Archive for Bacon Grabbers

Prisoners in Cell Block L&H

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on March 24, 2015 by dcairns

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My dodgy photo of a very good photo of Laurel & Hardy on a visit to Scotland — this is on display at Bo’ness Library as part of an exhibition showcasing Silent Stars in Scotland.

Laurel & Hardy shorts at the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema always play to a packed house, and a packed house dotted with derbies and fezes, at that. Ace pianist John Sweeney joined the fest for the first time to provide accompaniment upon the “music box.”

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I had seen two of this year’s trio of (very) dumb shows fairly recently: I wrote about the early pairing DO DETECTIVES THINK? here. It’s a lovely example of the more macabre style of terror comedy (see also the sublime OLIVER THE EIGHTTH).

When the Hippodrome ran DOUBLE WHOOPEE, it inspired me to check out Jean Harlow’s other work with the boys, so I saw BACON GRABBERS then. Watching it afresh, I really felt Ollie’s frustration at having to rely on Stan’s inept assistance. Since Ollie doesn’t realize that he himself is an idiot, Stan’s foolishness is a thwart disnatured torment to him.

Silent movie maven Bryony Dixon explained to me that the show’s somewhat mysterious title stems from it being basically plagiarized, by Stan, from a Fred Karno music hall sketch he’d appeared in. Since Karno had sued Charles Pathe and Max Linder for stealing Mumming Birds and adapting it into AU MUSIC HALL, the boys were being cautious in giving it a new name.

Many of the Laurel & Hardy shorts have quite peculiar titles which have little to do with the contents– one plus side of this is that whenever I think I’ve seen them all, it turns out there’s one I’ve never had the pleasure of. This turned out to be the case with THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS, in which the boys break out of prison and then back in. This was the movie for which Stan shaved his hair, according to Fest director Ali Strauss, and when it grew back it was all tufty…

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It kind of fizzles out, but it has some great stuff. I liked an exchange between Stan and another convict. “How long are you in for?” “Forty years.” Stan smiles and passes an envelope. “Mail this for me when you get out.”

What did Stan and Ollie DO, to earn sentences clearly in excess of forty years??? I have to assume that with their usual luck, they simply appeared in the wrong place at the wrong time and got mistaken for someone else. Still, soon they’ll be at LIBERTY.

The program came complete with newsreel footage of a 1930s Glasgow pantomime featuring two (fairly good) L&H impersonators, and afterwards I chatted with Tony McKeever & Douglas Muir, no slouches in the looky-likey department themselves ~

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The Sunday Intertitle: Triple Whoopee!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on March 6, 2011 by dcairns

From BACON GRABBERS. All the funnier since this is Ollie talking to Stan. The concept is so absurd, I’m not sure it’d have worked as spoken dialogue.

From LIBERTY. The whole “first act” of this short is the boys trying to swap trousers in the street, to the (brief) consternation of a brunette Jean Harlow.

Ollie gets courtly in DOUBLE WHOOPEE. And this time it’s Jean’s turn to have her undies exposed.

I recall, in my dim youth, seeing some TV show on the movies — it might have been Barry Norman’s The Hollywood Greats, or it might have been earlier, but some interviewee claimed that Harlow, in preparation for this role, was asked if she owned a slip. But, being from Kansas, she didn’t know what that meant, so she just smiled and nodded. She was asked to wear it, which she couldn’t very well do. And so in the movie, the scene was slightly more risque than had been intended.

Probably not true, but I guess if I’d been on the set of a Jean Harlow pantie film, I’d have thought hard to come up with an anecdote too.

For the Jean Harlow Blogathon, care of the Kitty Packard Pictorial, a delightful site about a lot more than Harlow.

Punchy

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on March 4, 2011 by dcairns

Being a big Tod Browning fan, when I was invited to jump in on the Jean Harlow Blogathon hosted by The Kitty Packard Pictorial, my thoughts turned to IRON MAN, a pretty much despised MGM boxing melodrama which pairs La Harlow with Lew Ayres. He’s a boxer, she’s his no-good gal. Robert Armstrong is the kid’s manager.

People, this film is kind of a zombie. I’m generally iffy about MGM flicks unless they’re properly splashy, which this ain’t, apart from Jean’s spectacular furs and gowns, proof of her shameless leaching of Ayres’ winnings. Browning had just come off DRACULA, and was about to make FREAKS (unless IMDb chronology is off — it’d make sense if this were his punishment for the latter film), but while this movie has some of the stilted awkwardness of both — dead pauses, flat delivery, static, airless shots — it doesn’t have the bizarre elements that alchemise that lead into weirdo gold. (Correction — it seems that, as the saying goes, “It’s a Universal Picture.”) Browning could have worked wonders with a boxing story, since it relates to his love of cheap, grotesque showbiz, sadism and exploitation, but this one isn’t it. It plays pretty much like the Wallace Beery wrestling picture Barton Fink is expected to write: generic and soulless. Even Robert Armstrong, who at least was a dynamic (read: shouty) performer, is slowed down to moderately loud drone. Browning did like his talk pretty ssslllooowwww (but his last movie, MIRACLES FOR SALE, is unexpectedly zippy), but here the sheer lack of interest in the situations seems to seep through everything and everyone.

But those furs are pretty impressive.

After grooving to THE WHITE TIGER, which restored my faith in Browning’s abilities with both dramatic tension and performances, I swiftly gathered up another obscure Harlow ~

Remarkable how Oliver Hardy can express frustration/desperation by raising and lowering his hat with both hands — a bizarre gesture, but completely transparent to the viewer.

BACON GRABBERS is one of two Laurel & Hardy shorts Jean breezed through on her rise to fame. Later, in BEAU HUNKS, there would be an excellent gag about everybody in the foreign legion being there to forget a woman, and they all carry a photograph of her: it’s Jean, of course.

Despite buying the mighty L&H box set when it was on sale, and being pleased as punch about it, I’d never watched BACON GRABBERS, a 1929 silent where Harlow appears very briefly as heavy Edgar Kennedy’s wife. The short sees the boys on the right side of the law for once, as repo men trying to reclaim a radio from Kennedy. Said radio gets smashed by a steamroller, needless to say. Kennedy, having already given it up, is amused, until his wife appears to tell him she’s just paid for the thing.

Fiona: “I was always fascinated by those blasted sub-urban landscapes in Laurel & Hardy. When I saw them as a kid, I thought, ‘That looks like a terrible place!'”

Although L&H are maybe unique for actually getting funnier when sound came in — wait, no, W.C. Fields virtually becomes funny with sound — their later silents are pretty close in quality to the better-known talkies. This one has a classic “failing to leave the room” sequence where Stan keeps forgetting his hat, or the list of instructions, or both, and a fairly early example of tit-for-tat violence and destruction. Plus a very funny, ridiculous bit with Stan up a ladder which is caught in Ollie’s trousers and wagging violently about, while Kennedy throws things at Stan from an upper window.

A guy like Kennedy, married to a gal like Harlow, ought to look happier than THAT.

In her tiny appearance, Jean doesn’t have to act much beyond looking happy, and the weather seems to have buffeted her about so her hair is in her face and the sun is in her eyes. She’s swaddled in huge furs again, so we can barely see her. How’s a girl going to get her talent spotted in these circumstances?