Sunday, August 31, 2014

One Dubious Print Ad By RKO Radio Pictures, 1931



Frankly, we're just a tad skeptical about the RKO Short Subjects Department's claims here. While comedy geeks love Benny Rubin, for cryin' out loud, he's the top of the bill and W.C. Fields is the bottom! Well, both were headlining RKO 2-reelers at the time.



Even more amazing is the bit about kids "clamoring for" Larry Darmour Productions' cheesy, low-budget Mickey McGuire comedies - yes, even in a hurting, battered, Great Depression and entertainment-starved America. We do, however, at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, admit to liking Billy Barty's performance in the following film as the conductor TONS.



By all accounts Billy Barty was a very good musician (started his career touring vaudeville in his family's band) who offscreen would rock the drum kit like his heroes from the Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman big bands. Billy soon left these comedies to contribute some amazing bits to Busby Berkeley's already hallucinogenic production numbers in WB musicals.



Meanwhile, the Mickey McGuire series moved from RKO to Columbia distribution for its last season in 1933-1934. Comedy shorts starring Clark & McCullough, Edgar Kennedy, Harry Sweet and Grady Sutton continued being produced by RKO.



Notably, at the bottom of this ad, most certainly bringing up the rear, is a reference to RKO's Toby The Pup cartoons, produced by Dick Huemer, Sid Marcus and Art Davis at the Charles Mintz Studio.



That means we simply must close this post with two, not three, no make that FOUR animated adventures starring the (not exactly) beloved Toby. The cartoons never got distributed to U.S. television and were largely unseen for several decades.



For the longest time, only one entry from the Toby The Pup series, The Museum, was available for viewing.



Since then, animation historians (David Gerstein in particular) have found several more Toby cartoons. In this writer's cartoon-crazed opinion, they equal or surpass the wacky Fleischer Studio hijinx from the same period and also rival the contemporaneous Disney cartoons for animation technique, early 1930's "rubber hose" style.



Friday, August 29, 2014

This Labor Day Weekend: Classic Movie Events In Hollywood And Brooklyn



This weekend in Hollywood, it's time for the Cinecon convention.



This is the 50th of these one-of-a-kind festivals and its m.o. is "films so rare even the most dyed-in-the-wool professional historians have never seen them", presented on the big screen in glorious 35mm.



At this year's Cinecon, the Career Achievement Honoree will go to the kid who stole the hearts of a gazillion moviegoers in MGM films, the winsome Margaret O'Brien, who will be there in person and charm the audience yet again in the Q&A following a screening of Vincente Minnelli's iconic Meet Me In St. Louis.



Monsieur Blogmeister attended several of the five day celluloid extravaganzas way back in the 1980's and had the immense pleasure of meeting many responsible for sublime and happy moments on the silver screen, from Hal Roach Studio luminaries Sunshine Sammy Morrison and Anita Garvin to legendary animators Bob Clampett and Hugh Harman. They weren't "celebs", but folks there to have a good time, socialize and meet others who love movies.



Alas, it has been many moons since Mr. Blogmeister has been to a Cinecon, but knows plenty of friends and colleagues who will be there, no doubt hitting the local restaurants and watering holes with gusto between the rare movies and having a lovely Labor Day Weekend.



While disappointed to miss screenings of the howlingly funny 1929 Hal Roach Studio 2-reeler Snappy Sneezer and the incomparable Jack Benny in Buck Benny Rides Again, we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog wish the producers, curators and volunteers presenting this fest all the best. For more info, check out the Cinecon website.



Across the country, in Brooklyn, home to many jazz musicians, comedians and filmmakers (as well as the birthplace of Bugs Bunny), animation historian and film collector Tom Stathes from Cartoons On Film is curating/presenting a fine program of classic cartoon coolness this Saturday evening.



It's an outdoor show at in the backyard of Williamsburg's City Reliquary museum on 370 Metropolitan Avenue - and promises to be lots of fun. Even if one is many miles away from Williamsburg and cannot attend the show, join the official Facebook group for the Tom Stathes Cartoon Carnival



This weekend, the vintage movie flame - well, hopefully none of the archival nitrate prints that shall be shown - burns brightly on both coasts!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Happy 105th Birthday, Lester Willis Young (1909-1959)



Today is the birthday of arguably the greatest instrumentalist to ever play jazz, Count Basie's go-to guy, saxophonist and clarinetist Lester Young, born on August 27, 1909.





Some music aficionados might argue that the "greatest" mantle would go to Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Art Tatum or possibly any number of luminaries quite a bit younger than Pres (Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Miles Davis).



Others would accurately say, yeah - ALL of them are the greatest and don't forget Sidney Bechet, Bix Beiderbecke, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Christian, Teddy Wilson and Earl "Fatha" Hines while you're at it!




For this correspondent and music lover, nobody then or now comes close to the sweet sound of Lester Young a.k.a. "Pres".



