Friday, January 28, 2022
It's on the nippy side today - even female squirrels are freezing their nuts off - and we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog are pleased to not be residing in the even colder Midwestern United States. How can one warm up? Hot coffee, hotter cocoa and classic cartoons! Leading off: early talkie goodness from the Walter Lantz Studio and ace animator Bill Nolan.
High on the list of all-time favorites: those delightfully weird 6 minute gems from the Van Beuren studio.
We look forward to the next Blu-ray release of the Van Beuren cartoons, which are nearly as indescribably bizarre as the Fleischer studio's Talkartoons. Some entries from Van Beuren's Aesop's Fables, Tom And Jerry, The Little King, Amos N' Andy and Cubby Bear series must be seen to be believed and somehow manage to be simultaneously inept, saucy, hilarious and in very bad taste (even by early 1930's standards). A certain vivid and unfettered imagination often finds its way into these cartoons.
And then, inevitably, it's time for Krazy Kat and Scrappy cartoons, the former by the production crew headed by Manny Gould (yes, the same guy who contributed stellar animation to Bob Clampett and Robert McKimson cartoons at Warner Bros.) and Ben Harrison, the latter by Sid Marcus, Dick Huemer and Art Davis.
Do we at least give a tip of a top hat worn by Milt Gross to the animation greats who inhabited Termite Terrace? Of course, we do! Daffy Duck is always surefire, whether Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Frank Tashlin, Art Davis, Robert McKimson or Norm McCabe directed.
We're big fans of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog!
Here's a hilarious 1939 Merrie Melodie in which voice artist par excellence Arthur Q. Bryan doesn't play Elmer Fudd. Tex Avery directed. Brilliant gags abound.
We are quite fond of the WB cartoons directed by the aforementioned Art Davis.
The timing and presentation in the Davis unit's Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes is quirky, funny and just a tad different from what the McKimson, Freleng and Jones crews were coming up with in the late 1940's. Love the wonderfully way-out animation of Emery Hawkins!
Turns out the quite formidable Winter Storm Kenan (wonder how the excellent comedian and comic actor with that first name feels about this) is on its way to our area. So, on this frigid January 28, we say "keep calm, watch cartoons and stay safe, everybody."
Friday, January 21, 2022
Omicron, COVID-19's latest, has postponed screenings, concerts and theater at this time, but, fortunately, online presentations continue. Paramount among said presentations will be this weekend's tribute to British director, screenwriter, actor and silent film comedian Walter Forde by the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.
This dyed-in-the-wool comedy geek has been watching silent movies ever since Robert Youngson comedy compilations were shown on TV in the 1960's and remains quite familiar with the films of Keystone, Hal Roach Studios, Vitagraph, Christie Comedies and Educational, but (remarkably) has not seen these films before!
Presenter and host Michael Aus, early cinema historian, collector and distant cousin of Texas Guinan, has provided the following five silent comedy rarities for the program: Walter Finds A Father (1921, Zodiac), Footing The Bill (1922, British Comedies), Walter The Prodigal (1926, British Super Comedies), Walter's Paying Policy (1926, British Super Comedies) and Walter the Sleuth (1926, British Super Comedies).
Mr. Aus elaborates: Walter Forde is best remembered as a British Director from the 1930's and 40's, but during the silent era he wrote, directed, and starred in a series of slapstick comedies. A number of his silent comedies were issued in Britain by Pathe on 9.5mm film. Several of these have been scanned from my personal film collection and are presented here for your enjoyment.
Forde plays a goofy and somewhat bumbling but likable character, neither a stoic a la Keaton nor a grotesque cartoony clown along the lines of Harry Watson, Jr. a.k.a. Musty Suffer, the Mack Sennett comedy stars not named Mabel Normand and Vitagraph's wacky king of prop comedy, Larry Semon. A few "Walter" comedies, in addition to those Michael Aus will present on January 22, are up on YouTube.
The son of musical hall star Tom Seymour, Walter Forde at the beginning of his movie career (as Ernst Lubitsch did) starred in his own series of comedy short subjects before turning to directing a wide range of genres in feature films. Forde and his father collaborated on the first series of 2-reelers in 1921-1922, with Tom directing Walter's Trying Frolic, Walter Wants Work, Walter Wins A Wager and Walter Makes A Movie.
It's an eye-opener to see Forde's work, both as silent era star and sound era director. The following, Walter Wants Work, recalls the opening sequences of You're Darn Tootin', the Laurel & Hardy classic produced six years later. Maybe Stan saw it!
