looks better than most humans do after a 10-day vacation.  Most of Lively’s scenes are monologues, and while she’s not about to make you forget about a young Meryl Streep, she’s solid and convincing in the role." 

    Justin Chang of The Los Angeles Times wrote, "[Lively] meets all the requirements of this high-concept one-woman show and then some: intense physical stamina, some stunt-double-abetted surfing, and the ability to look good in a bikini from every possible angle."  Chang acknowledged that Lively was a "talented actress" who was sure to demonstrate "richer, subtler acting in the future." 

    Tom Russo of The Boston Globe wrote, "That luckless skinny dipper from the opening of Jaws should have grabbed some survival tips from Blake Lively.  Just when you thought that The Shallows might be nothing more than flashing skin and a few cheap flashes of shark teeth, Lively and director Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop) defy expectations.  Yes, there’s shameless bikini ogling, but what could have been throwaway exploitation is instead a frequently gripping portrait of dire-straits resourcefulness."

    Peter Howell of The Toronto Star wrote, "This is potentially a star-making role for Lively. . . Sexy without being Baywatch ridiculous — despite the bright orange bikini and Flavio Labiano’s voyeuristic camera — she’s also athletic enough to convince as surfer and shark fighter."

    R. Emmet Sweeney of Movie Morlocks wrote, "[I]t is Blake Lively’s face that carries this film. . . [T]he whole film rides on her ability to convey fear as well as thought. . . And since the shark is entirely a CG creation, she has nothing to play off of the entire film aside from an injured seagull who becomes her inadvertent companion.  Lively turns out to be a commanding presence, and whether she is gritting through self-sewn stitches, improvising with a live bird, or reacting to off-screen chaos, she brings a quiet strength to the part.  It would have been easy (and fun) to overact, splashing about like a kid in the tub, but Lively proceeds as if her life is on the line.  All of the thrilling action mechanics that Collet-Serra orchestrates to end the film – a shark chase to the bottom of the ocean – would have been a dampened squib if Lively wasn’t there to light the fire."
    Notice that even the critics who favored Lively's performance could not help speaking about the actress' gym-fit body and her physical abilities.  Chang spoke of her "intense physical stamina" and Roeper complimented her for being a "real gamer" in fulfilling her physical duties.  Matt Zoller Seitz of the Roger Ebert website wrote, "Lively is superb here, giving one of those hyper-focused, action-lead performances that's as much an athletic feat as an aesthetic one."  It is an important element of her performance that could not be disregarded.  Even Gronvall conceded, "Lively's athleticism more than compensates for her limited emotional expressiveness."  It would be like reviewing Robert DeNiro's performance in Raging Bull (1980) without talking about his physicality.  It is part of the performance and yet it is something off on its own.  It is similar to talking about the sexuality that dominates Mirren's performances.

    The hostility towards Lively may have something to do with the orange bikini.  Howell and Nashawaty couldn't resist talking about the orange bikini that makes Lively looks so delightful.  Seitz wrote, "[I]n the end, The Shallows is a one-woman show that puts Lively on a jagged rocky pedestal and worships her.  She wears a bikini so radiantly orange that [it] seems to refract moonlight during the night scenes. . ."  But that's fine.  I was enamored of the orange bikini, too.  It is okay for a man to see a woman in an orange bikini and take pleasure in the endorphins that forcefully bubble up in his brain.  Enjoying the sight of a bikini-clad young lady fulfills a biological directive.  I am willing, as one of Lawson's lowly mortals, to gaze up in wonder at Lively.  It doesn't make me rude or sexist.  It makes me a man.  It may just be that DiCaprio was taken more seriously in The Revenant because he was wearing a muddy grizzly skin.

    DiCaprio's grizzly skin is authentic, but so is Lively's orange bikini.

    Following her contentious 1975 interview with Parkinson, Mirren's irrepressible sexuality continued to be evident in every role that she played. 

    Charles Dance and Helen Mirren in Pascali's Island (1988)
    Mirren at 60 years old in 2005
    The actress returned to the role of Cleopatra in 1998.  This time, she got fully naked in the last act.  Paul Levy of The Wall Street Journal wrote, "[E]ven now, at age 53, she has her moment of nudity - without which no Mirren performance is complete - as her handmaidens Charmian and Iras help her into her best dress and crown."  The Telegraph reported, "[A]s she bravely strips off her simple white costume to don her royal robes and go exquisitely to her death, this often frustrating production finally achieves the rapt magnificence that has eluded it for so long."  She knew that her naked body could get rapt attention from an audience.  It was a tool that she could pull out of her acting tool box whenever she needed it.

    Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman in "Cleopatra" (1998)
    People were still saying that Mirren was sexy when she was 69 years old and she was still complaining about these sort of compliments.  But it is based on her bare-chested acting that everyone feels compelled to ask her about her chest.  It makes sense to me. 

    Mirren said that the word "sexy" was "totally overused and limiting."  She added, "It limits human qualities into this very narrow, rather mundane and banal little place, and human beings are so much more complex and interesting and deep and everything than that.  I would wish there was a better word than that to express something deeper and richer."  Do you want to know what really had become mundane by this point?  Mirren showing her breasts had become mundane.

    It was headline news when Mirren finally decided to keep on her clothes.  Mark Jefferies of The Mirror wrote, "Dame Helen Mirren has revealed that she has retired from on-screen nudity - at the age of 70.  The veteran actress said that nowadays the only other person who sees her breasts is her husband Taylor Hackford.  Dame Helen said that at her age you 'don't have to do that sort of thing any more' and so she decided to cover up.  Her announcement means that viewers will no longer see the body of a woman who is still voted one of the sexiest in Britain, despite being a septuagenarian."

    Mirren discussed this matter with Alan Cumming on the CBS show Remember That Time.  Cumming asked her if she ever had an issue with performing nude.  Mirren said: "I have but you know, I thought, does it really matter?  It seemed to be not a thing not to get your knickers in a twist over."  She continued, "I was doing nude scenes from the first moment I started doing movies.  It was the era.  I guess it's even more so now.  When I did the Caligula it was: 'Shock, horror, XXX, only in porn cinemas.'  Now, Game of Thrones at eight o'clock is everything we did in Caligula. . . That's the good thing about getting older, you don't have to do that sort of thing any more.  My pleasure pillows are purely for my husband."  Mirren added that she had no idea her breasts are "legendary" and said that there were "much more legendary boobs than mine."


    Let us look at her interview with Cumming.

    So, the popularity of Mirren's breasts was so great that her breasts became the focus of a sketch on Saturday Night Live.  It was a sketch, I must emphasize, that enjoyed the actress' full and enthusiastic cooperation.

    I must disagree with Schwedel's claim that Mirren handled Parkinson's questions "in the most graceful way possible."  I see nothing about Mirren in the interview that can be described as graceful.  To use Mirren's own terminology, the actress "got her knickers in a twist."

    I have watched other interviews of Mirren from the 1970s.  She was, at the time, a touchy, heavy-going interview subject.  She was constantly on the defense, wincing if the interviewer spoke a single word that failed to meet her favor.  You must watch your words when you interview Mirren.

    In 2015, Mirren made it clear in yet another interview that she was bored with the continuing fascination with her looks.  These are clips from an episode of Good Morning Britain broadcast on July 28, 2015. The show's hosts are Ben Shepherd and Kate Garraway.

    Again, why don't I believe her?  She is still snappish, but she has learned by now to snap with a smile.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson was distracted by a scene in Gravity (2013) in which Sandra Bullock stripped out of her spacesuit.

    He said in a Tweet that he "couldn't stop thinking about Sandra Bullock's thighs."  He spoke in another Tweet about Bullock's "amazing legs" and said that he couldn't believe she had been able to keep them so "hairless."  He tweeted, "How could a female astronaut do such a thorough hair-removal job in space?"  He was shut down quickly with this photo of an actual hairless female astronaut with pretty good legs.

     Real-life astronaut Nicole Stott.

    For his comments, Tyson wasn't called a twat, a wanker or a jerkoff.  His race and his political affiliations protect him from the scorn of the social justice warriors.

    A pretty woman will get male attention.  It doesn't matter if it is wanted attention or unwanted attention.  She will get male attention.  But it is necessary to distinguish a glance from a grope.  A woman cannot be so arrogant and controlling to believe that she can say who can and who cannot look in her direction.  And it is even fine if that glance brings a smile to the man's face.  It does not make him a leering harasser.  Mirren has said that she has a right to control attention that she receives from men even while she does everything she can to encourage it.  She told Bust, "It's quite valuable to have the courage and the confidence to say, ‘No, fuck off, leave me alone, thank you very much.'"  Could you please get your tits out of my face and fuck off?  She is the Katy Perry of Dramatic Arts.  If you perform with pinwheels on your breasts, you should expect a discussion of your breasts.

