Sunday, October 30, 2022
We wish our readers a Happy Halloween that's chock full of inventive animation.
We'll start Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog post #1250 with the trailer to The Corpse Bride, a very good Halloween flick.
Would Halloween be complete without the inimitable Mighty Mouse, who, as part of his superhero duties, must rescue singing rodents enjoying a Halloween party from a witch and her patented Terrytoons cat? Well, not for us, it wouldn't - that's why we've posted this cartoon on this blog several times!
Next up: by far the least scary but most jaunty and tuneful Halloween cartoon of all, SCRAPPY'S GHOST STORY (1935). As always, this blogger's love of Scrappy and Charles Mintz Studio cartoons remains a mystery!
Those who cringe at Mighty Mouse and Scrappy generally go for Fleischer Popeyes, so here's one of the best, Shiver Me Timbers (1934).
The Max Fleischer Screen Songs series included BOO, BOO, THEME SONG, a gratuitously grotesque cartoon about ghosts, ghouls and spiders who run their own radio station, which they use to sell a poisonous drink named DeKayo.
Another poster has uploaded the song segment from BOO BOO THEME SONG featuring The Funnyboners (a great name for a group). Must watch the following on YouTube. The song by The Funnyboners begins at 3:34. If you resample both videos as mp4 files and combine, that's the entire ghoulish cartoon.
Alas, we missed the chance to plug this weekend's fantastic spooky Halloween movie screenings (A Psychotronix Halloween at the Orinda Theatre, Lon Chaney at Niles, Saturday Afternoon Cartoons: A Haunted Halloween in Manhattan at the Metrograph) a few days ago (uh - before they actually happened), but can post a ghost-filled Fleischer "Inkwell Imps" cartoon seen last night as part of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum's splendid Halloween show.
Sometimes this animation buff believes that the gang at the Van Beuren Studio really, really wanted to produce cartoons every bit as bizarre as Fleischer's. In the otherworldly Gypped In Egypt, starring "Don & Waffles," the bizarreness gets a full court press!
Don & Waffles soon became Tom & Jerry and kicked off their series with a Halloween cartoon, which gives Fleischer's a run for the money in the grotesquerie and bad taste departments.
Another classic Van Beuren cartoon is not specifically a Halloween film, but its storyline about the search for a pot of gold over the rainbow includes demons, apparitions, singing frogs and assorted weird characters, including an odd naked guy carrying around a sack of money while dragging a ball & chain. We love it so much we've posted it two consecutive Halloweens! Wonder if Sally Cruikshank, animator of Quasi At The Quackadero, Face Like A Frog, Make Me Psychic and Quasi's Cabaret, ever saw it. . .
The Ub Iwerks Studio, not wanting to be outdone, made several Flip The Frog cartoons that delved into imaginatively spooky territory. This must be at least the fourth time we have posted The Cuckoo Murder Case, one of the very best Flips and Iwerks cartoons, on this blog! Along with The Wild Goose Chase and Mighty Mouse in The Witch's Cat, The Cuckoo Murder Case was a cornerstone of our Halloween 2010 post!
Since we somehow forgot all about Warner Bros. cartoons, here is one of the spookiest Looney Tunes, an "old dark house" tale directed by the great Frank Tashlin.
Switching for no reason from animation to live-action, Halloween presents as good an excuse as any to post a certain Saturday Night Live bit featuring Tom Hanks as the not all that scary David S. Pumpkins!
A Saturday Night Live Halloween sketch that got this blogger laughing out loud featured Chris Farley's always over-enthusiastic motivational speaker Matt Foley.
Love those Vincent Price's Halloween Special sketches co-starring Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and Kristin Wiig.
How can we close this Halloween post? Well, this way - with the song It's Halloween by The Shaggs. Who were The Shaggs? Three young ladies, the Wiggins sisters from Fremont, New Hampshire whose crazy father wanted more than anything to make a successful rock band out of them. He was so desperate he bought his daughters studio time and recorded an album before they actually learned to play their instruments.
Yes, The Shaggs play out of tune, out of time and out of measurable reality, but there is genuine charm in their utter earnestness, likability, honesty and New Hampshire accents.
