Archive for Artists and Models

Steak

Posted in FILM with tags , , on May 20, 2010 by dcairns

Jerry Lewis in ARTISTS AND MODELS.

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Quote of the Day: the gagometer

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2008 by dcairns

A&M

“The better I know the cinema, the more I realize that it is an art which it is dangerous to take too lightly, even if one is working in comedy. Consequently I become more and more serious with each film. For instance, whereas one of my first successes, SON OF PALEFACE, contained 2,857 gags at a conservative estimate, there were only 1,538 in ARTISTS AND MODELS and 743 in THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT. As for WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?, it will have barely 50. Don’t worry, it will still be the funniest film of the year.”

~ Frank Tashlin, in a letter to Jean-Luc Godard, quoted in Godard on Godard, translated and edited by Tom Milne.

Mother's Milk

Are those figures accurate? Did Tashlin really count the gags in his scripts? Fellow animators in his cartooning days recalled him visiting silent Chaplin shorts with a little notebook to jot down the gags in, something Tashlin hotly denied, but maybe there was an anal-retentive streak in him somewhere that would account for this obsessiveness.

But as for limiting the gags in WSSRH? to “barely fifty” — by my count Tash is halfway there by the end of the credit sequence. It’s certainly one of the few films to begin with a gag before the studio logo is even off the screen (Tony Randall is seen playing all the instruments in the 20th century Fox fanfare.)

Then there’s the tricky question of what exactly is a gag and what is not? Tony Randall dressing in the outsize clothes of hulking hunk Mickey Hargitay is arguably a gag, but his Frankenstein walk once he’s wearing them, which is way funnier, is arguably just performance. Tony Randall constantly blurs this line, getting some of his funniest effects from straight lines and reactions. “Like a comic machine,” Tashlin told Peter Bogdanovitch.

Tash goes on to say ~

“There is a sacrosanct tradition in Hollywood that the producer should always take precedence over director and scriptwriter. Well, I have decided to upset this status quo by reversing the classification. If WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? is a big success, I shall be proudest of my script, then of my direction, and last of all of having produced it.”

I think Tashlin the producer deserves more credit, as among the best things a producer can do is give freedom to the writer and director while critiquing their work, helping them to identify problems and encouraging them overcome them. I bet Tashlin the producer performed those roles admirably for Tashlin the writer and Tashlin the director.

(Thanks to Brandon for the Tony Randall image!)