The Sunday Intertitle: Unsightly ducts?

It’s pretty startling when you’re watching a 1930 musical and the Super Mario Brothers crash into it. Especially when they’re played by Jack “the Tin Man” Haley and Eugene “the Fat Man” Pallette.

The movie is FOLLOW THRU (an unintentionally chortlesome title for readers of Viz comic and the generally puerile-minded like me) and it’s a light comedy musical about golf. Yes, golf. Don’t be dismayed — YET — a week before this one’s opening in 1930, MGM released LOVE IN THE ROUGH, another golf-based musical. So it’s not strange at all, see?

Nancy Carroll, who can’t sing but looks charming in two-strip with her red hair and rosy cheeks, is the daughter of a Scottish golf buff (Claude King) who raises her in the ways of the club and tee. Romance blossoms with Charles “Buddy” Rogers (as fresh-faced as ever, and he can sing, a bit) and the usual lightweight complications ensue, resulting in Haley and Pallette dragging up as plumbers and raiding the women’s locker room. This sounds like a cue for PORKY’S style non-hilarity and nudity, but it’s not that pre-code. In fact, the only racy content is Haley’s boob-grabbing hand gestures in this classic number –

But the sight of Nancy Carroll in a mini-kilt at the fancy dress ball may set your pulses racing.

Jack Haley’s a strange performer, isn’t he? He’s the only one in THE WIZARD OF OZ who struck me as “wrong” — it might come off as a dated acting style, but I think it’s a heightened stylisation that would probably seem artificial in any era. His compatriots on the Yellow Brick Road, Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr were just “funny uncle” figures to me, whereas Haley was extraterrestrial in his fey, grinning perkiness. He’s actually less abnormal WITH the funnel on his head and the lead paint.

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13 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Unsightly ducts?”

  1. Haley in the Wizard of Oz seems to me to be more obviously playing a part in a children’s movie than any of the others. The rest may be mugging it up, but in a way that seems performative; Haley always struck me as being . . . well, not winking, but removed, like he wanted to be sure no one got too serious or too scared.

    (Happened to watch two movies in a row this week with Eugene Pallette. What a joy.)

  2. True. The Wizard of Oz is largely about vaudeville ie. “Oil can what?”

    Off-topic (slightly A very disappointing sit-down with Meryl Streep and Philaida Lloyd

    Margaret Thatcher is not “some old woman on the subway.”

  3. While Nancy can’t sing (she doesn’t hit notes, she just waves at them from a safe distance), she could dance a bit. Paramount On Parade shows this, as does Sweetie.

    I’ve seen Haley in a few other things where he’s not so…demented. In both he was typed as a good natured sap. He and Pallette are a good team and Zelma O’Neal is a lot of fun if not much to look at (when she was cast in Paramount On Parade, she was most assuredly not one of the “dream girls” in the Goulding segment).

    One reason why many early Paramount musicals don’t chafe me so badly is that they really don’t take themselves seriously. I don’t say they’re any better than the competition, just easier to sit through.

  4. Ah Jeez. Of course, people should make movies about old ladies and value them. BUT Thatcher is a lot more than that, and you really devalue her if you portray her as a representative senior citizen instead of the hideous heartless capitalist bitch she is/was.

    Outside of Oz I know Haley from Preminger’s rather charmless Danger: Love at Work.
    http://dcairns.wordpress.com/2008/03/16/danger-otto-at-work/
    He’s similarly insipid and unconvincing in it. I like him better being weird and blinky in Follow Thru.

    Someday I should run a series on Huge Euge’s expanding waistline through the years, from Intolerance to Suspense. A man who could use a reel’s worth of celluloid as a belt.

  5. Ha! I was going to mention that a viewer could pinpoint the year a film Pallette was in just by eyeballing his waist.

    P.S. I agree, my Streep respect dropped a notch or ten there.

  6. Also, to prove that I can coin a pun about once every ten years, that outfit of Nancy’s provokes a little kiltic thunder.

    I didn’t say it’d be a good pun.

  7. Argh! How can I throw a tomato via the internet?

  8. That emoticon has yet to be developed, and am I thankful!

  9. Hale’s Tin Man seemed wrong to me because of all the seekers he was the only one who clearly had what he was looking for. If the Scarcrow’s played as a dope and the Lion as a coward, surely the Tin Man shouldn’t be a Pierrot. Also, black lips. Wrong.

  10. Well, the Scarecrow starts showing signs of brains as the story goes on, whereas the Lion is sort of cowardly thoughout. So there’s no rhyme or reason. But yeah, Haley didn’t know how not to seem warm and eager — an emotionless Vulcan would have been interesting.

    Oscar Levant?

  11. Great! I think he should definitely be urban. (When I had to perform each role in a Theatre in Education show decades ago I remember my Tin Man was sort of De Niro-ey (while scarecrow was a young Tim robbins and the cowardly lion was Vincent Gallo circa Buffalo 66).

  12. I dunno, he’s a woodsman… the whole show is pretty rural, with only Oz and his citizenry representing the urban sophisticates.

    I love Frank Morgan’s dither, but Oscar Levant as Oz would make me drunk with joy.

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