Mr. Pastry

I found a great 1960 interview with Buster Keaton on Jstor — perks of being a so-called academic. He’s asked about his favourite comedians. “I have my pets,” he says.

“How about some of the British comedians? Have you seen, do you enjoy the films that Alec Guinness makes, for instance?”

“Oh, I’ve got one pet over there.”

“Who’s that?”

“Richard Hearne, Mr. Pastry.”

OK, so let’s contain our disappointment for a moment. Buster has nothing to say about Alec Guinness, but he wants to rave about some obscure music hall entity called Mr. Pastry. Let’s go with it and see where it takes us.

“He’s been on The Ed Sullivan Show a dozen times. He’s a young fellow who makes up as an old man, and he does a routine where he’s supposed to be at a dance, and he dances with imaginary characters. And he does another one where they initiate him into a drinking club of some kind or another, where they jump up on chairs and take a drink between every jump.”

So, I got curious and looked on YouTube. There only seems to be one or two good clips. You see a bit of the dancing one here (“The Lancers,” it’s called) but then the business with the tuba begins. See if you can make it through without convulsions. I thought I knew what kind of thing it was going to be and I was smiling indulgently and then I found myself in hysterics. Brilliant, sustained physical nonsense.

And you can see EXACTLY why Buster would have liked it. I don’t know that Richard Hearne ever learned of Buster’s admiration, though.

Longer version of “The Lancers” here ~

Less funny but very skilled indeed — it really feels like he’s being dragged about the stage by invisible partners of superior size.

Tuba variation ~

7 Responses to “Mr. Pastry”

  1. bensondonald Says:

    I’ve seen him do the tuba routine in “Time of Your Life”, a 1955 British feature. Most of the way it’s gentle situation comedy about a mild-mannered convict content to tend the prison garden, suddenly released into the care of an upper-class daughter and her family. They try to keep him locked away prior to a Very Important Party, but he keeps slipping out to innocently cause trouble and help out the young lovers.

    Then, at the Very Important Party, the small dance band has an tuba at the ready … The routine comes out of nowhere and it’s the most physical thing in the movie, but he keeps it in character and then returns to lovable meddling.

    An American company, VCI Entertainment, has it in a set titled “British Cinema Collection Volume 2”. There are four other films, no major classics but plenty of familiar faces: Joan Collins, Frankie Howerd, Margaret Rutherford, a hot young Petula Clark, Kenneth Conner, and others.

  2. I’m hopefully going to get ahold of Time of Your Life, though the unimaginative nature of most Brit filmmaking in the fifties (with some very notable exceptions) means the possibiltiy of a British Tati was never going to be realised…

  3. Talking of Richard Hearne and imaginative film-making in the fifties: you might try Miss Robin Hood which also stars James Robertson Justice doing a Max Cady walk into camera.

  4. Ah! Now this one keeps getting pushed at me and I’ve been pushing it away, somewhat… No more!

  5. bensondonald Says:

    We certainly had (and still have) uninspired comedies this side of the pond, polite B movies set in sitcom suburbs and full of familiar faces, usually stars aged out of the front ranks and small-screen names.

    They became increasingly indistinguishable from a studio’s television product, aside from being very slightly racier (plots centered on somebody thinking — erroneously — that Sex had happened somewhere).

    Now their very blandness makes them a sort of comfort food. Something that just feels right when you’re flattened out by the flu.

  6. I have a terrible weakness for comfort food. My New Year’s Resolution may be to have a more interesting diet. But maybe that’s because I just watched Edward Dmytryk’s Anzio.

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