Saturday, October 31, 2015
The cinema and pumpkin-crazed rapscallions at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog send our very wishes for a Happy Halloween.
We raise a hemlock-filled toast with the following snippets of celluloid, cartoon and video goodness, starring a veritable rogues' gallery of our very favorite artistes!
Sunday, October 25, 2015
"While her performing style could be very broad, she also had a gift for small, insightful gestures that could bring a moment of pathos and feeling into the knockabout. She was equally adept at being demure or projecting a world-weary cynicism. " Steve Massa
"Like her contemporaries Alice Howell, Mabel Normand, Marie Dressler, and Louise Fazenda, Gale took many bumps and bruises in the name of laughter alongside her male comedian counterparts in an estimated two hundred fifty-eight shorts and features, some of the craziest of which she wrote. " The Women Film Pioneers' Project
“Treat a dog kindly and he’ll do anything in the world for you.” Gale Henry
Our contribution to the 2015 Silent Cinema Blogathon, hosted with panache by In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood and Lauren Champkin, starts with an unanswerable question.
Just who was the funniest comedienne of silent movies? Of course, what specifically tickles one's funny bone is a matter of personal taste, and this is tantamount to pondering who was a better baseball player, Willie Mays or Roberto Clemente. The temptation is to open and close this question emphatically with Marie Dressler and Marion Davies, tied for that honor on the strength of the devastatingly funny MGM features The Patsy and Show People.
That said, there were many remarkable comediennes in the WW1 era and 1920's. Some died very young, way before the likes of author/documentary filmmaker Kevin Brownlow and Sam Gill of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences could interview them.
The wonderful "Madcap Mabel" Normand headlined features starting in 1917, but made her last film in 1926 and passed away in 1930.
Other top comediennes from silent movies simply retired from show business.
There were some amazingly funny comediennes from silents who, possibly due to frequent appearances as supporting players rather than headliners, get a bit of short shrift.
In the opinion of Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, topping that list would be one of the funniest women ever to appear before a 35mm movie camera - and the only one to enjoy a highly successful career as a comedienne, character actress AND as a trainer of talented dogs for the movies: the fabulous Gale Henry (1893-1972).
Much of Gale's work - and that's hundreds of comedy shorts made by Universal, Nestor, L-Ko and Bull's Eye/Reelcraft from 1914-1919 - has been lost due to vault fires. Indeed, silent movie aficionados know all about it - the inevitable Nitrate Won't Wait reality.
That includes an overwhelming majority of the short subjects Gale headlined (including the Lady Baffles & Detective Duck series that spoofed cliffhanger serials), as well as her excellent character roles in a good many feature films.
At one point, she seemed to be making two films a week for the ridiculously prolific Universal Joker series, directed by Allen Curtis.
Your Correspondent reiterates: Gale Henry starred in HUNDREDS of comedy shorts, mostly for Universal, then for Nestor and L-Ko, throughout the WW1 era. Here are a couple of them. She imbues her roles with tremendous personality and chutzpah.
After the aforementioned gazillion appearances in Universal, Nestor and L-Ko comedy shorts, Gale organized her own production company and starred in her own series, writing them or co-writing the comedy short subjects with first husband (and director) Bruno J. Becker.
The following, The Detectress, both funny and emphatically politically incorrect even by the lax standards of 1919, can be seen on disk 4 of the Slapstick Encyclopedia DVD set.
Gale moved on to play numerous character parts as spinsters and most officious ladies, shining in such films as Open All Night and Merton Of The Movies.
At the same time, she continued appearing as a guest star in numerous comedy shorts.
These included Gale's roles as a semi-regular featured player in the comedy short field's "gold standard", the Hal Roach Studio's series starring Charley Chase, crafted with comic ingenuity and sophistication by its headliner-director-writer, in collaboration with director Leo McCarey. This writer considers His Wooden Wedding, featuring a quintessential Gale Henry performance, arguably the funniest comedy short ever made.
While Gale's memorable character roles in Charley Chase comedies would continue into talkies, gigs in front of the cameras in general began dwindling while her second career was as dog trainer supreme picked up steam. Gale and husband Henry East had started the kennel as a side business, soon to find that East Kennels would - please pardon the Fractured Fairy Tales style play on words - became top dog in the field. Later such talented trainers as Frank and Rudd Weatherwax (Lassie) were taught by the Easts.
The most famous of the winsome fur-bearing movie stars trained by East Kennels was none other than everybody's favorite screen canine - well, not named Pete or Cameo - the pooch seen in Thin Man movies and in Bringing Up Baby, the amazing Skippy, otherwise known as Asta.
As far as Gale's stellar work as a dog trainer goes, the splendid science writer Kate Kelly wrote a rather amazing piece for the America Comes Alive website about the beloved Asta and it does have some prime material on the Easts.
