Large Association of Movie Blogs
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, June 23, 2023

The Silk Hat Comedian

For diehard classic movie fans, the love of comedy films produced in the silent era remains steadfast, no matter how old one gets. If silent comedy obsession is regarded as a malady, it remains a disease that cannot be cured. This is not lost upon the international fans of The Silent Comedy Watch Party on YouTube!

Silver screen comedy aficionados will be delighted not only by the recent release (on June 13) of two feature films starring the gifted actor-producer-comic Raymond Griffith, but by the success earlier this month of a Kickstarter for a Blu-ray retrospective devoted to the diminutive yet frequently hilarious Italian-born star of American slapstick comedies Monty Banks a.k.a. Mario Bianchi.

One of many things learned watching numerous movies from the silent era is that comic brilliance is not limited to the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd trifecta, but actually extends to at least four or five tiers of super talented comedians and comediennes active in the World War I era and 1920's.

Raymond Griffith and Monty Banks are just two among the many incredibly funny silent movie funmakers.

In spring 2022, wrote a blog post about a fundraiser for a Blu-ray devoted to the classic films of 1920's Paramount star Raymond Griffith. Griffith's essential screen persona is an always indefatigable and unflappable "Mr. Cool."

On the first day of the Kickstarter, the funding goal of $11,500 was surpassed, so the video restoration process commenced and now two of Raymond Griffith's Paramount features, Paths To Paradise (1925) and You'd Be Surprised (1926), are available on Blu-ray.

This latest release of silent movie goodness, Raymond Griffith: The Silk Hat Comedian is now available for purchase through:

Undercrank Productions. much celebrated by Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, has done it again with this Raymond Griffith retrospective.

The restorations were sourced from 35mm nitrate and safety preservation materials preserved by the Library of Congress.

Along with the new 2K digital scans of archival 35mm materials preserved by the Library of Congress, the set also contains a 12-minute video essay, Raymond Griffith: Silent Comedy’s Silk-Hatted Secret, by Crystal Kui and Steve Massa.

The Wikipedia entry on Raymond Griffith adds: "His film debut was for the L-KO Kompany. Many of his starring feature films have long since been lost, but probably the best known of his films today is Hands Up! (1926), a Civil War comedy feature directed by Clarence G. Badger, and co-starring Mack Swain, which was entered into the National Film Registry in 2005.

Also considered a classic is Badger's Paths to Paradise, a caper film that is in all circulating prints missing its final reel. Like many silent comedians, he had a traditional costume; his was a top hat, white tie and tails, often augmented by a cape and/or walking stick. The coming of sound ended Griffith's acting career, but he did have one memorable role in a motion picture before retiring from the screen, playing a French soldier killed by Lew Ayres in the 1930 Lewis Milestone film All Quiet on the Western Front. He then segued into a writing/producing career at Twentieth Century Fox."

First learned about Raymond Griffith, ubiquitous stock company member in dozens of L-Ko and Mack Sennett comedies, in Leonard Maltin's outstanding book The Great Movie Comedians. More recently, I much enjoyed reading Matthew Ross' article on "the silk hat comedian," The Sheik Of Silent Comedy, from his comedy-centric classic movie website The Lost Laugh.

The dapper Griffith, always wearing a top hat and cape with unshakable aplomb, is a very funny and unique talent. Much look forward to watching the suave and debonair "silk hat slicker" in Paths To Paradise and You'd Be Surprised.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

And This Blog Loves Singing Brass Players

It's time again for a post devoted to the world of music at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog! Today's topics: trumpet and trombone aces who sing sing sing! Kicking this off, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie (and, at the end, Jackie Gleason, who doesn't sing but lends yet more larger-than-life stage presence to the proceedings) . . . In other words, GREATNESS.

I don't know which musicians dubbed in the parts for Sidney Poitier and Paul Newman in PARIS BLUES, but it is an incredible sequence. Pops, as always, is the man of the hour.

From one of this music aficionado's all-time favorite documentaries, Jazz On A Summer's Day (1958), here are Pops & his frequent bandmate Jack Teagarden singing Ol' Rockin' Chair.

Jack, in between stints with The Jack Teagarden Quintet and Louis Armstrong's All-Stars, appeared in Snader Telescriptions (the made for television Soundies which are now much sought after by film collectors).

Another blazing genius among the riverboat rockers, steeped in the culture and music of New Orleans, disciples of Armstrong and Kid Ory, was the great Henry "Red" Allen (1908-1967).

From big band swing, there was no better trumpeter-singer than the Duke Ellington Orchestra's ace in the hole Ray Nance (1913-1976), an entertainer who also could play the violin and cut a rug expertly.

Another gifted swing trumpeter who doubled as an outstanding vocalist: Roy "Little Jazz" Eldridge (1911-1989).

