The Sunday Intertitle: Worthy Son



A positively willowy Eugene Pallette in TERROR ISLAND. Although those piggy, slitty eyes suggest a fat man trying to burgeon out of his narrow frame. But look at those long, ivory-tickling fingers! I always picture Pallette with short fat hands, but checking visual references, it seems that as the years and pounds piled on, his fingers, though expanding slightly, retained most of their lithe sensitivity, so that it is possible to envision the hulking thesp conducting a chubby orchestra or performing miracles with origami hippos.

His appearance in this incomplete Houdini romp makes him probably the classiest co-star H.H. ever had, though Pallette’s rep hadn’t reached the heights it would later attain. Still, he had appeared in the Huguenot episode of INTOLERANCE, throwing himself about with surprising agility.

In TERROR ISLAND, bad guy Pallette obstructs Houdini’s exit, and the irked escapologist hoists his opponent into the air and lays him supine on a desktop, an action even the greatest daredevil alive would probably not have contemplated a few years later.

11 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Worthy Son”

  1. Robert Keser Says:

    Who knew he was ever thinner (besides you)? Just watched him, at full girth, playing a stagecoach driver in Raoul Walsh’s very lively WILD GIRL and, more incongruously, as a gypsy leader in Erik Charell’s elaborate CARAVAN. More people need to see his droll performance as the butler with creaky shoes in LaCava’s UNFINISHED BUSINESS.

  2. A slimmer Eugene is also impressive in the silent version of Chicago.

  3. Just saw the rotund racist in FOLLOW THRU, an early two-strip Technicolor musical. Pallette in a limited palette.

  4. Unfinished Business:
    Follow Through: Pallette as Super Mario!

    The first time I became aware of Pallette, my co-viewer Lawrie pointed at Shanghai Express and said “…and he used to be a handsome leading man.” Not quite true, but a source of wonderment at the time.

  5. henryholland666 Says:

    Yes, he was kinda good looking in his early days, the bushy eyebrows are firmly in place:

    From his Wikipedia entry:

    In 1946, convinced that there was going to be a “world blow-up” by atom bombs, Pallette received considerable publicity when he set up a “mountain fortress” on a 3,500-acre ranch near Imnaha, Oregon, as a hideaway from universal catastrophe. The “fortress” reportedly was stocked with a sizable herd of prize cattle, enormous supplies of food, and had its own canning plant and lumber mill.

    When the “blow-up” he anticipated failed to materialize after two years, he began disposing of the Oregon ranch and returned to Los Angeles and his movie colony friends but, after working steadily from 1913 to 1946, never appeared in another movie.


    So Eugene Pallette was a “back to the land” hippie before there were hippies. :-)

  6. I wrote once that Pallette’s voice always seemed to be coming from below the floor (he’d have made a great Hamlet’s father’s ghost: Hank Fonda as the Dane?) so maybe he sank himself into a subterranean bunker to be reuinited with it?

  7. Dare I assume that I’m the only commenter here who’s been to Imnaha, Oregon? It’s a town of maybe 200 people tucked up in the far northeast of Oregon, near the Wallowa Mountains. A beautiful area, remote and rugged enough to be self-fortressing. Pallette was a forerunner of the far-right survivalists now rife in nearby Idaho.

  8. DBenson Says:

    Pallette, if memory serves, was Porthos in Doug Fairbanks’ “The Three Musketeers.” He was large enough to play a guy who could hold a bridge on his back. Always intriguing to learn how performers now remembered mainly for their voices — W.C. Fields and Ronald Colman, to name two — actually had substantial silent careers.

    It’s impossible now to imagine Stan Laurel without his distinctive accent, but wonder if it came as a surprise to fans of the silent Laurel and Hardy. Or if there was ever any talk of trying to hide it (down the road they’d embrace it, giving Laurel a British or Scottish ancestry in various films).

  9. I always wondered what strange brain-circuitry compels people who are anti-gun-control to be anti-abortion, what creates these clusters of right-wing/conservative ideas which have nothing really in common conceptually. Now I have to wonder where the bunker-building fits in.

    Laurel & Hardy’s approach to sound was substantially different from the major studios’, since they continued to work from slender outlines and basically improvised the dialogue around a few scripted gags. The kind of approach Keaton would have loved if it had been permitted at MGM (and which worked in The Jazz Singer, kind of).

  10. henryholland666 Says:

    “Now I have to wonder where the bunker-building fits in”

    Easy! The US government are our facist overlords who will ignore the 2nd Amendment [the right to bear arms] and steal all our guns so they can impose military rule ensuring that liberals will rule for a 1000 years. The only option is to drop out of society, load up on guns and wait for the black helicopters of their UN lackeys to appear so we can fight for freedom and the American Way.

    I wish I was being sarcastic with that, but I have an uncle who lives in Arizona who *is* that batshit crazy. He thinks “Red Dawn” from 1984 is a documentary, not one of the dumbest movies ever made.

  11. It contains the line “A lot of people round here been waking up with their throats cut,” which might have been a clue…

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