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Wise Girls (1929)
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Roland Young, Man of Action!, 24 July 2014

Roland Young is pretty good as the other man in this comedy about a woman who marries the plumber and causes all sorts of fuss. It's based on the stage play "Kempy" by Elliot Nugent and his father, J.C. Nugent, and stars them.

Unfortunately, director E. Mason Hopper is constrained by the immobility of the camera and everyone speaks slowly so their words can be understood, so Roland Young's comic timing has problems. It's he who has the task of speeding up the thought processes of Elliot Nugent. Marion Shilling, who usually played pieces of fluffs is stiff as a board. In fact, everyone but Young is, which pretty much explains what happened to everyone's career. The younger Nugent became a respect writer and director, but not off this. It would require top-ranked actors to make this sort of dialogue flow.

This is supposed to be the first MGM talkie issued without a silent version. Considering how much dialogue there is, it's not surprising. Alas, the dialogue is not very good.

Idiot Plotting, 20 July 2014

Sour-puss aunt gives away widowed Alice Moore's baby and then refuses to say to whom. Alice tries to get the old.... biddy to tell her to whom and accidentally kills her. Too depressed by this turn of event to help defense attorney Ralph Forbes mount a defense, she winds up in prison for manslaughter, where she decides she needs to get out and find her baby. Once out, she falls in with evil companions and hires a crooked detective to find her baby.

This idiot-plotted soaper was the last film of Miss Moore. She was the daughter of Tom Moore and Alice Joyce, but her career didn't go anywhere beyond Columbia Bs. In this one, she spends her time in a depressed state, which is a reasonable way to play the part, but not terribly interesting and she retired to private life.

Co-star Ralph Forbes' star had fallen a bit since he co-starred in 1928's BEAU GESTE, but he was working steadily for Columbia as a lead and in supporting roles for the majors. His career dribbled away in the 1940s and he died in 1951.

Operatics, 20 July 2014

Maid Marian's father the King orders her to marry whoever wins the joust in the morning, despite her vehement protests. Good thing Robin Hood shows up.

Paul Terry's staff liked to spice up their melodramatic cartoons about standard themes with some light opera scores and this is one of those. There isn't much Robin Hood-ish about the characters in this black and white cartoon except for the beginning, where he shoots an arrow through a keyhole to annoy the parent and at the very end where he leads the pursuers into what seems to be Sherwood Forest, where his Merry Men assault them with arrows, but it's pretty much a decent if undistinguished black-and-white effort for the era.

"I have a feeling that a disaster is about to happen", 19 July 2014

Sylvester and his son watch a TV show about fishing, then go fishing themselves -- at the aquarium. The daddy cat's efforts to catch a fish are not successful.

With the rise of television cartoons, the theatrical market was rapidly drying up and inflation was eating away at the budgets. Although director McKimson tries to compensate with simplified character design and limited animation, the pep was gone from the series.

While certainly watchable, even in this reduced state, thanks to a decent script by David Detiege, the handwriting was on the wall. Warners would soon close the cartoon department an although there would be erratic revivals for the next few years, the era of classic animation at the studio would end.

Three Little Kittens, 19 July 2014

Harry Bailey's last credited work as a cartoon director is a decent but unremarkable effort. Three kittens frisk around a grocery store getting into mischief, until they encounter a rat larger than they are and fight it.

Little is known of Bailey. He worked as a cameraman for Bray in the middle of the teens, at the beginning of the animation industry. He became a director in 1928 and directed a wide variety of cartoons for Amadee van Beuren, some of them remarkable for their absurd humor like A DIZZY DAY, but most of them fairly unremarkable. The following year he did some uncredited animation for some Fox features. Neither his date of birth nor his death is certain. Alas, it's fairly typical of the transient and undocumented nature of the industry.

Big and Little, 18 July 2014

Fat dancing instructor Hughey Mack loves Alice Mann, but her father wants her to marry "His Lordship" Jimmy Aubrey, while she prefers a third man who doesn't look like a refugee from a freak show in this Vitagraph comedy directed by a new-to-movies Larry Semon.

This one looks like it was derived from Keystone's "Ambrose and Walrus" matchups, in which Mack Swain and Chester Conklin would whale on each other. If Aubrey looks like a Chaplin imitator, he came by it honestly, being another veteran of the Fred Karno pantomime troupe. The gags are almost all hard knock slapstick and as a warning that the polite drawing room comedy that Vitagraph had clung to heretofore was a thing of the past, both the lead comedians have their trousers ripped to shreds.

It's not a great comedy, but it's beautifully photographed and the National Film Preservation Board has posted a remarkably clean copy to their internet site.

Rote Comedy, 17 July 2014

Joe Moore disagrees with his father's taste in paintings, so he gets kicked out. After a number of false starts involving women, he gets a job as a waiter at a club where Gloria Joy is the star of the chorus.

Although part of the low opinion I hold of this states right comedy short may be due to its poor presentation -- like too many of the shorts posted on the National Film Preservation site, it seems to be offered at too slow a frame rate -- mostly it's due to the fact that there is little to amuse the viewer. While there is a nice variation on the Diamond Ring scam, the gags are badly paced,telegraphed well in advance, and the players go through their motions glumly, even the homicidal maniac. There were many cheaply made comedy shorts in this period, but surely you can find a better survivor.

Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?, 17 July 2014

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit tries to cure his pet dog of a bad case of hiccups in this good Walter Lantz cartoon.

Lantz was trying to save Oswald, whose popularity had slid in the previous few years. He would shortly redesign his star as a white rabbit in order to increase his appeal to small children. However, that was not the trend in cartoons, which were growing wilder under the trend that would be established at Schlesinger's cartoon factory. One of the animators on this short, Fred Avery, would move to Schlesinger and later MGM, to become a director, usually under his nickname, Tex Avery.

In the meantime, Lantz was following Disney's trend of pepping up the increasingly bland Mickey Mouse by giving him a cast of supporting characters. Elmer looks like a response to Disney's Pluto Pup. However, this would not work, either to keep Oswald going nor offer a spin-off series.

he Squared Circle, 17 July 2014

Oswald is fast, but Punchy Pig is big and strong. Who will win their boxing/wrestling match in this Walter Lantz cartoon.

There's a good number of well executed gags in this cartoon. In fact, everything about it was done right. So why was Oswald near the end of his career as a cartoon star? He had, alas, turned into another white-faced clown, with little personality beyond being child-like and cute. There was nothing to differentiate him, to make him stand out from the other cartoon characters who were also child-like and cute.

In the meantime, this is a good example of gag writing. Its writer, Victor McLeod (Lantz had co-writing credit) would eventually leave the scripting of cartoons and write for the big and small screens.

Happy Days Are Here Again, 15 July 2014

Scrappy and Oopie are partying with some gnomes who are enjoying beer from barrels. A mean Prohibition Agent appears and attacks the barrels with an axe, but Oopie will defend the right of people to enjoy their lager in this cartoon released a month before beer sales were legalized.

It had been a long fight and this typically bizarre Scrappy cartoon has the two children strongly in support of drinking. Although they do not partake themselves, they certainly fight strongly bizarre methods typical of Dick Huemer's series. It is a pretty good one because it does not ease up in the second half. Dick and his staff certainly made it clear where their sympathies lay!

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