The Shaggs try hard and clearly want very much to sing and play their instruments at least reasonably well. Find this admirable.
This blogger is, among many things, an amateur guitarist who got started attempting to play chords on an acoustic guitar around the same time The Shaggs' Philosophy Of The World album was recorded - and totally gets how one sounds - fumbling, stumbling and often failing - when trying to learn to play an instrument. So, while attempting to play a finger-busting Ted Greene guitar chord, we say HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
Photo by Christopher Walters
Saturday, October 22, 2022
Today we pay tribute to comedy icon and key Stooge Jerome Lester Horwitz, a.k.a. Curly Howard, born on October 22, 1903.
We'll kick this off with a certain scene that always gets me ROFL - and the Jump 'n the Saddle Band's 1983 hit record "The Curly Shuffle."
Yes, we indeed have binge-watched Three Stooges comedies on YouTube, Daily Motion and DVD on many occasions.
One of the numerous Daily Motion channels, "Film Gorillaz," among dozens of 1930's movies, posted the following compilation of Moe, Larry & Curly classics. It includes such famous Three Stooges extravaganzas as A-Plumbing We Will Go and Micro-Phonies, but also several of the earliest Columbia 2-reelers, made in 1934.
These first season entries - Woman Haters, Punch Drunks, Men In Black and Three Little Pigskins - feature some of the funniest, wildest, most energetic and incendiary performances of the then-youthful Curly. Co-stars include comedy royalty from Lucille Ball to Dorothy Granger to Marjorie White to Arthur Housman and, as always, the ubiquitous Bud Jamison.
We shall raise that Stooge compendium with season 2 gems directed by Del Lord, Pardon My Scotch and Three Little Beers.
Noting how Curly successfully brought 1920's style slapstick into talkies, we single out Ants In The Pantry, one of several hilarious Stooge vehicles directed in 1936-1937 by Jack "Preston Black" White, the architect of excellent 1920's silent 2-reelers starring sad sack comic Lloyd Hamilton at Educational Pictures (a.k.a. "The Spice Of The Program").
Of the Three Stooges series' many dessert-throwing epics, especially like the cream puff war that closes Slippery Silks (1936), also directed by "Preston Black."
And, speaking of Del Lord of Mack Sennett Productions and Columbia Shorts Department fame, here's Dizzy Doctors, one of the funniest of Del's numerous Stooge comedies.
Violent Is The Word For Curly and Tassels In The Air were directed by the talented Hal Roach Studios stalwart and all-time comedy great Charley Chase.
Jules White's greatest achievement of many in Stoogedom over three decades?
Arguably that would be the comedy team enthusiastically delivering an eye-poke to Adolph Hitler and his henchman in You Nazty Spy! and I'll Never Heil Again. Still love the Howard boys' Shicklegruber sendups!
Wonder if the Howard brothers knew Charlie Chaplin, who was working on The Great Dictator when the Stooges made You Nazty Spy!
Dutiful But Dumb includes a personal favorite Curly sequence, the battle with the oyster soup, as well as a cameo by the very funny Keystone and Charlie Chaplin comedies supporting player Chester Conklin. This is fitting, as a previous appearance of "the oyster stew bit" was in a Mack Sennett silent classic, Ice Cold Cocos, starring Billy Bevan and directed by Stooge auteur Del Lord.
In this writer's opinion, Curly and the Stooges were at their very best in 1934-1941. After that, Curly's health setbacks began to be obvious onscreen. Unfortunately, Harry Cohn said no to putting the series on hiatus or giving Curly time off, as Three Stooges comedies were by far the most popular productions of the Columbia Shorts Department.
After a massive stroke felled Curly in May 1946, The Three Stooges regrouped and subsequently made a comeback with Shemp Howard back in the team as the third Stooge, former Columbia Pictures soundman Edward Bernds directing and Vernon Dent, Christine McIntyre, Emil Sitka and perennial bad guy Kenneth McDonald contributing their customary stellar supporting work.
Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog toasts Curly Howard, The Three Stooges and the both invaluable and funny supporting players Bud Jamison, Vernon Dent and Symona Boniface.