    Okay, Katy, that's enough.

    You need to settle down, young woman.

    Helen, we don't need you joining in.

    Mirren returned to Parkinson's show in 2006 (She appeared on the show in 1978, 2003 and 2006).  "I hated you," Mirren told Parkinson.  "I thought you were a sexist person for mentioning my breasts."

    Alan Cummings and Helen Mirren in Remember That Time
    Cumming, a gay man, can openly ask Mirren about her breasts.  His question gets a joyful chuckle out of the actress.  A woman can rest her head on Mirren's breasts for a laugh.


    Everyone else draws attention to her breasts and, she says, she finds it "incredibly flattering."  But Parky is a villain.  Odd.

    Patricia Neal in Bright Leaf (1950)
    It reminds me of a line from Bright Leaf (1950).  The camera moves into a tight shot on Patricia Neal, who is blissfully staring off into space.  She says, "You know, I'll say one thing for Brant Royle: when he looks at me, I know I'm a woman."  Every day, men look at women with joy and love, which is just as it should be.  But the "male gaze," as it has become known, is treated by feminists as a deplorable and intolerable voyeurism.  Of course, it represents heterosexual interest, which threatens the object of the interest with pregnancy, children and family.  As a good feminist, Mirren was quick to reject such things.  "I have no maternal instinct whatsoever," she once said. "Motherhood holds no interest for me."

    Michael Parkinson
    Parkinson represents male virility, which feminists dislike so much, but it is even more offensive to feminists who insist on seeing Parkinson as an icon of white heterosexual male entitlement.  The YouTube clip is just another poor excuse to demean white heterosexual men.  The truth is that this 1975 video has been on YouTube for the last eight years and, every now and then, it has proven to be fine fodder for a feminist journalist who needs to write her latest tirade.  The video was first rediscovered in 2011, then again in 2013, then again in 2014, and most recently in 2016.  It is indignation on an eternal loop.

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  • 02/20/17--08:11: Where Have I Been?
    I have been working on two big undertakings since October.  The first project is a film book for McFarland.  The book will examine a legendary comedian whose troubled personal life too often overshadowed his work.  As I see it, my job is to cut through the man's notoriety in order to provide a plain and fair perspective of his varied film projects. 

    I have divided my time between researching my new book and preparing to debut a YouTube channel.  I started out with a less ambitious plan to put forth an alternate blog where I could tie together film trends and political issues.  But then I got the idea to take advantage of the new opportunities afforded by YouTube.

    It has been a challenging and sometimes torturous march up the steep learning curve of video production.  I encountered the most difficulty while recording voiceover narration.  I wanted to sound as confident and mellifluous as George Sanders, but I feared at times that I was sounding as unimposing and dreary as Droopy Dog.  It didn't help that I used a sensitive microphone, which picked up every breath that I made and picked up every squeak that came when I moved my chair.  I sounded like an asthma victim in desperate need of WD40.  But I worked hard to filter out the occasional noises and rerecord audio passages that were beyond use.

    YouTube is uncomfortable with film criticism channels that use copyrighted material from films and television shows.  The company employs a program called Content ID to scan, identify and block videos that could potentially violate copyright laws.  U. S. copyright law allows brief film clips to be used for purposes of criticism and news reporting, but the Content ID program lacks the sophistication of a legal expert and applies a broad brush to copyright-protected material.  From my perspective, it is better to use screen captures, which can ideally enhance the examination of a film without upsetting Content ID and getting content blocked.

    One of my first videos will address the recent Last Tango in Paris firestorm that exploded across social media in December.  It fascinated me to see people becoming enraged over a largely forgotten director chatting about a low-budget art house film that he made 45 years ago. 

    I hope that you like the channel and subscribe.

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    One of the angriest threads to come down my Facebook stream had to do with the recent controversy over whether Maria Schneider was raped on camera by Marlon Brando during the making of Last Tango in Paris.  Nancy, a producer and casting director, teamed with Leila, an actress, in a blitz against a middle-aged man who insisted that Brando's actions did not constitute rape.  Before I discovered the thread, the women had blocked the man, which caused his comments disappeared from the discussion.  This was all that was left:


    I don't care if it was hardcore porn - they sprung it on her to get REAL humiliation. It wasn't in the script and she, nor her agents, had signed off on it. End of story.


