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The Eyes Have It (1931)
Bergen - the perfect radio ventriloquist
Occasionally, during routines with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, "Charlie" would make comments about how Bergen's mouth would often move during their routines. You can see in this short, why Bergen and McCarthy were better suited for the radio. I would not be too surprised if the director had to take a few takes to get a better angle for filming Bergen to minimize showing his mouth moving during the times when he was voicing Charlie.
This is a cute little short from the early stages of Bergen's career. If you want a better idea why Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy were so popular in the pre-WWII days, you really need to listen to the surviving radio shows from The Chase and Sanborn Hour - particularly from 1937 where W.C. Fields would trade insults (and threats) with Charlie.
A Coach for Cinderella (1937)
Cute ad for Chevys
Since this cartoon came out in 1936, there's no way this was to introduce the first post WWII Chevrolets. The US didn't officially enter the war until 1941.
This starts out with a gnome (perhaps an elf, I'm not an expert on fictional tiny people, but they don't have wings, so I guess that rules out fairies, sprites, and a few others) watching how Cinderella's being treated by her 2 step-sisters who are both ordering her to do things at the same time in 2 different rooms. One step-sister needs help with her hair and the other needs her corset tightened and tied. The gnome stops laughing at times when, off camera, it appears that the 2 step-sisters are beating Cinderella off camera.
We then see the gnome taking Cinderella's measurements while she is sleeping on a thin mat on the floor. The cartoon Cinderella at this point is very realistically drawn. She looks like it could almost have been an Impressionistic painting or pastel drawing.
The gnome gets the others to help - spiders spin the silk for her gown and most of the gnomes build a coach using a pumpkin, plus some grape vine for shock absorbers, fireflies for headlights, worms wrapped around flowers for wheels, and so forth.
The coach then goes through a "modernizer" and is turned into a brand new Chevrolet as we see Cinderella in her gown and crystal slippers.
Your Safety First (1956)
See the future of a decade plus ago!
This fairly cheaply animated short brought to us by automobile manufacturers of the mid 1950s (there are fewer around now). This is supposed to take place in the then future of 2000 - showing the new 2001 cars. The cars of 2000 could pretty much drive themselves, fly in order to pass a slower car - nothing like the actual cars of 2000 - or 2012 for that matter, and probably not in 2022 either.
An office "worker" who has little to do - think George Jetson but looks more like Mr. Spacely, is thinking about getting a new car - his old one is almost a year and a half old. He drives home, reading the paper most of the way. He arrives home (with a 4-car garage) and after eating dinner of a pill and a drink, the table mounts on the wall and becomes a 3-D TV screen - one with a feature that our TVs don't have - people can actually enter your living room through the TV. One man does that to discuss the history of automobiles.
The man's alleged grandfather is shown with a 4-seat auto with hand-crank starter, no doors, no windshield, and no lights. Where then shown how cars were made safer and better over time. Old Grandad is driving pretty much through the entire program, including at the end, when he drives through the TV screen, says cars have changed a lot in his 117 years and he's going to go get a new car.
A Is for Atom (1953)
When Americans believed in Science
This cartoon short from the early 1950s showed a time when many Americans thought that there were few, if any, limits to what science could do. This piece of history was brought to you from the folks of General Electric, a company that most people of the time, associated with kitchen appliances and light bulbs and not in the business of creating nuclear and non- nuclear weapons, medical appliances, etc.
This showed how useful nuclear research had been to this point and was more than just creating weapons of mass destruction. This gives a rudimentary understanding of chemistry and atomic structure before showing what could happen with nuclear fission and natural radioactive decay - and it does so in a somewhat amusing way. Radioactive elements, such as Radium are shown as hyperactive people with atoms for heads (or at least what atoms were thought to look like at the time). Radium is shown wearing a tux, dancing fairly maniacally before becoming Radon and then Lead. Uranium isotopes are shown to split and how that can be used to create electricity (and Plutonium).