In closing, we raise our tumblers not just to Curly, Moe, Larry and Shemp, but the many other comedy greats who ended up, either briefly or for a lengthy stretch, starring in Columbia 2-reelers.
These include prolific silent movie comedians Harry Langdon, Buster Keaton, Charley Chase and Andy Clyde.
These outstanding comedians repeatedly made audiences laugh out loud way back when - and still do in 2022!
Sunday, October 16, 2022
This Sunday, we're jet-lagged yet undaunted - and thinking of many things, especially the bad news about untimely passing of classic film enthusiast, archivist, presenter-curator-showman, historian and teacher Dennis Nyback two weeks ago. Literally just heard about this as I was waiting at the gate in Terminal 5 at JFK and going through my e-mails on the laptop in the hour before boarding.
The intrepid gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog has nothing but respect and admiration for how the even more intrepid Dennis quite literally took inventive, entertaining programs of classic movies in glorious 35mm and 16mm all over the world.
We pay tribute to Dennis, a friend of both this blog and the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival as well as a super nice guy, with a post full of imaginative and cinematic stop-motion goodness, courtesy of the one, the only Charley Bowers (June 6, 1887 – November 26, 1946).
So, this Sunday, October 16, 2022, we respectfully tip our vintage Max Linder top hats to champion of classic movies Dennis Nyback and champion of animation Charley Bowers.
Charley Bowers is among the most idiosyncratic and relentlessly inventive figures from the history of cinema and animation.
This writer first became aware of Charley Bowers when Louise Beaudet of the Cinémathèque québécoise (and, later, the Cinémathèque Francaise) brought a devastatingly wonderful retrospective to the United States. It was screened at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive, among other venues, in 1984 - and I was there!
The considerable exploits as an animator, cartoonist, journalist, silent movie comedian, stop-motion innovator and children's book author accomplished by Charley Bowers make many of us classic movie and animation buffs wish we could time-travel and land some interviews with him way back when. As Mr. Bowers passed in 1946, such historians as Michael Barrier, Milt Gray, Mark Kausler, John Canemaker, Leonard Maltin, Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald did not get to interview him.
It would be an understatement to note that the Charley Bowers Blu-ray is a must for any film buff's collection.
The producer of this set, Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, has been an enthusiastic champion of Bowers' stop-motion animation.
Leonard Maltin penned a rave review of the Bowers Blu-ray on his website.
Bowers' unique approach combines the silent 2-reeler format and sight gag comedy conventions we associate especially with Buster Keaton with way-out animation. As the wacky Vitagraph comedy shorts starring early 1920's "king of prop comedy," the equally cartoony Larry Semon, found an audience decades after their original theatrical release on Italian television as Ridolini, the films of Charley Bowers enjoyed new fame and acclaim in France, starring the comedian-animator as Bricolo.
In some Bowers Comedies, he plays a tall tale teller who can top all the other tall tale tellers with his outrageous stories.
In other Bowers Comedies, he plays an eccentric inventor to the hilt.
Within that eccentric inventor persona, Bowers merges Buster Keaton's understated style with elements of the equally unconventional silent movie comedian Harry Langdon.
Although Bowers' starring 2-reeler series with FBO and Educational Pictures had ended in 1928, he did make a successful transition into talkies and continue producing the most original (and way-out) stop-motion animation showcases.
The last stop-motion pieces by Bowers were produced in the late 1930's and early 1940's.
One, WILD OYSTERS, appeared as part of the otherwise undistinguished Animated Antics series released by Paramount Pictcures in 1940-1941. Am hard pressed to think of another cartoon that features crustaceans not only as main characters, but as bad guys!
For more on the films of Charley Bowers, check out John Canemaker's splendid superb tribute (posted on his blog two months ago) and Imogen Sara Smith's outstanding article in the entertaining and scholarly Bright Lights Film Journal.
Saturday, October 08, 2022
Today the spotlight's on Laurel & Hardy, in their earliest comedies as featured players for Hal Roach Studios - and in the animated cartoons they inspired.
