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A small country on the verge of bankruptcy is persuaded to enter the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics as a means of raising money. Either a masterpiece of absurdity or a triumph of satire, depending on your mood, but it's quite possibly the funniest movie ever made, and becomes even funnier with subsequent viewings. Written by
First of all, bear in mind that this movie was made in 1932, not 2002. Then, do a little research into the popular media of the day, and you'll get the jokes a lot better. This is one of the funniest movies ever, and it is lightyears ahead of its time. The non-sequiturs (that means lines that don't make sense), the quick cuts, the topical humor - I just love it. What can you say about a country where all the men are named George, and all the women are named Angela? Why? Why not?? Let's take a few examples: do we all understand that it's the Fuller Brush Company that's being kidded in the first scene? Do you know about the terrorists of the day - the 'anarchists' - who were generally portrayed in black capes and hats, carrying daggers and pistols and those old fashioned bombs that look like cannon balls with fuses in them? Do you get the joke - Mata Machree? The image of the femme fatale Mata Hari, coupled with an old Irish song about Mom called "Mother Machree". Do we get that Lyda Roberti (who was Polish) is supposed to be Swedish, since Greta Garbo was the biggest star of the day? And the 'old Klopstockian Love Song' is sung to the tune of "One Hour with You," which was not only a popular film with, I believe, Maurice Chevalier, but was the theme song of the Eddie Cantor radio show, the most popular show of 1932? Movie audiences of the day would have gotten it.
Jack Oakie is perfect as the fast-talking brush salesman who saves Klopstockia. He is definitely a forerunner in style of not only Bob Hope, but of Robin Williams. Fields is hilarious, but so is everyone in this movie. Susan Fleming wasn't much of an actress, but she was beautiful. I just love Roberti, who came from a famous acting clan in Poland, and who died tragically young. She was a hoot, and could have had a memorable career. My favorite line of hers, when she does her hootchie kootchie dance to try to inspire Hugh Herbert to greater feats of strength: "I been done all I can do - in public." There are so many other quotable lines in this movie - it's the kind of movie you watch and recite along with the actors.
It helps to understand this movie to know a little something about what was 'in' in 1932, but it isn't absolutely necessary. The movie has enough funny lines and slapstick even by today's standards. It's also valuable as an example of the kind of editing we now take for granted. The kind of quick cutting and blackouts that we would see in, for example "Laugh-In," was rare in 1932. This was probably the first really screwball comedy, and it's the screwiest one of all.
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