It's not enough to allow you to develop your own nuclear program, but it does show the benefits of nuclear research. This was definitely a time when most Americans thought science had all sorts of potential - now, many Americans seem to question some of the basic principles of science, preferring to use writings that are 2000 year old or older to answer questions about how the world works.
The Mummy Strikes (1943)
I guess the war needed a break
For once, Clark Kent is told of a story and tries to hide it from Lois Lane, who follows him anyway. What would a Superman cartoon be without having to rescue her?
An Egyptologist is found dead, believed to be murdered - his young assistant is arrested and convicted of his murder. Another archaeologist believes that his colleague was killed by the mummy's curse - the Curse of King Tush (pronounced like the ZZ Top song, but this isn't what they were looking for).
As Clark is shown around the museum (and Lois sneaking around in the shadows), Clark presses something on the mummy's coffin, ejecting a poisoned needle and opening the sarcophagus. A medallion on the mummy starts to glow and opens the sarcophagi of the giant guards.
They start destroying the museum, which, for reasons unknown has a large fire for lighting. Can Superman save the day or does the supernatural win out?
Eleventh Hour (1942)
Really Pretty Silly Superman
For reasons unknown, Clark Kent and Lois Lane are prisoners in Yokohama, Japan. Their jail cells are more like hotel rooms with metal grating over the windows than anything the Japanese actually interred prisoners. Clark Kent, at 11:00 PM each night, changes to Superman, commits an act of sabotage against the Japanese - usually against a naval vessel, but also destroys a bridge while a train is on it, blows up some tank-like vehicles, etc. Then Superman returns to his cell, replaces the grating, and changes back to Clark Kent.
A Japanese soldier sneaks into Lois' room and forcibly takes her to be executed. Why there weren't several soldiers taking her from her room at gun point, which is more likely to have happened isn't explained - perhaps an animation short cut.
Superman destroys another Japanese ship but many of the steel girders fall on him and he then sees the notice that if Superman commits one more act of sabotage, they will execute Lois. He manages to get there in time to block the bullets from harming Miss Lane, who, by the way, walked to her execution with dignity - like a good American supposedly should.
Clark stays behind to continue committing acts of sabotage after Lois returns to the US on a ship. Why is this pretty silly? Superman probably could have done more damage to the Japanese army and navy in fairly short order than the US was able to do in the first couple of years, but we can't have Superman winning the war single handedly, can we? Especially with 3 more bloody years to go, including the dropping of 2 bombs that did more destruction than Superman could have done.
I found this Ub Iwerks cartoon on iTunes (Vintage ToonCast podcasts #03) and thought that this was a fairly cute cartoon from the time of the Depression.
In this, Aladdin works for a man who exchanges 'new' lamps for old ones. The 'new' lamps are just old ones that Aladdin has polished to make new again. Aladdin is pretty much locked in a basement workroom and one day manages to see the beautiful princess pass by in a parade. She drops a rose by his barred window and before Aladdin can pick it up through the bars, an elephant steps on it twice. This was enough for Aladdin to fall in love with the princess.
The man Aladdin works for then dumps a large sack full of old lamps for Aladdin to polish. One is the magic lamp. Aladdin polishes this lamp and a giant genie appears offering to grant his wishes. He wants to be in the palace.
Then, in the sultan's palace, what appears to be a huge meal is brought to the sultan. He takes the lid off of the meal tray and there appears Aladdin wearing the same rags that he was working in. He rubs the lamp and is finely dressed. There are a few more wishes and the man Aladdin worked for tries stealing the lamp.
The lamp ends up inside the sultan and Aladdin cleverly deals with his former boss with the use of a blow torch. Aladdin then wishes to be with the princess and suddenly, he lands in her bathtub. She falls in love with Aladdin (you couldn't expect otherwise, could you?) and as the happy couple are together, you can hear the man yelling, "New lamps for old." He then gets plenty to work with.
