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Just saw this on TCM and was very impressed. Apollon was multi
talented. He played the mandolin flawlessly. I am a longtime bluegrass
fan and don't think I've every heard anybody play that fast without a
single mistake. His tap-dancing was pretty fair, too, though we didn't
get to see too much of it in this one-reeler.
How do these guys not get noticed, but others with no obvious talent seem to go much further? Judging from this flick, it must have a lot to do with personality. He seems very arrogant, and I assume he was as he did not seem like much of an actor.
Thanks to Ted Turner for unearthing this and so many other interesting if not classic pictures. I can almost forgive you for the whole colorization thing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this odd little two-reel Vitaphone short from the late 30s on
Turner Classic Movies last night and thought it was quite interesting.
It's basically a bunch of musical numbers connected by Dave Apollon and
The opening gypsy sequence had Mr. Apollon doing a virtuoso performance on the mandolin, along with some serious tap dancing by others. It was followed by a so-so Mexican number. There was another sequence with a tap-dancing midget woman who was very good, if somewhat unusual, followed by a final dance sequence with a woman who looked ravishing in a shiny dress. The musical numbers were quite elaborate for a Vitaphone short. Movie Mania isn't exactly Singing in the Rain in terms of quality and budget, but a nice little film that classic-movie buffs would probably enjoy watching.
This short stars Dave Apollon--a Russian-born Vaudeville performer who
you would think was a famous actor and director if you believed the
film. However, despite his playing the role of a know-it-all and
temperamental director, he only made a very few films in his brief film
In the film, he plays the mandolin, sings, dances and even appears in a brief scene as an usher in the movie theater,...as well as the director of this film. It is obvious that he was a pretty talented guy and he seems very self-confident and brash as well--and in many ways a lot like Eddie Cantor. However, unfortunately, Mr. Apollon was far from handsome and I am sure that despite his talents, this must have been why he never succeeded in films.
The short itself is chock full of music, music and more music. If you love 1930s-style production numbers (one involving gypsies, another Latin-American dancers and another a Broadway-like review), then you'll love the film. But despite starting off with a plot, this is soon forgotten and the film has very little to recommend it other than the dancing and music. An interesting curio and that's about all.
It is not so odd that I have seen this short, as I'm always curious about
the old one or two-reelers, and used to catch some back in the late 1940's
and early 1950's in my neighborhood movie houses. Hence I immediately
bought the laser-disc box sets when they were issued (I think they go for
$500 now or some such ridiculous price). Movie Mania is on Vitaphone
Shorts: A 70th Anniversay Celebration, a/k/a Cavalcade of Vitaphone
Volume 2 (MGM/UA ML 105220).
Anyway, to get to the point: it is always strange to see an old-timer one has never heard of, when it is evident from the setting that he had a following back in the day. One assumes that if you've heard of Eddie Cantor, Pete Smith, and a few dozen others, you know the lay of the land. But people like Dave Appolon keep popping up. (One of my laser shorts collections has an extended one-man slapstick vaudeville act done by a man so obnoxious, not to mention unfunny, that it's hard to believe he would be invited for dinner, let alone cut a swath in show biz.)
Can't say I like Mr. Appolon. He is clearly master of his instrument, the mandolin, which puts me in mind of one of my friend's favorite put-downs: "it's like being the world's best accordianist". Of course, I don't want to sound or even be a philistine; all music is good, right? Then there's Appolon's personality; he projects himself as an imperious Russian. Just how large was his following? Not worth researching, to me. Now compare a team unknown today: Olson and Johnson. Geniuses who anticipated all the fancy post-modern doo-dads that wow the college circuit -- just catch Hellzapoppin.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
. . . is oblivion (and we're talking Never-Was-Dom, NOT Has-Been-Dom, a la SUNSET BOULEVARD). Though one of the actresses here also had a bit part in the 1930s flick, THE TERROR OF TINY TOWN, most everybody involved with MOVIE-MANIA from 1937 has suffered from oblivion (I had a dickens of a time even FINDING this 22-minute short on this site; see where--if at all--the search term "Movie-Mania" turns up in the 200 results for that "title search.") The main character here, Dave Apollon, seems to be a pretty hot shot mandolin player. But in trying to understand how Dave could have faded into oblivion, just ask yourself: How many of Hollywood's top 1000 on-screen stars of all time made their name by playing the mandolin? (I'm NOT a musicologist OR a film historian; so please, if you know the answer, put it on a message board on this page). Also, during the "story" part of this short, I don't quite understand WHY Dave thinks he needs a total of 4,000 elephants for the flick he's supposedly directing, let alone 9,000 camels. I understand camels are messier than mules, and I've seen for myself the stench generated every few hundred yards by just a dozen mules on the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails in Grand Canyon National Park. Heaven help the guy who puts 9,000 camels on the same lot!
*** (out of 4)
Vitaphone short has Vaudeville performer Dave Apollon playing a know-it-all director who is making a new film that doesn't sit well with one man. Apollon gets to do various things including singing, dancing and playing the mandolin and it's clear he has talent but looking at his credits on IMDb you'll see he had a very short career in Hollywood. I always love catching this type of short on Turner Classic Movies because you get to see a part of history that is all but forgotten. I especially like catching these Vaudeville acts because most of them are very talented yet their level of success in Hollywood is usually very mixed. I'm not sure why this guy never caught on but this short does provide a lot of entertainment in its 20-minutes. The film starts off trying to tell what some would consider a story but then cuts loose and joins the musical category.
Competent musicians, slightly below average vaudeville comedy, dancing
is barely mediocre except for the male tap dancer who is fun to watch
for the first minute, but then you can't wait for him to be done.
It's good to hear a steel guitar used as prominently as it is in this short.
Appolon's mandolin playing is pretty good and worth watching.
The characters around Appolon could just as well have been cardboard cutouts, especially the band which has no life whatsoever.
Appolon's native Russian accent is so cheesy, you almost think he's doing some kind of schtick rather than actually having an accent.
Bottom line: If it's on and nothing else is, give it 20 minutes of your time.
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