Not a heck of a lot has been written about Gale's 20-year movie career, but the late Kalton C. Lahue, the aforementioned Sam Gill and Steve Massa (from the Billy Rose Performing Arts Library) have certainly given it the old college try with their impeccably researched and breezily written studies of silent comedy history, Clown Princes & Court Jesters and Lame Brains And Lunatics: The Good, The Bad And The Forgotten Of Silent Comedy, respectively - musts for any classic film buff's bookshelf.
In closing, we who are Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog extend big time thanks to Jim Kerkhoff, the historian from whose collection the photos in this post came from, the Laurel & Hardy and
Saturday, October 24, 2015
Tomorrow Afternoon In Palo Alto, CA: Jeff Sanford's Cartoon Jazz Septet + Psychotronic Paul's Silent Movie Favorites
Tomorrow's presentation of Big Screen Fun, curated by Your Correspondent, features - on GLORIOUS 16mm film - the usual suspects: Otto Messmer, Fleischer Studios, The Hal Roach Studio, Charley Chase, Roscoe Arbuckle, Mabel Normand and more.
Accompanying the vintage movies: LIVE MUSIC by Jeff Sanford Cartoon Jazz Septet - Raymond Scott, John Kirby and new compositions by (Straight Outta San Francisco City College's superb music department) Lenny Carlson.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
The talented and prolific writers Crystal (In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood) and Lauren are hosting The Silent Cinema Blogathon all weekend. Our contribution will be a post on one of Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog's all-time favorite movie comediennes, Gale Henry.
A veritable slew of good and ambitious writers are putting in their two cents as well with the following topics:
100 Films In A Year - Wings
365 Days 365 Classics - The General and The Kid
B Noir Detour - Asphalt
The Big V Riot Squad: Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton in The Bell Boy
Caftan Woman - 3 Bad Men
Century Film Project - The Red Cryptogram
Cinematic Catharsis: The Hands Of Orlac
Critica Retro - It
Defiant Success - Pandora’s Box
The Cinematic Frontier - Way Down East
In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood - Lillian Gish in D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms
Girls Do Film - La Souriante Madame Beudet
Hear Me Talk Of Sin - The Sumurun
Hitless Wonder Movie Blog - Buster Keaton in Seven Chances
Immortal Ephemera - Underworld
Karavansara - Cabiria
Lauren Champkin - Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush
Le Cinema Dreams - Mel Brooks' Silent Movie
Lu Mot Du Cinephiliaque - The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari and La Roue
MIB’s Instant Headache - The Phantom Carriage
Moon In Gemini - Modern Times
Mother Time Musings - A Woman Of Paris
Movie Movie Blog Blog: Laurel And Hardy in Duck Soup
Movie Rob: Safety Last and Sherlock Jr.
Nitrateglow - The Magician
An Ode To Dust - The Saphead
Old Hollywood Films -The silent film career of Rin Tin Tin - the original canine star
Outspoken And Freckled - College
Pop Culture Reverie - Sunrise
Portraits By Jenni - The Wind
Reel Distracted - The Unholy Three
Serendipitous Anachronisms - Silent as the grave, Edgar Allan Poe in silent cinema
A Shroud Of Thoughts - Nosferatu
Silent-Ology - The silent era careers of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi
Silver Scenes - Beau Geste
Silver Screenings - The Italian Straw Hat
Smitten Kitten Vintage - Marion Davies and Louise Brooks
The Stop Button - Our Hospitality
Tales From The Border - Der Golem
That Other Critic - Chaplin, You Commie
Wolffian Classic Movies Digest - Phantom Of The Opera
The Wonderful World Of Cinema - The Farmer’s Wife
Sunday, October 18, 2015
If you are an aficionado of the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival but reside in the East Bay, especially the Oakland- Emeryville-Berkeley-El Cerrito area - it's time for another of the monthly programs at The Art House Gallery on Shattuck. At this one, Movies For Monsters, the scuttlebutt is that there will contributions for all three archivists of the Psychotronix Film Festival.
Friday, October 02, 2015
Tomorrow, one can take a headlong leap into the 1950's science fiction time capsule at the New Rheem Theatre on 350 Park Street, Moraga, CA 94556.
Headlining The Classic 50's Science Fiction Film Festival, Part 2: The Thing, It Came From Outer Space, The War Of The Worlds and Forbidden Planet - and a personal appearance by actress Ann Robinson.
Programmer/curator Derek Zemrak did a tremendous job with Part 1 of the Classic 50's Science Fiction Film Festival, back on May 16th.
It will be a day of Big Screen Fun for all 1950's sci-fi film fans. To contact the New Rheem Theatre's box office, call (925) 388-0751. Main office: (925) 388-0752. And. . . by all means, watch the skies! watch the skies!