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Beer and Pretzels (1933)
Three half-formed stooges and two no talents
I like this and it is probably the only Healy-era Stooges short I would like (I've seen others and they range from slightly tiresome to terrible). It is available on Leonard Maltins's "The Lost Stooges" video, if you can find it. Maltin describes it as the pick of this particular litter.
At this point, the Stooges were literally stooges for Ted Healy, possibly the least funny man who ever became a successful comedian. Also in tow was Bonnie Bonnell, Healy's mistress at the time and a former Broadway actress (I don't know who she slept with to get that gig). She, in turn was nearly the most untalented actress-singer-dancer-comedienne I've ever seen.
The plot is not important, it has some decent proto Stooges schtick, but the best part is when Bonnie comes in (sliding in like Kramer did on Seinfeld) wearing this unintentionally weird mega poofie-sleeved dress and sings "Steins on the Table". Truth be told, her voice isn't bad and she delivers her part with a certain spunk. Then she goes into this spastic dance which is unintentionally hilarious. The song is obviously another discarded bit from a movie but they do a good job of making it look like the main action, Bonnie and the stock material all belong together, something they never accomplished in any other patchwork Healy-Stooges short.
Bonnie never got any work in the movies except through Healy. She didn't even get bit parts and outside gigs like Larry, Moe and Curly did while the five of them were under contract. Somebody speculated as to why Healy kept her in the act. This guy then dismissed the idea that Healy would harm his act just to get some you-know-what. That's obviously the reason. Healy was a man and that's what men do.
I recommend you see it for the curiosity factor and for that dance. In fact, I was looking to find it online when I ran into IMDb and decided to write this comment.
Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
Lullaby of Broadway...WHAT THE F***!?
I have seen descriptions and the videos of the only part of this movie that is apparently on UTube, namely the Lullaby of Broadway and I have to scream WTF!? The Lullaby of Broadway is this huge and lighthearted number involving the male lead apparently on a date with this beautiful woman and they watch this big number being done for them.
Then at the end, at the height of all the frivolity the woman is knocked off the balcony and FALLS TO HER DEATH ON THE STREET MANY STORIES BELOW!!! What is going on here? As near as I can tell, this death isn't necessary for any plot point (I haven't seen the movie itself, since it's probably pretty boring except for the musical numbers.) and it appears the actress involved doesn't appear anywhere else in the movie. It's like Gene Kelly ending his "Singing in the Rain" number by having the old man who takes his umbrella get fatally run over by a truck. It's worse since people presumably identify with the apparently happy couple. It's more like Debbie Reynolds getting killed by lightning when she runs out to join Gene.
What was Busby Berkeley thinking? Huh?
The Hot Cha Melody (1935)
Probably the best of a mostly-forgotten cartoon series.
The Charles Mintz 1930's Screen Gems version of Krazy Kat is rarely seen today. In the 1950's, it was all over the place. I recall the Krazy Kat logo with him in his "ta da" pose was the signal that the early morning cartoons had begun.
This is probably the best of the series. It has an easy to follow plot and that combination of off the wall gags and narrative shortcuts that gave it a Fleisher-style dreamlike quality, not to mention a catchy tune.
It opens with a scene at tin pan alley, song writing hopefuls coming in from everywhere, a pan across a series of windows where various writers are stealing each other's material and ending with Krazy Kat sitting in front of his piano stuck for an idea. A close up of his head reveals it pulsating and becoming inhabited by a devil. He wrings it out of his head only to have him appear full size in the room.
The devil steals a well-known Schuman composition and gives it a lively beat and modern lyrics. Krazy resists at first, but finds the song and the magnetic power of the devil's tail irresistible. He finishes the song as the devil literally walks out his window, down his building and to a statue of Schuman that conveniently has a radio in its base.
Even though there is no cut and the song was written less than a minute earlier, it is already a hit and playing on the radio. Schuman's upset ghost emerges and, using a strange stride with his arms waving in front of him, walks vertically up Krazy Kat's building into Krazy's room. The room is full of radios each playing a different artist's version of "The Hot Cha Melody", each of whom emerges from the speaker, Rudy Vallee, Kate Smith, etc.
Schuman wrecks all the radios until only a single radio tube remains with a face still signing the song. He smashes that and goes after Krazy saying, "You stole my melody, you stole my melody." Krazy ends up in the upright piano, buffeted by the strikers as Schuman plays another song. Krazy is bothered at first, but ultimately declares that this new song is a hit.
