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Dr. Benchley lectures the women's club on the unusual but important title-topic.


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Dr. Benchley is addressing the Ladies Club on the subject of the reproductive habits of the polyp, a small aquatic organism. Although he is not able to display his live specimens, he has prepared a series of pictures of his subjects. He explains that the subject is made more complicated by the fact that polyps are able to change their sex from time to time. Then he presents some of the pictures of his specimens and the experiments that he has done with them. Written by Snow Leopard

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Comedy | Short





Release Date:

25 July 1928 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?


Benchley first performed this routine in 1922. See more »


Lecturer: We took one of the tiny creatures home with us to live. It was at the time a girl polyp, so we called her Mary after Ethel Barrymore. She was at first naturally shy but soon grew accustomed to our mannish ways and became more like a child of our own than a polyp - although she looked more like a polyp than a child of our own.
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Edited into Robert Benchley and the Knights of the Algonquin (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

Important for historical reasons, but otherwise I was not particularly captivated.
28 August 2009 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

Robert Benchley must be an acquired taste. I know that he made a lot of short films in the 1930s and 40s, so he obviously was quite popular. Heck, he even got an Oscar for his short, HOW TO SLEEP. He has a reputation for being extremely glib and clever. However, after seeing several of his shorts, I can say that at least for me, his routine does very little. I don't particularly find his films interesting and it could either mean I am an idiot (the jury's still out on that one) or that his style was popular years ago but doesn't translate well to the 21st century. Mind you, I love older films and am NOT saying that I disliked these shorts because they were old fashioned--I just don't like these particular shorts.

As for THE SEX LIFE OF THE POLYP, it was apparently a popular routine and Benchley was reprising this quaint little speech for a sound short--a novelty in 1928. And this is exactly why I think the film is important--historically, it's among the earliest shorts that were sound. So, it certainly is important in this sense. As for the lecture on the sex lives of these microorganisms, I can't for the life of me see why this was so knee-slapping funny--especially since they weren't all that prudish back in the late 1920s and early 30s (despite this stereotype). Just look at some of the very salacious so-called "Pre-Code" films of the era--where sex was talked about rather openly at times.

For this film to work, the audience reaction or Benchley's reaction should have been more intense. Either he should have behaved even more uncomfortable talking about sex (even among sea life) or the audience should have either become incensed or turned on by this "dirty lecture". On television, "Monty Python's Flying Circus" did a bit perhaps inspired by this Benchley film, but the audience reacted strongly as did the lecturer--making it all very funny. Too much droll humor, for me, made the Benchley film a chore to even complete.

By the way, the film is available at but the sound is very, very poor. This is common in such early films and its badly in need of conservation.

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