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Vaudevillian Gus Visser (1894-1967) enters from our right, walking toward a white duck standing on an elaborate small table. Gus is comically dressed, with hair parted in the middle and slicked down, wearing a three-piece suit and extra-long shoes. He and the duck share a small treat Gus has taken from his pocket, then he picks up the duck, holding his legs in the right hand as he faces the audience and sings "Ma, He's Making Eyes At Me." At key moments of the song, the duck joins in with a squawk.Written by
One of the 50 films in the 3-disk boxed DVD set called "More Treasures from American Film Archives, 1894-1931" (2004), compiled by the National Film Preservation Foundation from 5 American film archives. This film has a running time of 90 seconds and is preserved by the George Eastman House. See more »
Ma, He's Making Eyes at Me
(also known as "Ma (He's Making Eyes at Me)" and "Ma! He's Making Eyes at Me")
Music by Con Conrad
Lyrics by Sidney Clare
Sung by Gus Visser and his singing duck See more »
This oddball feature is worth seeing both as an interesting novelty and as a piece of cinema history. Gus Visser performs one of his offbeat vaudeville routines, and Theodore Case uses the act as an experiment in his efforts to create a workable way to add sound to movies.
Case is one of a number of now-forgotten pioneers who painstakingly laid the groundwork for sound films in the years before the coming of "The Jazz Singer", which is now so much better remembered. The quest to add sound to moving pictures began almost as soon as movies themselves began, with experiments dating all the way back to the 1890s. Case's attempt is very good, and while the sound quality is far from what anyone would accept today, it is not that much worse than the quality of the earliest all-sound movies, and you can understand most of Visser's words.
The act itself is amusing, at least for a time, and it is the kind of novelty that worked rather well in vaudeville as part of a series of assorted routines. It is apparently now unknown to what extent this feature was circulated, or whether it was ever widely released, and that may account for its undeserved obscurity.
To get sound features to capture the public's interest, it would eventually take features with more going for them than a man holding a duck, but this really is not a bad effort in itself. It is definitely one that anyone with a serious interest in cinema history would want to watch.
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