Many attempted to imitate his musicality and out-of-the-box approach to life, but nobody succeeded. There's only one original.



Here's Pres and several bands jam-packed with virtuosos, sounding great.











While Lester's music provided some measure of comfort for millions around the world, during his lifetime and 55 years after his death, he suffered a great deal in his life. One hopes that Mr. Young found the peace and serenity which eluded him during his time here.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Now Available On Blu-ray: The Mack Sennett Collection, Volume 1



As we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog join many around the world in mourning the passing of celebrated actor-standup philosopher-improv comedy master, cartoon voice artist par excellence and big time San Francisco Giants fan Robin Williams (the ever-astute Madame Blogmeister phrased it aptly and best, "depression is a goddamn killer"), it is apropo that today's posting be devoted to devastatingly funny screen humor from a century ago.



That classic comedy oasis would be The Mack Sennett Collection, Volume 1, the first of two Blu-ray sets produced by CineMuseum, LLC, for Flicker Alley - and officially released today.



This is the first of two volumes, both of which will feature 50, count 'em 50, wacky Mack Sennett comedies, digitally re-mastered in HD and all produced by the guy dubbed in the silent era The King Of Comedy (with, frankly, some hot-and-heavy competition from the studios of Hal Roach and Jack White throughout the 1920's). Here's the promotional trailer.



It's highly recommended to have Brent Walker's comprehensive, painstakingly researched and splendid Mack Sennett's Fun Factory on hand as a reference to go with the Blu-ray set.



On the set: the recently discovered Charlie Chaplin cameo in the Ford Sterling comedy A Thief Catcher.



The other Chaplin films produced by Mack Sennett in 1913-1914 are on Flicker Alley's Chaplin At Keystone: An International Collaboration Of 34 Original Films set.




Never fear, however - there are plenty of films featuring the Sennett studio's many other resident funsters, a.k.a. THE USUAL SUSPECTS!



Roscoe Arbuckle



Billy Bevan



Sydney Chaplin



Charley Chase



Andy Clyde



Chester Conklin



Vernon Dent



Louise Fazenda



Raymond Griffith



Phyllis Haver



Thelma Hill



Alice Howell




Madeline Hurlock



Harry Langdon



Fred Mace



Polly Moran




Charlie Murray



Mabel Normand



Marie Prevost



Al St. John



Ford Sterling



Slim Summerville



Mack Swain



Gloria Swanson and Bobby Vernon



Ben Turpin


While the two volume collection primarily consists of silent films, it does feature a few "Mack Sennett Talking Pictures" featuring Andy Clyde, W.C. Fields, Daphne Pollard, Marjorie Beebe, Harry Gribbon and Grady Sutton.





The title listing for The Mack Sennett Collection, Volume 1, is as follows:
  1. The Curtain Pole
  2. The Manicure Lady
  3. A Dash Through the Clouds
  4. The Water Nymph
  5. A Grocery Clerk's Romance
  6. On His Wedding Day
  7. Bangville Police
  8. A Fishy Affair
  9. The Speed Kings
  10. The Thief Catcher
  11. The Great Toe Mystery
  12. Recreation
  13. Shot In The Excitement
  14. The Noise Of Bombs
  15. Ambrose's First Falsehood
  16. A Bird's A Bird
  17. Gussle's Day Of Rest
  18. Do-Re-Mi-Boom!
  19. A Lover's Lost Control
  20. A Submarine Pirate
  21. Fatty And Mabel Adrift
  22. His Bitter Pill
  23. Madcap Ambrose
  24. Teddy At The Throttle
  25. Her Torpedoed Love
  26. A Clever Dummy
  27. Hearts And Flowers
  28. Down On The Farm (Feature)
  29. Don't Weaken
  30. Gymnasium Jim
  31. The Extra Girl (Feature)
  32. The Dare-Devil
  33. Black Oxfords
  34. Galloping Bungalows
  35. His Marriage Wow
  36. Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies
  37. A Rainy Knight
  38. Saturday Afternoon
  39. A Sea Dog's Tale
  40. Hoboken To Hollywood
  41. Ice Cold Cocos
  42. Broke In China
  43. The Pride Of Pikeville
  44. Fiddlesticks
  45. Run, Girl, Run
  46. Taxi For Two
  47. The Bluffer (Sound)
  48. The Dentist (Sound)
  49. Don't Play Bridge With Your Wife (Sound)
  50. The Fatal Glass Of Beer (Sound)




Author and historian James L. Neibaur has penned an excellent overview of the Blu-ray release and will be writing daily reviews of each and every one of the 50 subjects on the three discs that comprise volume 1, starting with The Curtain Pole, the D.W. Griffith-Mack Sennett collaboration film from 1909. To Mack and all of the performers, filmmakers and technicians who worked so hard to make magic over his lengthy career - thanks for the laughs!