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Elstree Calling (1930)

 -  Comedy | Musical  -  February 1930 (UK)
5.9
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Ratings: 5.9/10 from 189 users  
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A series of 19 musical and comedy "vaudeville" sketches presented in the form of a live broadcast hosted by Tommy Handley (as himself). There are two "running gags" which connect the ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Tommy Handley ...
Himself, Compere
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Gordon Begg ...
Teddy Brown ...
Himself
Helen Burnell
Donald Calthrop ...
The Charlot Girls
Bobbie Comber
Cicely Courtneidge ...
Herself
Will Fyffe ...
Himself
Lawrence Green
Gordon Harker ...
Jack Hulbert ...
Himself
Hannah Jones ...
George's Wife
John Longden
Ivor McLaren
Edit

Storyline

A series of 19 musical and comedy "vaudeville" sketches presented in the form of a live broadcast hosted by Tommy Handley (as himself). There are two "running gags" which connect the sketches. In one, an actor wants to perform Shakespeare, but he is continually denied air-time. The other gag has an inventor trying to view the broadcast on television. Four of the sketches are in color (in shades of yellow and brown only). Written by Bruce W. Christopher <bwintonc@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Musical

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

February 1930 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Hello Everybody  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone System)

Color:

| (Pathécolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Alfred Hitchcock is credited on screen with 'sketches and other interpolated items'. Adrian Brunel in his autobiography Nice Work describes how he originally shot The Taming of the Shrew spoof only to have John Maxwell, the producer, reject it for not being funny enough. Brunel states that Hitchcock was brought in to re-shoot the sketch. Hitchcock is believed to have directed the Gordon Harker sketch, The Taming of the Shrew, and the 'thriller' sketch with 'Jameson Thomas'. See more »

Connections

Featured in Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood: End of an Era (1995) See more »

Soundtracks

Doubtful Quartet
Performed by Jack Hulbert, Bobbie Comber, Ivor McLaren and Lawrence Green
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A night out on the London stage
6 September 2012 | by (England) – See all my reviews

In producing this brand-new singing, dancing, all-talkie film, British International Pictures inadvertently contrived to preserve a cross-section of the contemporary London stage scene from the West End to the music halls. Sit back in your seat, enjoy the entertainment beamed directly to your home (I had no idea that television existed in the popular perception long before the BBC), and let yourself be carried away back to the days of 1930, flitting from venue to venue to experience a night out in the London of the era. Some of the acts are to one taste, some to another, but you've paid for the programme as a whole so applaud and wait to see what's coming next.

My personal favourite would be the live-wire tapping and jazzy tunes of the Three Eddies' blackface act (especially the skeleton dance!), but while overall I was interested in this revue chiefly for the music -- it features unknown (at least to me) tunes by Vivian Ellis and Ivor Novello, for example -- there's a good deal else that's worth enjoying, and a few tantalising glimpses 'backstage' at the Elstree studios as well.

"Elstree Calling" was edited on the cheap and rushed out in ten days for a hasty release to recoup the cost of production, and it shows. Few of the five or six camera angles filmed on every shot actually got used, for instance, and a number of bizarre choices seem to have been made, such as choosing to show a dance sequence via a camera focused too high and showing a vast expanse of curtain above the performers' heads but cutting off their actual feet -- or a shot that shows the performers disappearing off the left-hand side of the frame while focusing on the empty set centre-stage. Did anybody even take the trouble to screen these clips before attaching them together? (Director Adrian Brunel, who had left detailed directions for the compilation of his footage only for them to be totally ignored, complained in his autobiography "How could the Hulbert-Courtneidge numbers be slung together like that without looking like casual newsreel photographing?")

I was also a bit puzzled by the smoke that appears to be pouring out of the top of the jaw-droppingly gigantic image of 'Little' Teddy Brown in the background of his first musical interlude -- presumably a side-effect of the stage lighting? But it isn't just the editing: certainly in the chorus sequences, the choreography tends to suffer from being cramped onto a film set, while no-one seems to yet have worked out how to avoid having a long line of girls strung out across the middle of a square-format screen. (See, e.g. the chorus sequences in British-Gaumont's "First a Girl" for more sophisticated treatment later in the Thirties.)

Still, I found this glimpse onto the theatre world of the era thoroughly enjoyable: it was particularly interesting after having screened the shorts in the silent "On With the Dance" series of only a few years only, since the styles are very similar but obviously this time with music. Just don't expect cinema: theatre is what is advertised, and theatre is what you will get -- though there is a brief homage to the antics of Douglas Fairbanks in the burlesque "Taming of the Shrew" that closes the act!


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