An unjustly forgotten series
This was probably the best children's educational series of all time. It had a range that was broader than any other I have ever seen, everything from the workings of an aircraft carrier to what life was like when your parents were your age (seemingly the 1930's) to the Oz books. It was a revelation to me that the Oz adventures extended beyond the Wizard of Oz and I ended up reading all the Baum Oz books, something that never would have happened if they hadn't brought the subject to my attention.
In its heyday, watching this in the late afternoon was an absolute must for me. Considering the fuss made about lesser shows like Sesame Street, which apparently overlapped Discovery on the air, it's amazing to me that I have heard absolutely nothing about it for decades, no tips of the hat, no mentions in TV or children's TV retrospectives, nothing except the entry on IMDb which has something about essentially every TV show and movie known. It deserves better.
The Good Years (1962)
A fond look at 1900-1914
This TV special, billed as part of the TV comeback of Lucille Ball was an episodic look back at the good years of 1900-1914. I don't recall much about it. It had skits dealing with aspects of those years interspersed with commentary. I distinctly recall the ensemble counting down the years involved at the beginning, Ball hanging from a branch and falling, presumably as part of some bit about early cliffhangers, bits that mentioned the new abstract art, the beginning of the income tax and commentary at the end about how a minor news story (in the eyes of Americans), the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand, led to WW I and the end of that era. I can't rate it, I was very young when I saw it. I thought it was fun at the time and it affected my later thinking about the era.
A haunting portrait of a talent gone wrong
Though I knew well the image of the woman with the fruit on her head, I had only a vague idea of who Carmen Miranda really was. I honestly expected to find out that she was really a Jewish girl from the Bronx who pretended to be Hispanic a la Bill Dana/Jose Jimenez.
Carmen was actually a national treasure in Brazil with an enviable career and friends in the highest places. We see the Carmen before she was the Carmen we knew, including things like a clip from a grand Brazilian musical movie with her much prettier sister and we see the moment she turned. The creator comments that when Carmen arrived in America she did something that this intense Miranda admirer will never understand, she played the clown and she stayed the clown.
Carmen rode the great wave of Hollywood's World War II obsession with the Latin American market at a time when the European market was mostly closed. She became the highest-paid woman in America. Then, when the obsession ended, she was no longer valuable.
She made the usual mistakes commonly seen in Hollywood lives, bad marriages and such, but the central point of sadness in her life was that Brazil loved her deeply, Hollywood loved her enough at first and then not enough and, by then Brazil had little use for her.
The two saddest parts are near the end, first when she returned to Brazil expecting to triumph and is rejected for having gone Yankee. This wounds her terribly. Then there is her final appearance on the Jimmy Durante Show. In the middle of a dance with Durante, she collapses, Durante covers by using his catch phrase "Stop the music, stop the music". She covers as well, but she is already dying and she does die that evening, of a heart attack, in her forties. She lives on in our memories, but mostly as a joke. You can almost hear the producer saying, "She could have been so much more."
The title says it all.
Unlike many biographies in this series, this one had a point of view that is summarized in the title. Arthur Godfrey as a giant in the television medium and he has been virtually forgotten. He came into it just a little too late to be counted as a true pioneer and he was through too early to be part of today's nostalgic TV Land.
As I recall, at his peak, he had at least two shows simultaneously in the top ten, plus a hit radio show at a time when that still mattered.
This bio chronicles his rise and his sad decline, first forever losing his nice guy image, the very heart of his popularity, by firing the beloved Julius LaRosa on the air, then having his kind of TV become passé, then having the public interest in him fade to where his last public appearance singing the "Too Fat Polka", a song he despised, on a telethon.
Indelible passages include, Godfrey appearing to dance in top hat and tails trying to be part of a big production number in the waning days of his show, Julius LaRosa's description of how he went along with somebody's idea of having him and Godfrey publicly reconcile (he says something like, "I figured, OK, this is show biz, why not?" but Godfrey would have none of it), Godfrey's brush with death by cancer in 1959, (ten years earlier it would have been a national tragedy, but by then it would matter little to the public), then his last "Too Fat Polka" and his death months short of eighty, a mostly forgotten man.
Seven Wonders of the World (1956)
First movie I remember seeing
This was the first movie I remember ever seeing in a theater. It was the Cinerama Dome and it was shown in grand style complete with a program. Cinerama was supposed to the be the IMAX of its age. It was shown on a special screen that was higher and extended farther than was normal. I imagine the experience was lost when it was shown in a regular theater. Pop kept saying how great it was that they showed it in a way that made you feel you were there. I had no basis upon with to compare it to the normal movie-going experience.
It was basically a travelogue, but a good one, I recall, at least to a four-year-old. I've never seen it rerun or on video or DVD etc. I don't know how anybody under 50 could possibly have an opinion on it.