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Max's neigbour Schultz is breeding chicken, that are always after Max's flower seed, and Schultz bride is his rooster Brigham. Max's daughter loves Schultz's son, so they try to forget their battling, and decide to have a nice engagement party. Max gives his son $2 to buy a chicken, but he wants to keep the money and takes one of Schultz's chicken - Brigham. At the table he notices his mistake, informs his sister, who informs her fiancee. Only Max and Schultze don't notice and the evidence of Max's son's misdoings, the rooster's ring is on Schultze's plate. The two lovebirds try to inform Max who first doesn't understand, neither does Schultz, who notices them doing strange things behind his back. When Max realises, what is on his table, it is almost too late... Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
"Pass the Gravy" is one of Max Davidson's funniest comedies, with less emphasis on the Jewish stereotypes which render so many of Davidson's films taboo today. The credits list Fred Guiol as director, and Leo McCarey merely as 'supervising director' (who he?) ... but McCarey's distinctive brand of humour is evident throughout, so I suspect that he deserves much of the credit for the direction ... whilst Guiol (an experienced gagman) deserves credit for the story. George Stevens, later a great director, does first-rate camerawork here.
There's one surprising sexual gag in this movie that would probably go right over the heads of most modern viewers. Max's neighbour Schultz (Bert Sprotte) raises chickens, and the roost is ruled by his prize cock named Brigham, who has his pick of all the hens. In 1928, audiences recognised this as a clear reference to Brigham Young, the polygamous Mormon leader who had wives in double figures.
Max's daughter (Martha Sleeper) is engaged to Schultz's son (Gene Morgan). To celebrate their engagement, Max gives his own son Ignatz (Spec O'Donnell) $2 to buy a roasting chicken. (In 1928, that was a fair price.) Ignatz pockets the $2 and snatches one of Schultz's chickens instead, not realising he's taken Brigham the prize rooster. A stereotypical black-mammy cook (smacking her lips) roasts the rooster, which turns out to have a surprisingly generous amount of meat on its bones ... more as if it were a capon, rather than a rooster. Schultz is the guest of honour, so Max carves the chicken and generously gives Schultz a drumstick. But then Ignatz notices the 'First Prize' metal band on the ankle of the drumstick that Schultz is eating. O'Donnell does some clever pantomime (worthy of Keaton) as he signals his sister, draws her attention to the tag, and tries to recruit her into his efforts to get the drumstick away from Schultz. Martha uses signals to notify George, and the three of them try to notify Max ... who of course is utterly oblivious to their efforts.
There's some hilarious pantomime here. Martha Sleeper (nice looks, unpleasant name) was one of those rare actresses who could do slapstick without becoming vulgar or undignified. At one point, trying to tip the wink to Max, she pantomimes a hen while Gene Morgan pantomimes a rooster. Nearby is an ivory sphere of no obvious purpose: it looks vaguely like a billiard ball, except it's too large. Without her knowledge, this egg-like object conveniently ends up under Martha's rump while she's doing her hen imitation. When she finishes playing hen and discovers that she has laid an 'egg', the look on Martha Sleeper's face is hilarious. Gene Morgan is good too ... why didn't his career take off?
In time-honoured Hal Roach fashion, the last shot of the film ends up with a desperate figure fleeing into the distance in long shot. 'Pass the Gravy' is hilarious. I'll rate it 9 out of 10, and I might have rated it a perfect 10 if they'd left out that Aunt Jemima cook.
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