There are some actors and actresses who simply defy logic and you wonder how or why they ever got into movies. A great example is Florence Lake--a woman who made a string of short domestic comedies with Edgar Kennedy in the 1930s and 40s. While Kennedy was an accomplished actor and could be quite funny, Lake was perhaps the most annoying actress of her age. I used to think this was possibly Patsy Kelly, but after having seen many of the Lake/Kennedy films, it clearly is Lake. Why? Well, Lake's shtick was using a piercingly high voice and nonstop ultra-high pitched giggling. Perhaps a tiny bit of this might have worked, but subtlety and restraint were NOT in her repertoire. Watching her is simply a chore--and I deeply regret having recently bough two DVDs filled with their 'comedies'.
In "A Merchant of Menace", once again Lake does a wonderful imitation of a hyena on LSD--and she is every bit as annoying as usual--perhaps more so! The film begins with Edgar getting angry at a shop owner and threatening to buy the place--which he then does. Now because of his temper, Edgar is forced to try to run the place with his obnoxious in-laws and brain-dead wife. Naturally things don't go well and it all ends with the family screaming and running from the store while being chased by an old with a shotgun--as if the writers had absolutely no idea how to end the thing!! Is it watchable? Well, in spite of Lake it's not terrible...nor is it very good, either. Watch it is you have a love of old-time comedies AND a high tolerance for the inane.
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