The Sunday Intertitle: Whirling Pants

LET’S GO NATIVE is an odd early Leo McCarey feature, unstructured and undecided as to what it’s about, but fitfully very funny indeed. Like a Laurel & Hardy film, it has jocular intertitles (even though it’s a talkie).

Jack Oakie plays Voltaire McGinnis, cab driver (but much of the action takes place on an ocean cruiser). Jeanette MacDonald plays a costume designer (but spends most of the story as a performer in a Broadway musical [but much of the action takes place on an ocean cruiser]). Kay Francis plays her rival (but doesn’t appear for the first half hour).

My copy of the film is really too ratty to show of the gowns, but here’s a still sourced from Everyone Says I Love You.

Apart from its obvious double-feature potential with DOWN TO THEIR LAST YACHT, I’m not quite sure why this film exists, but then I’m not sure why DOWN TO THEIR LAST YACHT exists (although it might have something to do with dressing Sidney Fox in revealing desert island undies).

McCarey stages a mass tit-for-tat routine involving hats being flung overboard, a direct descendant of PUTTING PANTS ON PHILIP, and overall, the spirit of Laurel & Hardy hangs over the proceedings. If, as a friend remarked, RUGGLES OF RED GAP takes a step from L&H slapstick towards reality and real people (with Laughton sometimes seeming to directly ape Laurel), LET’S GO NATIVE shows McCarey taking those first faltering steps from short subjects to coherent features, without having grasped structure, character arcs, thematic development, or the level of conviction usually needed to keep an audience occupied for over an hour.

In later films, for instance the aforementioned RUGGLES, McCarey nailed all of those qualities, but in DUCK SOUP he triumphantly found a way to do without them.

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4 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Whirling Pants”

  1. McCarey restages old gags from Charley Chase silents as well, the hat gag on the ocean liner is from His Wooden Wedding. The one thing I found something of a letdown is the musical numbers. Alas, Skeets Gallagher looked like he walked in from another film, and James Hall kept switching from simpering to surly.

    I liked that I never quite knew what was going to happen.

  2. The wavishing Kay Fwancis looks unusually wesplendent, even by her own august standards.

    The likes of Angelina Jolie can only dream!

  3. I didn’t mention the Eisensteinian frenzy of some of the dance numbers, and the ship sinking sequence. No editor is credited, alas.

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