I dig comedians/comediennes in no uncertain terms and require laughs daily. And, as anybody who reads this blog has probably figured out, I especially go for those double-entendre packed early 1930's comedies!
The zany, high-spirited feature-length and short comedies of the early 1930's were unquestionably a balm for those battered by the Great Depression.
The stars were the hilarious likes of the iconic Mae West, W.C. Fields and Eddie Cantor, as well as a host of lesser-known but equally funny comedy greats: the delightful Polish-American singer-comedienne Lyda Roberti, the very underrated Marion Davies and three way over-the top comedy teams, the Marx Brothers, zany Clark & McCullough and Wheeler & Woolsey.
Among those outrageous wisecracking lechers who cut their artistic teeth in burlesque and vaudeville are the subjects of today's blog: Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey.
Big box office stars who cranked out comedy features for RKO from 1929 to 1938, Bert n' Bob were fast-talkin' wiseacres and talented "song and dance men", capable of sweetness, unabashed silliness and verbal zingers in the Groucho Marx/Bobby Clark tradition.
The boys' good-natured lechery exemplified double entendre humor as Laurel & Hardy defined the art of slapstick and Charley Chase the comedy of embarrassment.
Co-starring with Bert and Bob in many of their films was the singer-dancer-ingenue who, with charm and chutzpah to spare, owned the patent on "cute and adorable", Miss Dorothy Lee.
The next four clips are from one of the best W&W films, the unapologetically outrageous Diplomaniacs (1933).
Diplomaniacs is a close cousin to the contemporaneous wacko fantasy romps Million Dollar Legs (1932) and Duck Soup (1933), and with good reason: the screenplay was penned by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who began his career with wacky Depression-era comedies - and fully deserves the highest measure of silver screen immortality for writing both Million Dollar Legs and All About Eve (the 1950 Oscar winner for Best Picture)!
Bert shares the screen with another very talented and funny musical comedy performer, Marjorie White. They are hilarious and it's a darn shame they never appeared in another film together.
Bert & Bob attempt to sing their way out of sure trouble in a sleazy dive:
This production number conveys both the surreal and Pre-Code flavor of Diplomaniacs
Last up is a favorite musical number of mine, from Hips Hips Hooray, directed by the great Mark Sandrich, whose credits ranged from wild and crazy Clark & McCullough two-reelers to the big-budget features of Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers.
This production number starts off sweet with Bert and Dorothy, then, about three minutes in, gets wonderfully silly. It also offers a chance for co-star Thelma Todd, a terrific but frequently under-utilized comedienne, to be funny. Here, as in Charley Chase's 1932 classic The Nickel Nurser, Thelma gets to do her stuff, where in many of her films she is just cast as eye candy.
In closing, I recall my father telling me about a W&W routine in which they sing "It's A Wonder You Don't FEEL IT", while beating the crap out of each other. Sounds both indescribably, side-splittingly funny and among those guilty pleasures that Wheeler & Woolsey no doubt relished giving to their fans. . . then and 80 years later.