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The Sex Life of the Polyp (1928)

Dr. Benchley lectures the women's club on the unusual but important title-topic.


Thomas Chalmers (uncredited)
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Complete credited cast:
Robert Benchley ... Lecturer


Dr. Benchley is addressing the Ladies Club on the subject of the reproductive habits of the polyp, a small aquatic organism. Although he is not able to display his live specimens, he has prepared a series of pictures of his subjects. He explains that the subject is made more complicated by the fact that polyps are able to change their sex from time to time. Then he presents some of the pictures of his specimens and the experiments that he has done with them. Written by Snow Leopard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Short







Release Date:

25 July 1928 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Fox Film Corporation See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?


Benchley first performed this routine in 1922. See more »


Lecturer: Now the only way in which a polyp resembles other animals at all is that at certain periods of its growth, it does take a sentimental interest in polyps of the... oppositie sex. Now, this presents a very complicated situation as the polyp has no definite sex itself. That is... it's neither one thing or the other. By that I mean the same polyp may be either a boy or a girl according to what or how it happened to feel like being.
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User Reviews

Droll comedy with an eye-catching title
27 November 2001 | by wmorrow59See all my reviews

The great humorist Robert Benchley wrote hundreds of magazine pieces and acted in dozens of short films and features, but for my money this early effort is one of his best. Although it's technically primitive I consider The Sex Life of the Polyp one of his funniest short comedies. In this, only his second movie appearance, Benchley assumes the role that would become his signature: the smug lecturer who confidently spouts nonsense, liberally dispensing misinformation to his audience, in this case a ladies' club. The prosperous looking ladies wear large hats, and resemble the matrons in Helen Hokinson's famous New Yorker cartoons. "Doctor" Benchley, who sports a professorial swallowtail coat, initially seems a bit chagrined to be discussing such intimate matters before this well-bred crowd; after all, the subject at hand is somewhat naughtier than last week's topic "Emotional Crises in Sponge Life." But soon our speaker hits his stride and is rattling off all sorts of information you won't find in any encyclopedia . . . or anywhere else. His discourse on sexual reproduction among polyps is accompanied by strange animated slides depicting them as hairy, pulsating little beasts. Among the beasts on display is Dr. Benchley's own polyp, Mary.

Movie buffs familiar with our lecturer's comic turns in such features of the '40s as I Married a Witch and The Sky's the Limit may not even recognize him here. The Benchley of later years was a portly gent with thinning hair, but when this film was made he was still trim, youthful and bright-eyed -- and, in the opinion of my wife, "really cute." Despite his inexperience as a movie actor his performance is quite proficient. According to biographers Benchley dismissed his acting skills in private life, but his delivery here is superb, perfectly capturing the pomposity of the self-important professor, as well as a touch of semi-feigned, coy embarrassment over the risqué elements in his presentation. I don't care what he told his friends, the guy was an accomplished comedian! He makes it look easy, which is something only the most skilled professionals can do.

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