While Roy was a key link between the trumpet styles of Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie, it's his terrific vocal on Ain't That A Shame that absolutely floors this jazz, blues and r&b fan.

Never to be outdone, Dizzy Gillespie sings On The Sunny Side Of The Street and even induces saxophonist Sonny Stitt to join in the fun.

Among the kings of swing, bluesmen, boppers and crooners in those days, the one who could both sing a ballad like Sinatra and follow it with an absolutely gorgeous trumpet solo was Chet Baker (1929-1988).

Some of Chet's most amazing performances were from his last concerts in the mid and latter 1980's. The soulfulness of his singing is something to behold.

A brass virtuoso who can croon and give Chet a run for his money is Ray Anderson, who can be found these days rocking the house at The Loft in Stony Brook, NY.

A musician as both gifted and tragic as Baker (and Charlie Parker and Fats Navarro and Sonny Berman and Serge Chaloff and Elmo Hope and Emily Remler, etc.) but also quite brilliant was Frank Rosolino (1926-1978).

A trombonist who mastered the modern sound and played compelling music in international genres was the one, the only Roswell Rudd (1936-2017), here singing and blending his highly original trombone approach with the hard rock of Sonic Youth.

Is there anyone currently who plays brass instruments a la the New Orleans masters and sings? Yes. That would be Trombone Shorty, whose Orleans Avenue band plays a rousing blend of rock, jazz, funk, r&b and ska.

Trombone Shorty and his ensembles remind me of the talented group of San Francisco Bay Area musicians known as the Jazz Mafia, led by trombonist-electric bassist-songwriter-arranger Adam Theis, who recorded "Brass, Bows & Beats" and other excellent albums. Both are steeped in funk and soul.

Pondering all this devastatingly great music over these eight decades, and extending into the 21st century, the jazz aficionados at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog say C'EST SI BON! Big thanks and big love to all the singing brass players!

Thursday, June 01, 2023

And This Blog Loves Forgotten Cartoons

Attn. NYC animation fans: there will be a Cartoon Carnival matinee, Saturday Afternoon Cartoons: Getting Warmer on June 3 at The Metrograph on 7 Ludlow Street. Showtime is noon.

Cartoon Carnival producer Tommy Stathes elaborates: It's officially the beginning of June with Getting Warmer, a selection of vintage cartoon films that take place during spring and summer. Come enjoy outdoorsy frolics at the beach, shenanigans in the park, dust-ups at the picnic, and other assorted gallavants under the sun.

Spanning the 1920s through the ’40s, this assortment showcases classic characters such as Farmer Al Falfa, Cubby Bear, Van Beuren’s human Tom and Jerry, Molly Moo-Cow, Porky Pig, and others.

The 60 minute film program will be followed by a live Q&A session.

Shall follow this with a generous compendium of classic cartoons and ask whether we can find forgotten cartoons we love but have not posted here before in 1200+ posts. Good question. We'll start with one we definitely have posted, featuring the non-forgotten Betty Boop as a mermaid.

Did a double take after seeing a copy of Ted Eshbaugh's Goofy Goat Antics IN COLOR, both on and YouTube. Have a soft spot for Ted's animation due to his very enjoyable cartoons The Wizard Of Oz, Sunshine Makers and Japanese Lanterns

This "color" version of Goofy Goat Antics is a fake but a nice try and appears to be the product of someone scanning the B&W version and running it through color filters in Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro.

The following is an example of what a Ted Eshbaugh cartoon that was actually produced in color looks like.

We're also big fans of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, especially the bizarre and weirdly imaginative early talkies produced by Walter Lantz.

We note Tex Avery's name in the credits of the following 1933 Ozzie cartoon.

Then there's Binko The Bear Cub. produced by the short-lived studio of Romer Gray. Supposedly four Binko cartoons were produced before the studio closed in 1931. This one, HOT TOE MOLLIE, is the only Binko opus I've seen. Who worked on Binko for Romer Gray's studio? Among others two of the McKimson brothers, Bob and Tom, both of whom would end up at Warner Brothers animation.

The Charles Mintz Studio, like it or not, is responsible for Scrappy, the king of forgotten misbegotten cartoons, frequently posted here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog.

Am I as much a fan of pre-Code Scrappy cartoons, loaded with the rubbery, way-out animation of Dick Huemer, as I was when I first started writing about them a gazillion years ago? Yes.

One of the best of the numerous Charles Mintz Studio/Columbia cartoons in the 1930's to spotlight movie star caricatures is Scrappy's Party.

Preceding Scrappy at Mintz: Krazy Kat.

Animator and historian Milton Knight has posted several very good entries from the series on his YouTube Channel.

Closing today's post: a few classic cartoons by the Van Beuren studio!

Are the New York studio's Aesop's Fables and Tom & Jerry/Dick & Larry/Cubby Bear cartoons crude, primitive, goofy, in bad taste and often hilarious? Yes.