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This is a clever compilation of old Mack Sennett comedies, and it boasts two "firsts." It's the first feature-length comedy compilation, and it features the first screen appearance (1949) of the late Steve Allen, then a popular late-night disc jockey. Allen (sans glasses) appears as himself, a disc jockey on a live TV broadcast showcasing Mack Sennett comedies. Everything goes wrong -- Sennett doesn't show up on time, the film jumps from silent to sound and back again, the live commercials go haywire, etc. The framing device effectively introduces Sennett's favorite clips with W. C. Fields, Bing Crosby, Ben Turpin, Donald Novis, and Mabel Normand. DOWN MEMORY LANE is infrequently shown today, but if it comes your way, don't let the opportunity escape.
Steve Allen's first motion picture is rarely seen or shown on TV in most
markets (I have *never* seen it in Los Angeles, for example, but did see it
originally in Phoenix, AZ eons ago. Released in 1949 (black and white),
Steverino is his young, wacky self but, as I recall, without even his
glasses back then.
He basically introduces a bunch of old Mack Sennett shorts (thus, a great primer and intro for those who have never seen such fare before)-- the best by far is "The Dentist" with W.C. Fields. Also continuing running gag with Ben Turpin about ever-expanding boiler about to burst. Mabel Normand, even Mack Sennett at the end. What with all these classic gems and really young Steve Allen to boot, don't miss it if comes your way or shows up on late, late nite TV. I don't believe it's available on videotape, either. Too bad.
Definitely worth your time.
I concur with the 2 previous reviewers who lament the unavailability of this film. When I was a kid in New York City it was a staple on WOR TV for many years. I've not seen it or been able to locate a copy since. In 1992 Steve Allen (the film's nominal star who was at the time this film was made a radio personality in L.A.) was a guest on the old Tom Snyder radio program. I was fortunate enough to call in and get through and when I mentioned this film to him he was at once astonished at my not only having remembered it but also with the detail with which I was able to recall certain portions thereof. He very graciously offered to check his personal archive and send me any copy (either in 16mm, VHS or any other gauge or format) he may have had. Sadly, 2 letters later neither he nor his staff could unearth one. Somewhat parenthetically, a gentleman with whom I spoke just a couple of years ago and who is a direct descendant of the person who ran Eagle-Lion studios (the company that produced DOWN MEMORY LANE) had never even heard of the film. This film's unavailability is mystifying to me given how ubiquitous it was back in the 1960s and '70s. Why??? I'm sure it hasn't decomposed. While it's no masterpiece it is nonetheless a great deal of fun to watch a youthful Steve Allen interviewing Mack Sennett, Franklin Pangborn and the wonderful Frank Nelson. If anyone knows where I can acquire a copy of this film either in 16mm, VHS or DVD please let me know here. It would be greatly appreciated. I would love to see it again and take my own personal trip back down memory lane.
"Down Memory Lane" was actually aired on television in 1949 with the assistance of Hal Roach who was one of the first motion picture producers in Hollywood to convert to television production. During my research for my book "100 Years of Brodies With Hal Roach" (BearManor Media, 2014) I discovered a letter dated December 1, 1948 wherein Roach wrote to his New York City rep Grace Rosenfield "Mack Sennett has a fifteen minute comedy with Donald Novis singing a very beautiful song. The negative is in good shape and he has an old print. Would you please check around and see what can be done about selling this picture to television...I would like to assist him as personal favor to him."
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