After all, this blog's post for 2022 National Silent Movie Day featured a favorite Laurel & Hardy film, Putting Pants On Philip, which was a breakthrough in the direction of the teaming - and chronologically followed by The Second Hundred Years.
As those who read this blog well know, Stan & Babe had lengthy movie careers before joining forces onscreen at Hal Roach Studios and actually appeared together, but not as a team, in Reelcraft Pictures "Sun-Lite Comedy", released in 1921, The Lucky Dog, directed and written by Jess Robbins, formerly of Essanay Studios.
The Lucky Dog is so early in their work together, the signature mannerisms we know and love are not quite there - and Stan and Babe are under a ton of make-up.
In such films as 45 Minutes From Hollywood, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy appeared together often in their first year at Hal Roach Studios, but were not yet a comedy team. L&H support Glenn Tryon and former Fox Films star and uber-vamp Theda Bara in their earliest Roach films, which were part of the All-Star series.
Also among the pre-teaming Hal Roach Studio films in which Laurel & Hardy co-starred: Duck Soup and Why Girls Love Sailors. In moments throughout both 2-reelers, an embryonic form of the distinctive mannerisms L&H would soon employ as a comedy team are evident.
What was the first film to officially or unofficially feature Stan & Babe as a team? That would be The Second Hundred Years, which debuted in theatres just 5 years short of 100 years ago, on October 8, 1927.
It's a hilarious prison break comedy in which the boys break out of the big house only to become staggeringly inept painters.
Without further adieu, here are Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy in The Second Hundred Years.
The following frame grab from The Second Hundred Years ended up as a graphic promoting Robert Youngson's feature compilation, Laurel & Hardy's Laughing 20's.
Caricatures of Stan & Babe, as well as the Marx Brothers, were all over the animated cartoons of the early 1930's, such as this randy Ub Iwerks Studio opus starring Flip The Frog.
Here are The Boys as "Haurel & Lardy" in the last Looney Tune produced by the Harman-Ising studio for WB and Leon Schlesinger. In addition to the L&H sendup, Bosko's Picture Show is notable for being among the first American animated cartoons to feature a caricature of Adolph Hitler, as well as a very pre-Code bit at 5:51 in which Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising extend an emphatic middle finger to Leon Schlesinger.
The comedy teams, especially L&H and The Marx Brothers, turned up often in Columbia's movie star caricature-centric Scrappy, Krazy Kat and Color Rhapsodies series, produced by the Charles Mintz Studio.
The Walter Lantz Studio featured Laurel & Hardy caricatures in many cartoons, including Oswald The Lucky Rabbit in THE MERRY OLD SOUL (1933).
One of the most memorable Oswald cartoons is the 1934 Christmas season offering TOYLAND PREMIERE.
The Disney staff were definitely enthusiastic Laurel & Hardy fans, if such cartoons as MICKEY'S GALA PREMIER, MICKEY'S POLO TEAM and MOTHER GOOSE GOES HOLLYWOOD are any indication.
In animation, Disney's take on The Boys came the closest to accurately expressing the essence of their unique comedy.
Did anyone make a cartoon actually starring characters based on Laurel & Hardy? Yes - Friz Freleng at Warner Brothers!
Laurel & Hardy even made it into 1960's made-for-TV cartoons, in the era when Cambria Studios made The New 3 Stooges series and Hanna-Barbera produced Abbott & Costello cartoons. Larry Harmon Productions made the L&H cartoon series in 1966.
The dilemma with translating the team to the action-oriented milieu of animation is that the cornerstones of their comedy - the pacing and timing, what happens before and after the joke, the pauses, an extremely frustrated Hardy staring directly into the camera while Laurel does not comprehend the basics about anything - invariably get sacrificed.
For acknowledgements regarding today's post, we extend big time thanks to Laurel & Hardy: The Official Website, Dave Lord Heath's Another Nice Mess and the Laurel & Hardy Project series that The End Of Cinema blog did a few years ago, as well as a bunch of books on classic comedy (and Hal Roach Studios) by film historians Leonard Maltin, Bill Everson, Charles Barr and Steve Massa.