This writer is surprised by the extent to which he is unfamiliar with Great Britain's silent movie clowns, led by Forde and Betty "Squibs" Balfour. Will need to watch all five Walter Forde comedies Mr. Aus is presenting to elaborate further!
Reflecting upon the legends who left Great Britain for America - Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel and Lupino Lane - it rarely has dawned upon this film buff that there were also excellent comics who stayed in England and starred in slapstick comedies there (note: the acrobatic Lane, as headliner of stage and screen, did both).
As a comedy feature director, Forde helmed a World War II-themed vehicle for the rowdy vaudeville and music hall comedy troupe The Crazy Gang, a version of Charley's Aunt starring Arthur Askey, and several films featuring goofball supporting players Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt, the perennial numbskull stooges from the films of Will Hay. And, speaking of the imperious schoolmaster of 1930's English comedy features, Walter Forde's last onscreen last appearance was with Will Hay in Go to Blazes, a British Ministry of Information short subject about incendiary bombs produced in 1942.
The IMDB entry on Walter Forde by email@example.com adds:
Born in Bradford,Yorkshire, he was the son of repertory actors and showed no inclination for acting but became a comedian on the music hall.
Attracted to films in 1919 he made a short film for Zodiac Films followed by a series of six 2 reel comedies for Windsor Studios in Catford in 1921. There he developed a slapstick type character called Walter whose trademark were Oxford bags (trousers) and a straw hat. Walter's Wining Ways (1921) was considered the best of these but it wasn't until later years that his comedy talent was recognised.
He went to America between 1923 and 1925 making film comedies for Universal but soon tired of American methods and returned to England where he made more 2 reelers and two feature films ~Wait and See and What Next both with Mabel Poulton with scripts written by himself and which he also directed.
When talkies arrived he became exclusively a director making some 30 films the last being Cardboard Cavalier starring comedian Sid Field. In 1947 he directed what many considered to be his finest film, Master of Bankdam shot on location at Marsden near Huddersfield and starring Tom Walls, Jimmy Handley, David Tomlinson, Stephen Murray and Dennis Price.
For more on Walter Forde’s work in front of and behind the cameras, read the British Film Institute bio, three articles penned by Matthew Ross of The Lost Laugh, including a career overview, an article about Go To Blazes, the Will Hay - Walter Forde collaboration and The Pioneering British Comedies of Walter Forde (starting at page 12), as well as Walter Forde: The “British Harold Lloyd”, a post by the author of Chain of Fools - Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to YouTube from his Travalanche website.
Friday, January 14, 2022
The hope for 2022 was that screenings, festivals and events would finally return at least semi-permanently, but, alas, COVID-19 has the last laugh yet again. Along came Omicron and both Broadway shows and classic movie events have been postponed. Noir City, lost to coronavirus lockdown in 2021, was slated to return at a new venue, Oakland's Grand Lake Theatre, starting on Thursday.
The festival's host, creator/programmer and Film Noir Foundation president Eddie Muller elaborates: All Passports and tickets purchased online will be honored at the re-scheduled festival, which we hope to reschedule within the next few months. If you cannot attend the new dates, your purchase will be refunded. We regret any inconvenience, but we want to ensure the best possible experience for our loyal fans."
"We are eager to once again see the movies we love, and the faces of our friends, in a grand movie palace!"
Sunday, January 09, 2022
While attempting, with some difficulty, to process the recent passings of Sidney Poitier, Peter Bogdanovich and Betty White - a best of the best trio who accomplished numerous great things on and offscreen - we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog pay tribute to stalwart composer of movie and television soundtracks: the one, the only Vic Mizzy, born Vittorio Mizzi in Brooklyn, New York on this day in 1916.
Those of us of a certain age immediately and emphatically link Vic Mizzy (January 9, 1916 – October 17, 2009) with his many catchy, witty and memorable TV show theme songs. First and foremost would be the theme song from The Addams Family.
Almost as beloved as the music from The Addams Family: Vic Mizzy's theme from Green Acres.
Vic Mizzy’s official website adds: Mizzy broke into television circa 1959, composing music for Shirley Temple's Storybook and the themes for Moment of Fear, Klondike and Kentucky Jones.
Not surprisingly, given his famous themes for Green Acres and The Addams Family, Vic was in demand, creating themes for the 1964–1965 comedy drama Kentucky Jones, Phyllis Diller's series The Pruitts of Southampton, The Double Life of Henry Phyfe, superhero spoof Captain Nice and The Don Rickles Show. Vic Mizzy is frequently erroneously credited for the 1972-1974 sitcom Temperatures Rising; music for that show was by Shorty Rogers.
