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Two desperate singers take a job as the singing act in a movie theater between shows. They soon regret their decision.





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Complete credited cast:
Joe / Reese Brother


Joe and his friend Bob want to break into show business so they take on fake names - the Reece Brothers - and get a job performing at a movie theater between features. Turns out to be the job from hell: they're the only act, the proprietor has them doing more than 15 shows a day, the ham sandwiches he provides have bugs, and the audience and applause are scant. Their act consists of light singing and dancing. Is there a silver lining anywhere? They repair to a hotel for the night, where the there's a rude awakening, which they take in stride. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Musical | Short





Release Date:

October 1930 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Vitaphone production reel #4393. See more »


Joe: How many shows do we do today?
Stage Manager: We got no set rules. You guys wanna be ready at all times. And if I want ya, I'll call ya. If you hear me holler, "The Reese Brothers", that means you're on. The pictures almost off now. So, hurry up and get made up.
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Mandy Lane
Written by William J. McKenna
Performed by Joe Frisco and Bob Callahan
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User Reviews

J-J-Joe Frisco was f-f-f-funny!
29 May 2002 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

Joe Frisco was a big-name comedian in the 1920s and '30s, starring on Broadway and headlining in vaudeville. But he made very few movies, so he's now almost totally forgotten. Frisco usually played a stuttering character (possibly the inspiration for Porky Pig) and he had a very funny eccentric style of soft-shoe dancing. In "The Happy Hottentots" (ignore that irrelevant title), Joe Frisco is a vaudeville song-and-dance man, as he was in real life. This movie is directed by Bryan Foy, the eldest of the Seven Little Foys. A vaudeville veteran from early childhood, "Brynie" Foy also wrote the famous song that ends with the line "Absolutely, Mr Gallagher? Positively, Mr Shean!"

"The Happy Hottentots" reeks of low-class vaudeville in all its seedy glory: not only is this film hilarious, but it also captures the true spirit of American vaudeville. The (very funny) plot of this film is based on a true incident which actually happened to a vaudeville song-and-dance team named Duffy and Sweeney.

In vaudeville days, the most prestigious theatres (such as the Palace on Broadway) were "two-a-day" houses, where big-time vaudeville stars performed their acts just twice daily. A slightly less prestigious act would perform at a "three-a-day" theatre, and so on down the scale. The worst acts in vaudeville (who got booked into the most downmarket theatres) played eight-a-day. Eight shows a day would be murder, especially for an act involving a great deal of physical exertion, such as a song-and-dance team or an acrobatic troupe. In "The Happy Hottentots", Joe Frisco is so far down the vaudeville ladder, he's performing fifteen-a-day!

Joe Frisco and his buddy Bob Callahan portray two vaudevillains who team up as a song-and-dance act. They get a booking at the world's shabbiest vaudeville theatre, where the stage manager (played by veteran comic actor Billy Gilbert) tells them to get ready to perform **A LOT** of shows. Joe and Bob do a song-and-dance turn to "Mandy Lane", a popular ballad of the time. The first time they go onstage, Joe Frisco does a little of his snappy dance routine, with his cane and his bowler hat. The SECOND time Joe and Bob go onstage, the dance is a bit less snappy. The THIRD time ... well, you get the idea. Joe and Bob haven't time for a lunch break between shows, so Billy Gilbert throws them a couple of ham-on-rye sandwiches. (The bread is full of caraway seeds, but some of the "seeds" have got legs and they're moving!) Joe and Bob have to eat their sandwiches onstage while dancing to "Mandy Lane" and singing with their mouths full! By the time Joe and Bob are doing their fifteenth reprise of "Mandy Lane", they're practically zombies. Frisco is hilarious, doing the same routine over and over but getting more slipshod each time as he approaches exhaustion.

I shan't spoil the very funny ending for you. Douglas Gilbert's book "American Vaudeville" tells the whole story (including the pay-off) as it actually happened to Duffy and Sweeney, when they were forced to perform endless choruses of "I'm Going Back to Arkansas Tomorrow".

Joe Frisco was a very funny man, onstage and off. There are dozens of great anecdotes about him. One time, a booking agent phoned Frisco's hotel room and offered him a vaudeville booking at $500 a week. Frisco turned it down, demanding $1,000 a week. The agent suggested that Frisco come round to his office and negotiate. "I can't come to your office," Frisco said down the phone line from his room at the hotel. "If I leave here, I'll get locked out of my room." True story. Some of the funniest yarns about Joe Frisco are only barely printable. Unfortunately, he was a gambling addict who blew all his money on the gee-gees, and he died broke. The career of Bob Callahan (who plays Frisco's vaudeville partner here) was cut short by his severe psoriasis, which explains why Callahan wears black gloves during most of this movie.

It's a pity that S-S-Stutterin' Joe Frisco made so few films. But "The Happy Hottentots" is hilarious. Fans of Billy Gilbert will be pleased with his contribution. I'll rate this movie 10 points out of 10 (maybe eleven), and I heartily recommend it.

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