Fatty's Magic Pants (1914)
For this Keystone slapstick to be believed, you must be able to imagine that Roscoe Arbuckle could put on a pair of Charley Chase's pants and a tuxedo jacket and the only problem is that the legs would be too short for the pants and the jacket sleeves would be too short and that he couldn't close the jacket. In reality, Arbuckle couldn't get either garment on.
If you can overlook this obvious problem, this is a pretty funny short and is one time that Arbuckle doesn't come out on top in the end. Roscoe and Charley Chase are both competing for the affections of Minta Durfee to attend a dance that evening that requires dress clothes. Charley has either rented or bought a tux earlier, Roscoe hadn't. Charley stops by on his way home (conveniently located next door to Roscoe's house) to show off his tux. Roscoe tries to get his mother to let him have 50 cents to rent a tux and she refuses. It's kind of implied that Roscoe is lazy and doesn't do any work by his mother pointing to his arms and pointing out how strong he is. He stretches out his arms and makes some motions like, yes, he is strong, but, instead, starts yawning.
Roscoe then tries to steal Charley's tux by knocking him out while he's standing next to Minta. She knocks him over, Charley and Roscoe start fighting and Charley appears to have the upper hand until a cop shows up. During all this, the tux apparently needs to be aired out, so Charley hangs the tux and top hat on his clothes line, which is also attached to Roscoe's house, and this allows Roscoe to steal the tux.
Charley doesn't find out that his tux has been stolen until it is time to go to the dance where he sees Roscoe wearing his tux with the incredible shrinking waistband and unusually broad shoulders in the back of the jacket. Charley sneaks in through a window, and comically removes the tuxedo from Roscoe, although, at first, only the pants. Roscoe is embarrassed as he helps Al St. John, in an extremely subdued performance for him, move a table from one room into the room where everyone is dancing. This is when everyone sees Roscoe without pants and a fight breaks out.
In the end, Roscoe, basically in his underwear, is out on the street getting arrested and hauled off to jail wearing a barrel as Charley and Minta laugh out of a window.
Very quick, very superficial
How does one sum up the life and career of Harold Lloyd in about 3 1/2 minutes? This was an attempt at it. You do get to briefly see a photo of Harold Lloyd when he was about 1 year old, again when he was about 3. There's a few stills as an extra, a couple more stills where he's Lonesome Luke, a couple more stills where Lloyd is working with "Snub" Pollard and Bebe Daniels (and a brief mention of both). Also mentioned are "Grandma's Boy", "Safety Last", and "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock", which is mentioned as a highlight to Lloyd's career. You also get to see a couple of photos of his huge estate, Greenacres, where Lloyd lived for the rest of his life. This is an extra on a 5-DVD set of Lloyd's work, Smiles and Spectacles by Passport Video.
Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931)
Better than expected
Reading the other reviews and the lack of comments, I wasn't looking forward to watching this, but it was the only film I hadn't watched on a 3-DVD set of Keaton films that I've owned for some time. The set has 3 of Buster's talkies and I was more familiar with his silent classics. I really did enjoy this, although, as other reviewers said, this starts out kind of slow. It's a decent precode farce about 2 sisters, one engaged to a man who wants to get married ASAP (she won't marry before her older sister so she won't be known as an 'old maid'), and her older sister who is attracted to bad boys.
Buster Keaton starts out nailing up signs on 'telegraph' poles and fences and while distracted watching the older sister on the diving board of the pool at Keaton's actual home, walks in front of a moving car and is hit. Keaton plays a timid, girl shy character (the kind of role that MGM often put him in, which was nothing like him in real life, judging from the number of affairs he was supposedly having around that time) who is supposed to play the part of a ladies' man.
The second half that takes place in a hotel is much better than the slower first half. This is where Buster goes from being almost scared of women to being sexually aggressive within a few hours. It's during this part of the movie where Buster gets to show off some of his physical comedy that he's probably best known for, although I think Buster was better off at showing absurd situations - and this movie is pretty much just that.