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The Sex Life of the Polyp (1928)

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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Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?


Benchley first performed this routine in 1922. See more »


Lecturer: Now the only way in which a polyp resembles other animals at all is that at certain periods of its growth, it does take a sentimental interest in polyps of the... oppositie sex. Now, this presents a very complicated situation as the polyp has no definite sex itself. That is... it's neither one thing or the other. By that I mean the same polyp may be either a boy or a girl according to what or how it happened to feel like being.
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Edited into Robert Benchley and the Knights of the Algonquin (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

"The male suddenly gave up the whole thing as a bad job, and turned into a female"
8 December 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Robert Benchley was an American humourist whose work extended across various mediums, though he is most remembered today for his short-subject comedic shorts, particularly the "How To..." series that he produced with MGM between 1935 and 1939. He has a understated, droll style of comedy – few of his jokes actually aim to get big laughs, and most of the humour is to be found in words rather than in physical slapstick routines. In 1927, Hollywood embraced the arrival of synchronised sound, a technical innovation that proved perfect for Benchley's kind of entertainment. His first appearance on film was in 'The Treasurer's Report (1928).' The same year, 'The Sex Life of the Polyp (1928)' was released, a subtle and likable little comedy with an eye-catching title. As in many of his short films, Benchley plays a smug lecturer who spouts rather ridiculous nonsense to a rapt audience, in this case a ladies' club, whose members giggle nervously whenever Benchley's analogies become a little too obvious for comfort.

I only laughed aloud one or two times watching 'The Sex Life of the Polyp,' but I had a smile on my face the whole time. The utter confidence with which Benchley recites gibberish is constantly amusing, and the actor responds well to the unfamiliar medium of sound-synchronised film (despite the poor audio quality of the print, which often made the dialogue difficult to discern). To explain the sex life of polyps, Benchley introduces a female test subject he dubs Mary, represented on the projector screen as a shivering and hairy mass. He then adds the male, who responds excitedly to the female presence, but doesn't notice when Mary is replaced by a button, and then a crumb of corn-bread. Finally, frustrated at the inactivity of his partner, the male polyp gives up and transforms into a female. Benchley then asserts that his research interests have now turned towards "some animal which takes its sex life a little more seriously." I think I can guess which animal he has in mind.

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