Intertitle of the Week: Les Petites Baigneuses

Excuse my French.

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This is from a Keystone comedy with Harry Langdon, from the period when Sennett was pushing him into the usual manic style of slapstick favoured at that benighted studio. It’s not that Langdon is bad at this kind of thing, just that the furious pace and energy and air of general robust hi-jinks kind of erases what’s distinctive about him — which is sappy, infantile, neurasthenic and pallid indolence. No room for that here.

Interesting to see Roy Del Ruth directing at this time: I associate him so much with the rapid-fire, impactful cross-talk of ’30s pre-code pics that silent comedy comes as a surprise, but there’s certainly shared turf.

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The movie seems to be missing bits, so the set-up comes by way of about five intertitles at the start, which is weird. Then the funniest business, Harry in bed with his bearded dad (Andy Clyde), and a draft keeps blowing the beard into Harry’s face, tickling him. He tucks the beard under the duvet, but dad pulls it out. This is repeated, so we know a variation-punchline is on its way, but what? He could scissor the offending foliage off… being Langdon, he might just randomly punch his dad in the face (the bursts of random violence are somehow not incompatibly with his air of dissipated babyhood)… but no, Harry fetches a convenient paper bag with a drawstring and bags the beard. Very nice indeed.

How do we get from the wintry farmhouse to the bathing beauties at the beach? Through the magic of typical Keystone structural incoherence. Still, I was surprised at how charming and sexy the bathing beauties were.

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23 Responses to “Intertitle of the Week: Les Petites Baigneuses”

  1. Funny but I was just looking at a late Rol Del Ruth DuBarry Was a Lady — Cole Porter’s show with very little of Porter actually used. Freed confected it for Metro as a vehicle for Red Skelton — a comedian whose talent escapes me much as Jim Carrey’s does today.

    Making “funny faces” isn’t funny.

    The original show starred Bert Lahr and Ethel Merman. Skelton, needless to say, isn’t Lahr. And Lucille Ball isn’t Ethel Merman. But she IS Lucille Ball — dolled-up by Mero in the most dazzling manner imaginable. Looking at the film now we see it through the lens of the TV Lucy we know and love. Back then they weren’t sure what to do with her.

    In a still-unpubiished piece Bill Reed and I wrote on Lucille Bremer we discovered that Lucy wanted Frank Morgan’s role as Fred Astaire’s sidekick in Yolanda and the Thief. Today we can see what a good idea that would have been, but not Metro back then.

    Gene Kelly is in DuBarry Was a Lady too — right on the edge of stardom.

    And the choreographer is the great Charles Walters — who after all was a featured perfomer in the original show, along with Betty Grable. They stopped it nightly with “Well Did You Evah?” which Walters restaged for Bing and Frank in his High Society

  2. Orson Welles seems to have been one of the first to recognize Lucy’s potential, but he wasn’t able to do anything about it.

    I haven’t seen any late Del Ruth, I think. I imagine he stiffened up a bit, but I’m prepared to be pleasantly surprised. One I have to catch is his Alligator People — seems a shame to gloat over his lesser work, but I need to see ir as part of my Pictorial History of Horror Movies project.

  3. I was expecting you’d mention Alligator People

  4. Lucy and Orson remained friends for life. He memorably guested on I Love Lucy — doing his magic act with her. And she and Desi produced The Fountain of Youth. — his incredibly innovative telefilm.

  5. “I was expecting you’d mention Alligator People”

    Don’t like to disappoint! There’s some silent haunted house nonsense he made as well, which I likewise need to grab.

    I’m amazed Fountain of Youth didn’t lead to a series, it’s incredibly entertaining. John Collier’s fiction was a gift to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, et al.

  6. Arthur S. Says:

    My mother was a big fan of I Love Lucy and I enjoyed seeing some of the episodes as a kid…even if it was dubbed in Hindi.

  7. Never seen that before. I Love Lucy only ever aired in the UK once as far as I know. Part of that array of American cultural artifacts that barely made it over here.

  8. WOW.

    This side of the pond I Love Lucy is part of our DNA.

  9. Why is there an angry balloon wearing a hat on the stairs behind Langdon?

  10. I Love Lucy aired on British TV a lot more than once. I remember watching it every week as a kid. It was first broadcast on ITV in 1955, the year the station launched, and it became the number three programme in the British TV ratings for that year.

  11. Christopher Says:

    ahhh..the lovely sennett bathing bueaties..THats more like it ..after them BasTurds..I really haven’t seen many Langdon silents..His talkie shorts were a mainstay on old TV days as a gap filler after movies..Same as Andy Clyde,who enjoyed a long career in the US well into the television sitcom days…I can just imagine the “bed and beard” scene..lol
    Phantom of the Rue Morgue is a Roy Del Ruth horror that seems to have dissapeared from tv lineups,turned up pretty regular in kiddie times..oh my gosh!..Merv Griffin?!

  12. The balloon gets loose (it’s Xmas) and rises beneath a hatstand, until it acquires a hat, then floats after Langdon, as these things do, to scare him.

    Really want to see The Big Street — actually, I might have a VHS of it. But now it’s going to be The Old Army game with WC Fields and Louise Brooks.

    Phantom of the Rue Morgue I remember being pretty funny. Isn’t there a smashed window almost in the shape of a person, like something out of a WB cartoon? Maybe Del Ruth treated it and Alligator People as not worth taking seriously… Can’t say I blame him.

    So, Lucy had a 50s appearance, and she came back in the 80s, but was there anything in between? She didn’t feature in the 70s, to my knowledge.

  13. She had two other show’s — The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. Both were post-Desi and both were successful. But they didn’t travel the way I Love Lucy did.

  14. I’m not sure how much Roy Del Ruth had to do with this *particular* segment, but … here’s Virginia O’Brien singing “Salome” in DuBARRY WAS A LADY. Music by Roger Edens, words by E.Y. Harburg.

    http://lascar370.multiply.com/video/item/235

    (Love those ’40s-ish *double-entendres* of Harburg’s, with O’Brien singing about a guy’s “panz-er unit.” I’d rather hear about that than Glocca Morra any day.)

    I remember seeing the last Del Ruth film, WHY MUST I DIE, on TV once. The IMDb user who calls it a low-rent I WANT TO LIVE rip-off is, essentially right. What with Terry Moore and Debra Paget, it was essentially hearts ‘n’ breasts uplifted in late-’50s b&w. Only minus the inspiration of, say, THE NAKED KISS, which the synopsis on its IMDb page sounds strangely similar to.

  15. Oh I LOVE Virginia O’Brien. She’s great in The Harvey Girls and has a wonderful solo in Ziegfeld Follies

  16. Christopher Says:

    lol..the Big Street!..Hank Fonda the bus boy!..When I see Fonda pushing Lucy into Florida in a Wheelchair..I can’t help think of Midnight cowboy and the I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel share a ride down to Florida with Elsa Lanchester,who they fear may be a serial killer..Hatchet Muderess!

  17. That sounds awesome! I think there’s a perception of it here as a generic, laff-track-ridden piece of conformist 50s pap — maybe because few people in the UK have seen it.

    Just got a copy of Goldwyn Follies…

  18. A truy insane film. To think that George died halfway through its making.
    “Loved Walked In” is lovely but that’s about it.

  19. Here’s that Phantom of the Rue Morgue cutout window: http://tinyurl.com/n3kceb

  20. Beautiful! “He went thataway!”

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