Archive for Andy Clyde

Sunday without Intertitles: A Scotsman and an Australian walk into a detective agency, a mansion, a train…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on October 4, 2015 by dcairns

Found this in a random search of YouTube. Comedy short starring Australia’s Billy Bevan and Scotland’s Andy Clyde, apparently packaged for TV at some point in the past under the title Comedy Capers. The short itself claims to be called THE CRYSTAL BALL.

No such film exists on the IMDb, but a search turned up WHISPERING WHISKERS, which matches the cast list and plot synopsis exactly, so the mystery would seem to be solved (but read on…)

Del Lord apparently directed, with many cartoonish gags — the best, for my money, being the sudden stop-start of the train at the end.


Billy Bevan and friends

Clyde, from Blairgowrie in Perthshire, went on to play Hopalong Cassidy’s sidekick, California Carlson. Billy Bevan, from New South Wales, played a lot of cockneys in talking films (there weren’t enough Australian roles, and who in Hollywood could tell the difference?) — you may have seen him in BRINGING UP BABY or CLUNY BROWN. Here, they play nondescript clowns — the fact that their characters change from cleaners to detectives to hobos, with little apparent motivation, can’t have helped them build consistent characters in the space of the film’s twelve-minute runtime.

But IS it a film? Silent shorts can be pretty eccentric, often rebooting their narratives halfway through when the initial set-up runs out of steam (look at any of Keaton’s early films for Arbuckle). But this one breaks cleanly in two, with its opening situation never resolved, and its central character recast in life and transplanted to a fresh locale at the halfway mark, apparently by supernatural means.

The movie starts off screwy, with an unexplained mission to a Spanish-deco mansion which then turns into a kind of séance. But all this at least seems to be causally connected — I presume the weirdly baffling narrative was fairly clear until somebody cut out all the intertitles for kids’ TV (because kids don’t like to read, and never understand anything anyway). But when the crystal ball transforms Bevan and Clyde into a knockabout Vladimir and Estragon and teleports them to a railway track, something tells me that what we are looking at is two separate shorts spliced together. Maybe this happened in 1926, when Mack Sennett was dissatisfied with the ending of the detectives/fortune-teller flick and the train/tramps flick was running short, or maybe it happened later, in television land. Or else this is the slapstick ancestor of MULLHOLLAND DR.

Silencio! There, I’ve said it.

The Sunday Intertitle: Hot Air

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2015 by dcairns


Roy Del Ruth was one of very few Keystone directors to graduate to anything resembling the big time — Capra was the exception, attaining far loftier status. While many small-time silent boys fell by the wayside when sound came in, RDR surprisingly was at the forefront of the talker boom at Warners, where his old dark house spookshow THE TERROR was apparently quite innovative, and he churned a host of fast-talking comedies with the likes of James Cagney.

SKYLARKING (1923) is one of those early slapstick shorts, starring a fellow called Harry Gribbon who has a funny name and lots of technique but just isn’t very funny. The movi also features Billy Armstrong as a recklessly destructive blind man who anticipates W.C. Fields’ sightless nemesis Mr. Muckle, and cameos by Scotsman Andy Clyde and Teddy the Dog. None of these made me laugh, but my eyebrows levitated as if painted with Cavorite at the sight of the sightless proto-Muckle. Had Fields already used a version of this character on stage?

I like the special effects, as Gribbon takes to the air, which benefit from incorporating camera movement along with double exposure for a dynamic and halfway convincing effect. And I like this intertitle, which could easily have been converted into dialogue for one of the peppy pre-codes RDR made later. Sennett films frequently recycled catchphrases and gags heard in bars in just the way Warner scenarists would do in the thirties.


Oddly, the visual gags of the Sennett era didn’t generally make it into those films, even the comedies, apart from that riotous sequence with monkeys and custard pies in LADY KILLER — for zany imagery, you really have to look to Del Ruth’s later HORROR MOVIES (here and here).

The Hepburn-RKO-J.M. Barrie Axis of Whimsy

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2013 by dcairns

Two J.M. Barrie adaptations, filmed at RKO, starring Katherine Hepburn, QUALITY STREET and THE LITTLE MINISTER.


THE LITTLE MINISTER, directed by Richard Wallace, is set in Barrie’s native Scotland and showcases Kate’s Bryn Mawr version of a Highland burr. Several real Scots provide doughty support — Andy Clyde is particularly enjoyable, and Sherlock Holmes regulars Alec Craig (in his first movie role, according to the IMDb) and Mary Gordon make welcome appearances. Donald Crisp looks exactly as he did thirty years later in GREYFRIAR’S BOBBY, but sounds different — he nailed the accent sometime in the intervening years.

But why no James Finlayson?

Poor John Beal struggles with the R-rolling, and is blown off the screen by Hepburn in gypsy drag. Flashes of authentic Scottish scenery, including brief use of the zoom lens (quite popular at RKO at this time — see also KING KONG).


QUALITY STREET is, we thought, the superior production. Never mind that Barrie’s conceit, Hepburn scrubbing up and impersonating a fictitious younger relative to fool Franchot Tone, even though Tone knows perfectly well what she looks like, is unworkable on-screen (suspension of disbelief and the perpetual long-shot would sell it on stage). Never mind that the whole cast is doing convincing English accents except tone-deaf Tone. Enjoy the Napoleonic era gadgets (women’s veils which swish open on a drawstring like net curtains, English geisha shoes for walking in the rain) and the dialogue and performances and director George Stevens’ elegant, witty framing.

In the prologue, Hepburn is disappointed in love as her beau decides to go off to the wars — she sits by the window with her aunt, and the Greenaway-symmetry does something expressive and very un-Greenawayesque: it captures their resignation to staying unmarried for life. Possibly while sitting in the window.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 624 other followers