The Sunday Intertitle: Nipper!

Lupino “Nipper” or “Nip” Lane — Henry William George Lupino — was known to me mainly for his being second cousin to Ida Lupino, and for his vigorous, indeed violent, comic dancing in Lubitsch’s THE LOVE PARADE. But I got lured into helping crowdfund a DVD because the clips were so amazing, and I’m very glad I did.

Nipper, we’re told, wasn’t particularly interested in creating a constant screen persona, he’s a bit chameleonic. The first short we ran was GOOD NIGHT NURSE in which he’s a nervous wreck seeking treatment from Dr. O. Stoppit, played by Nipper’s younger brother Wallace, who looks convincingly decades older but is remarkably spry when the gags require it.

Since gags are what Nipper is interested in, the gags had better be good, right? And they are — there’s a Stan Laurel “freak gag” thing going on, with the double-jointed Lane swelling up like a balloon, having his tongue stretched like elastic, and impersonating a skeleton (a good trick if you can do it). As with Mr. Laurel, this business is at least as disturbing as it is amusing, but there are plenty of other kinds of tricks on display, from the brutal stepping on the gouty foot routine so beloved of Chaplin (and thus probably rooted in the British music hall tradition from which both Charlie and Nipper originated) to the kick up the arse as a surrogate for the handshake or hat tip.

But there’s also REALLY clever stuff. Which makes this disc exciting — we get to see an original comic mind throwing out strange gags and eccentric pay-offs nobody else would think of, and executing them in ways nobody else could physically achieve. Congratulations already to Dave Glass & Dave Wyatt, and I suspect those congrats will only get heartier as I work my way through this collection.

4 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Nipper!”

  1. bensondonald Says:

    Is this DVD going to be available to us yankees?

    Walter Kerr briefly discussed Lane in “The Silent Clowns”, in the chapter “Some Imperfect Fools”. He found Lane physically amazing, but more interested in gags than any kind of screen character.

    The musical “Me and My Girl” was a vehicle for Lane, and was filmed as “The Lambeth Walk” — can that be seen anywhere? A successful revival starred Robert Lindsay doing all manner of physical comedy; always wondered how much was drawn from Lane’s performance.

    At the end of “The Bullfighters” Laurel and Hardy are cornered by foe who’d sworn to skin them alive. The last shot of the film is a special effect of them as skeletons from the neck down, Stan crying and Ollie simply annoyed at another nice mess.

    Benny Hill did a version of the skeleton bit. In hobo clown guise, he stood before a black backdrop and, with appropriate music, strip-teased down to skeleton. He then saucily tossed bones aside one by one, finally pulling off his face to reveal a skull.

    In one movie Martin and Lewis reacted to an insert shot of Hope and Crosby as heads on little skeleton puppet bodies.

  2. There’s a skeletal striptease in The Monster Club too.

    There’s no official release of The Lambeth Walk but I may have to check out a bootleg. The D&D production kickstarter is here: I don’t know if you can buy the disc but I would have thought that’d be part of the idea…

  3. No link David but I am interested too.

  4. I presume you can reach the Daves via their crowdfunding page. I don’t imagine the Blu-ray is region-coded but I don’t know for sure.

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