Friday, May 29, 2009

Beatrice Lillie And Lupino Lane (as Napoleon and Josephine), Savoy Theatre, 1933

MUST celebrate the birthday of the splendid, gifted, hilarious comedienne, actress and vocalist Beatrice Lillie (1894-1989) with one answer to the question, how cool and fun would it be if this grande dame of entertainment was part of a comedy team with the fabulous Lupino Lane?

Please e-mail me (off-blog) if you have a 16mm print of this reel and will not charge two arms and a leg for it!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Scopitone Alert

This one has everything I love about Scopitones: that certain innocent pre-psychedelia 60's period flavor, Phil Spector-ish orchestrations, random beehived bikined babes bopping for no apparent reason, a cheesy "funtime at the Santa Monica pier" amusement park backdrop, an indescribably bizarre moment involving the Peppy The Musical Clown pinball machine - and, last but not least, the harmonizing of Dick & Dee Dee!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Anti-Social Networking

I have mixed emotions about social networking. No doubt I'll have to wear orange jumpsuits at the re-education facility for the untrendy by having no desire to Tweet/Twitter (besides watching Tweety Bird in A Gruesome Twosome). An onslaught of crass advertising plus a most user-unfriendly interface drove me away from MySpace. While I like Facebook, I discontinued my account for awhile.

There's a lot to like about Facebook - it's fun to think up bon (or not-so-bon) mots for the news feed, watch video clips chosen by movie buff friends, swap quips with far-flung contacts and receive all kinds of virtual stuff (movie posters, Parliament/Funkadelic albums, knishes from Brooklyn, Django Reinhardt references) - but the sense of lost privacy and potential for social subterfuge trouble me.
It's remarkably easy to broadcast personal information publicly on Facebook . . . and that makes me remarkably uneasy! Although social networking websites are not meant to substitute for direct communication (A.K.A. in-person conversation) with our loved ones, dang it, we homosapiens are fallible, flawed creatures and do this anyway.

Christine Hassler said it aptly in her April 29, 2009 Huffington Post column:

"The internet makes it conveniently possible to avoid uncomfortable face to face interactions or phone calls. But that doesn't make it right. We're all still human beings and owe each other the dignity of not taking the easy or lazy way out when it comes to a conversation that may be difficult. All of us are becoming far too reliant on our gadgets and starved for real human connection."

Illustrating the last point is the following very funny piece about antisocial networking behaviors, as well as a clever spoof of that 1950's classroom staple, the Coronet Instructional Film.

And I can't in good conscience end this blog entry without serving up the real deal, a genuine 1953 Coronet Instructional Film, just the sort of thing that those readers who have attended the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival have sat through more than once.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Celebrate A. Conan Doyle's 150th with Gene, Madeline, Marty and Duck Twacy

Today marks the 150th birthday of the incomparable Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the fabulous Sherlock Holmes and the only slightly less fabulous Dr. Watson (no relation to Johnny "Guitar" Watson).

Today, this blog celebrates said birthday with comedy, so enjoy three great comedians, Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman and the fellow Mel Brooks said was the funniest guy he ever knew, Dom DeLuise, in the coming attractions for The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother.

Is it possible to top that quartet and get a Sherlock Holmes reference in? Well, it's conceivable to at least equal them with this Looney Tunes piece de resistance, produced in 1945 by director Bob Clampett and ace animators Manny Gould, Rod Scribner, Bob McKimson, Bill Melendez and Izzy Ellis. And while, yes, I am aware that A. Conan Doyle had nothing to do with Dick Tracy whatsover, there is a Sherlock cameo at 3:41.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Burt Bacharach Day

My Thief is another inspired collaboration between Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello: great melody, signature Burt harmonies and Elvis' vivid lyrics.

And that wondrous vocalist on the coda (enters at 3:51), in case you're wondering, is Lisa Taylor.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Next Philosopher Guru Returns by Paul F. Etcheverry

Found hastily scribbled on dilapidated foolscap in the back of an abandoned 1995 Ford Taurus in Hoboken, New Jersey, the sometimes trenchant observations of Al Confucius Johnson, philosopher, slacker, beer drinker:

"The superior man is correctly firm, and not merely firm, but has a prescription for Viagra waiting at the pharmacy nonetheless."

"When anger rises, think of how much diabolical fun revenge can be!"

I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being, until it's inconvenient."

"He who will not economize has one big-ass check coming from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)."

"You cannot open a dirty book without learning something."

"Everything has its beauty but undergoes plastic surgery anyway."

"Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue, but sell snake oil, derivatives and political parties exceptionally well."

"He who speaks without modesty will get laid."

"Those who neither speak slander that gradually soaks into the mind, nor statements that startle like a wound in the flesh, are . . . pretty much impossible to find in this life."

"The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort. The common man sells the superior man a La-Z Boy at 15% off."

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Musicians In The Movies: The Philharmonicas Play Raymond Scott

Continuing the "harmonica obsession" thread, here are The Philharmonicas, playing an amazing cover of Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" in The Dipsy Doodler (1940), a Vitaphone Melody Master musical short starring Larry Clinton (no relation to Bill) and His Orchestra.

What I want to know now is where to find a clip of Jean "Toots" Theilemanns performing Thelonious Monk's finger-and-brain busting "Skippy", a Mount Everest for musicians!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cruel And Unusual Comedy

Billie Ritchie (1874-1921), creator of the most psychotic comedy "star" in the history of movies.

Refusing to devote today's blog entry to the recent passing of larger-than-life, ever-expressive and often damn funny "fat comic" Dom DeLuise, I will instead plug a must-see event for movie buffs and classic comedy geeks: the Cruel And Unusual Comedy film series at The Museum Of Modern Art. If you're within a reasonable distance of the museum (and have as sick a sense of humor as I do), this presentation by Silent Comedy Mafia dons and MOMA historians is not to be missed!

Among the celluloid rarities: one of the very few existing comedy shorts starring the aforementioned Billie Ritchie, star of more than 50 films produced and/or directed by the guru of slapstick comedy excess, Henry "Suicide" Lehrman. Billie, a veteran of England's celebrated Fred Karno troupe, plays the contemptible anti-protagonist of the 1916 L-KO comedy Cold Hearts And Hot Flames, which will be screened in the mayhem-filled Gratuitous Violence program on the evening of May 27. Watch it and decide for yourself if Mr. Ritchie lives up to his rep as the slimiest starring character in the history of comedy films!

Stan Laurel in drag in "Get 'Em Young" (1926)

And, even if you live thousands of miles from New York and can't go, check out these superb program notes.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Musicians In The Movies: The Fabulous Borrah Minevitch And His Harmonica Rascals, 1936

The song is "Limehouse Blues" and the references to other songs within the four minutes are many.

Now that's entertainment and I sincerely hope to land a film print of a Borrah Minevitch And His Harmonica Rascals Soundie someday!

Too bad the concept of conductors didn't make it into the rock era (although one could make the argument that such bandleaders as Pete Townshend and David Bowie were, indeed, conductors). The idea of someone like Borrah Minevitch having a bit of fun conducting onstage with, for example, Ray Davies, Jeff Beck, Ron Wood, or even better, Syd Barrett, would have been . . . interesting, to say the least.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Dancing To Save Your Sole - Or, Oops, I Mean Soul!

Back in Pre-Code musicals land again, here are Nancy Carroll, Al "Rubber Legs" Norman (who enters at 3:48), The Abe Lyman Orchestra and high-stepping showgirls, giving their all to a peppy production number from Paramount On Parade (1930).