Vic Mizzy.com adds: He also composed underscores for the television series The Richard Boone Show and Quincy, M.E., as well as for such television films as The Deadly Hunt (1971), Hurricane (1974), Terror on the 40th Floor (1974), The Million Dollar Rip-Off (1976) and The Munsters' Revenge (1981).
There are even PSAs and commercials featuring Mizzy's music.
After success as a composer of the aforementioned incredibly catchy themes for TV shows, Mizzy moved on to feature films. He scored several features produced by William Castle, including the Gothic ghost story The Spirit Is Willing and The Busy Body. Yes, that's right, while primarily associated with such chiller-diller features as House On Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts and The Tingler, Castle also occasionally produced comedies, more in the vein of James Whale's The Old Dark House than The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters.
The Busy Body is an offbeat and surprisingly funny vehicle for the gifted comedian from TV's Your Show Of Shows, Sid Caesar, supported by Anne Baxter and uber-villain (mainstay of film noir and westerns) Robert Ryan.
Vic Mizzy's best known work for movies would be his scores for five films starring Steve Allen Show and Andy Griffith Show comedian Don Knotts.
These include The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), The Reluctant Astronaut (1967), The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968), The Love God? (1969) and How to Frame a Figg (1971).
The Love God, directed and wriiten by Nat Hiken. While not a box office hit, it holds up well all these decades later, due to the combo of 1960's period flavor and contributions by Knotts and co-stars Anne Francis and Edmond O'Brien. Mizzy's score is terrific.
Amother point of interest is that The Love God, like Knotts' subsequent role in the 1970's sitcom Three's Company, draws from the offscreen Don Knotts - a swingin' wild and crazy guy - as well as his ultra-nerdy onscreen persona. Pop culture vultures (and gluttons for punishment) double bill The Love God? with the flawed but funny Mike "Austin Powers" Myers misfire, a guilty pleasure. The Love Guru.
He also scored the feature films A Very Special Favor (1965), The Caper of the Golden Bulls (1967), Don't Make Waves(1967), The Perils of Pauline (1967) and Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady? (1968)
Prior to composing for movies and TV, Vic was based in New York City and collaborated with lyricists Irving Taylor and Manny Curtis on a series of pop hits for Doris Day, The Andrew Sisters, Bing Crosby, Louis Prima, Dinah Shore and other recording artists.
For more Mizzy, check out this YouTube playlist and the following excerpt from an interview with TelevisionAcademy.com, conducted by Karen Herman in Bel-Air, CA on March 29, 2004.
The Television Academy Foundation Interviews feature much of great interest to readers of this blog and substantial illumination of 20th century pop culture history.
Saturday, January 01, 2022
The new year is here! Ringing it in the way expected, enjoying a steaming cuppa joe and . . . watching classic pre-Code cartoons.
For some reason entirely unknown to the coffee-swilling denizens of Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, this January 1 brings to mind two fine and enthusiastic entertainers from different eras, Betty Hutton and Björk.
Love the song "It's Oh So Quiet," first recorded not by Björk but by the shy and retiring 1940's movie perennial Betty Hutton.
It's a GREAT tune and Betty, the stalwart star of Preston Sturges flicks, is just the gal to put it over!
The cover by Björk is also pretty darn wonderful.
Any other "It's Oh So Quiet" covers? Yes - Lisa Ekdahl's excellent rendition at Second Hand Songs.
While there are a bunch of comediennes who have done impersonations of Björk, including Dawn French of French & Saunders, Alex Borstein of Mad TV and Kristen Wiig of Saturday Night Live seasons 31-37, it's the opinion here that the best Björk of all is from current SNL cast member Melissa Villaseñor.
Melissa is in many respects an entertainer of the old school, more akin to Marilyn Michaels as a combo of singer, comedienne and impressionist than anyone in our post-modernist 21st century times. Alas, there isn't a TV program along the lines of The Ed Sullivan Show or The Kopykats in 2022 - or an audience for such a show - to give her more of a showcase.
Again, she is not the only comedienne to do an impression of Björk, but said impersonation is uncanny. The bit with Gwen Stefani singing Three Blind Mice that opens this "Wheel Of Musical Impressions" segment from the current version of The Tonight Show is a hoot as well!
Happy New Year!