    The very fact that the horror of this act even needs explaining is mind boggling to me! IT IS NOT UP FOR DISCUSSION!!!  Forcing ANY act upon anyone else without their consent is wrong. This is a prime example of the bullshit we deal with as women on a constant basis and, sadly, it won't be getting better anytime soon.


    As women, we can all tell you horror story after horror story of sexual harassment and abuse.


    That's the biggest line of bull if ever there was one.  Men need to understand we're not going to put up with such s**t anymore.  Period.  Brando was a pompous, pretentious ass. I'm an actress and would never DARE use the pretense of being method as an excuse to force myself unto anyone. Art does not precede human rights nor would it stand up as a defense to a violent act in a court of law. Your words are shamefully ignorant and a blatant example of the exhausting patriarchy we have to deal with.


    Talking to a wall would be more productive than explaining the basics of human rights to you. Sad to see that's a hard thing for you to grasp but, unfortunately, not surprising. The fact that you'd even choose this post as one you have to keep commenting on and showing your full blown ignorance in is sickening.  Mansplaining at its most exhausting.


    Let me guess: you are an older white male.


    You really, REALLY need to go away. Far, far away.




    Wow. Your stupidity is ASTOUNDING!!!


    Michael you are a sexist misogynist ass


    Agree 1000% Leila


    Sounds like Michael [Redacted] is in the club of sexual abusers and harassers.




    Michael go fuck yourself


    wow i'm sure it's not the first time you've been called a pig


    Ah Michael. So, so goddamn stupid. And your reply to "go fuck yourself" is GOLDEN! There's a line for fucking yourself?  😂😂😂


    Had to block him. Too insane.


    I did too.  But first I reported him to FB. So done with this BS.


    Oh good idea to report. Wow. WTH.


    Can you believe these guys?


    Sickening!  The fact that they're OFFENDED by our outrage is indicative of what they're capable of.

    Yep. And trying to justify bad behavior as art. Misogyny at it's finest.


    Yep.  Sickening and scary. He's definitely not alone in thinking along those lines.


    I had just blocked 2 other guys who basically were making the same argument.


    We need more women in positions of power all across the board. Sigh.


    It's beyond belief that these guys not only try to justify it, but attack us with the same


    I swear I can't take anymore of this misogyny and now with Orange Hitler coming at us I shudder to think what we'll be dealing with. We have to be louder and more vocal than ever before.


    YASSSSS AGREE!!  It's unreal what we're up against.

    My own argument on this matter will be presented in a video essay for my forthcoming YouTube channel, Anthony The Watcher.

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    I have discussed the unconscious woman routine many times in the past.  You can click here for one of those discussions.  I now present for today's post a few other examples of unconscious women comedy.

    A Hole in the Head (1959)

    The Man from the Diners' Club (1963)


    How to Murder Your Wife (1965)


    California Suite (1978)


    I thank you for visiting today.

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    Irving Thalberg credited Harold Lloyd with creating the test screening, but I have my doubts that this is true.  More likely, Lloyd applied his unique talents to refining the test screening, eventually achieving enough success with the practice to inspire the film industry as a whole to adopt his version of it.

    As early as 1913, film producers were conducting what they called "advance showings." This was a private showing attended by invitation-only guests (largely theatre chain officials). The guests were invited to comment after the showing. The idea to test a film with the general public and have the audience fill out questionnaires came later. 

    David Yallop claimed that Roscoe Arbuckle engaged in audience testing as early as 1917. 

    In 1918, Lloyd Hamilton described an informal type of audience testing.  He would slip into a theatre after the lights went down, find himself a seat in the back, and take notes of the audience's reactions. His findings did not lead him to reedit or reshoot the film at hand, but it did affect his approach to his subsequent films.

    Newspapers confirm that Louis B. Mayer was conducting sneak previews in 1919.  Exhibitors Herald documented Mayer's test screening of the 1919 melodrama Mary Regan.

    Mr. Lloyd is known to have started test screening his films the following year. 

    Another man known to be involved in test screenings in 1920 was director George D. Baker.  Baker spoke at length about his test screenings in interviews.  He stated, "I am making it an invariable rule that all George D. Baker productions are shown before a theatre audience, preferably in a small town house, before they are released.  My assistant and myself attend this test showing, and carefully note the likes and dislikes of the audience to the various sequences of the story.  After the film has been run we compare notes and carefully eliminate the scenes which do not appeal to the typical theatre patron."

    Test screenings were common by 1923.

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