Back in the very early days of sound films, Vitaphone blazed the trail with their experimental shorts. This unit of Warner Brothers worked on sound films well before "The Jazz Singer" and it made this full-length talking movie possible. Most of their very early short films consisted of stage acts performing in the tiny Vitaphone studio in New York...and Al Shaw and Sam Lee made a couple wonderful films for Vitaphone. Their best was simple...in "Beau Brummels" they had no real script, they just did their very funny stage routine...one I scored a 10! In their next film, "Going Places" was also quite good...but not as good because there was a bit more plot. Here in the MGM film "Gentlemen of Polish", there is a whole lotta plot and the results are the worst of the three films. It's still good...but Shaw and Lee could do much better.
Much of this is because MGM had a long history of screwing up famous film comedians' pictures. The Marx Brothers initially did quite well with "A Night at the Opera" and "A Day at the Races" but MGM soon had them making dull and formulaic pictures like "The Big Store". Buster Keaton had a decent outing with "The Cameraman" but soon insisted on pairing Keaton with Jimmy Durante and their pictures and chemistry were just awful. And, with Laurel & Hardy, while MGM released their films, Hal Roach Studios called the shots. But, when the duo came to the studio in the 1940s, the results were amazingly dull in "Nothing But Trouble".
The film finds Shaw and Lee selling Super Glosso Auto Polish, a miracle product that seems to be nothing but acid. Instead of polishing, it eats holes in cars...and after eating a hole in a grouchy cop's car, they are on the run. Soon they arrive at a night club...and the comedy often grinds to a halt when a variety of stage acts appear and do their thing....a major problem in many of the MGM comedies I mentioned above. The whole thing does end on a funny note and is worth seeing...but please try to see the other two Shaw and Lee films...you won't be sorry.
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