George K Arthur (a chirpy little Aberdonian) and Karl Dane (tall and slack-jawed) were an immensely popular comedy team of the silent era whose career slowed in talkies, largely due to Dane's thick accent (he was a Dane by name and a Dane by nature), combined with the fact that neither was an especially good actor.
The film historian William K Everson told me that he owned prints of all the Dane-Arthur team-ups, but that he very seldom viewed them because (in his opinion) they just weren't funny. I'm inclined to agree. What most intrigues me about Dane and Arthur is that, uniquely among major comedy teams, they tended to play adversaries rather than allies. This is especially prominent in 'Brotherly Love', set in a penitentiary ... in which Arthur plays a young lag trying to escape, and Dane plays the warder trying to stop him.
The army comedy 'Rookies' is probably the best of the Dane-Arthur films. Someone at MGM must have agreed, because here's a movie called 'Circus Rookies': not in any way a sequel to 'Rookies', yet titled to make us think it is.
Mister Magoo (no, not THAT one) is a circus impresario who keeps losing his gorilla-keepers, because Bimbo the gorilla insists on mauling them. Along comes Oscar (Dane), who manages to tame Bimbo by the brilliant stratagem of offering the gorilla a banana ... apparently nobody ever thought of this before. Eventually, Dane has got Bimbo so well-trained, he tells him to 'Kiss papa' ... and Bimbo complies. Karl Dane never won any beauty prizes, and the sight of this lanky fellow being kissed by a gorilla (played by a man in a too-obvious ape cozzy) is not a pretty sight.
George K Arthur, much handsomer and a more conventional personality type than Dane, tended to dominate their films together. Here, possibly for the only time in the team's brief history, Arthur has far less to do than Dane. There's an unfunny running gag: every time Dane runs out of bananas, Bimbo dunks him in a water-trough. 'Circus Rookies' has a high budget and MGM's usual excellent art direction, but it's wasted on a bad script and not enough humour. I'll rate this movie just one point out of 10.
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