Archive for Clarence Wilson

Chisel Me This

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on June 14, 2014 by dcairns


A whole front page to myself at The Chiseler. Amid the old  articles (Alice White, Sex Pixie; thespian cadaver Clarence Wilson;

is a new piece on pre-code omnipresence Frank McHugh. To my pride and astonishment, it comes illustrated with a sketch by the beyond great Tony Millionaire. Enjoy, or something!

Crime of an Anatomy

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on September 14, 2011 by dcairns

Last week I wrote a celebration of the physical grotesquerie of the great Clarence Wilson, now visible at The Chiseler. One of the less-famed of the pre-code rep company servicing Hollywood in the early 30s, Wilson deserves to be sung of more often, and louder.

A furtive spell-check amended the piece, making it a hair less Rabelaisian than intended: I had compared everybody’s favourite fat man, Eugene Pallette, not to an inflamed bullock, but to an inflamed bollock. But it’s equally true either way.

During the course of the article, I compare Wilson himself to a zombie, a horse, and a crustacean, although the closest equivalent in nature might be some kind of beetle or roach. The movie THE PENGUIN POOL MURDER, however, an entertaining romp with Edna May Oliver as a crime-solving schoolteacher, comes up with its own comparison — some kind of horrible fish.

Seconds earlier, though some minutes before Ms Oliver’s appearance, the film also seems to offer a pretty good piscine analog for her long-faced fizzog —

And here’s an unrelated limerick, co-written with Hilary Barta.


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

“He’s worse with a hat on!” I declared, and Fiona agreed with me.

The subject of discussion was Regis Toomey, star of the spicy pre-code triumph UNDER 18, which we enjoyed very much. And it was a strange discovery to make. I’d thought I just didn’t much like Toomey, didn’t like his face, like that of a juvenile clown whose makeup has become grafted to his skin; didn’t like his voice, a raspy instrument more suited for frightening cats than human speech. But when I saw him sans chapeau (a rare condition for a male actor in 30s movies), I found him not without a certain vulnerable appeal. Let once a cap, fedora or helmet adorn his brow, however, and repulsion, anger and intolerance made hay with my disposition.

I mean, look at this (UNDER 18) ~

And this (SHE HAD TO SAY YES) ~


And normally I like hats. I’ve never found an attractive one that would fit my bulbous, William-Hurt-sized head, but I like them on other people. Normally. It’s just that on Toomey, his pursed, shrunken clown face takes on a new and ghastlier hue when shaded neath the brim of an otherwise inoffensive lid, be it homburg, boater, fedora or Moorish tarboosh.

Still, that aside, Toomey is sympathetic in a difficult role in UNDER 18 (the title is an irrelevance): anybody who has to act cross with Marian Marsh is doing very well to not make the audience hate him. And she does well too — a peaches-and-cream cutie playing a naive ingenue type with big googly eyes, she could easily become punchable, but she holds the film together, aided by Warners Brothers’ typical no-nonsense approach, which hits story points hard and fast, and even manages to deliver sentimentality in a blunt manner.

Case in point: the movie begins with Marsh’s sister getting married (to future director Norman Foster, so we know there’s trouble ahead). Director Archie Mayo holds a long shot on the girls’ dad, as he slowly tears up. It’s sweet and gently funny, but it’s followed by a quick dissolve to the old guy’s gravestone, as we move into the future, the stock market crash, and marital difficulties which for the big sister which soon have Marsh questioning the viability of romance. And when a girl’s in that frame of mind, the arrival of a feckless millionaire played by Warren William is apt to represent a temptation.

WW, who gets to smirkingly emit the line he was born to say — “Why don’t you take off your clothes and stay awhile?” — is on very good form, as is Mayo, one of the less distinguished but still damn good Warners directors. Here, his attention to the bit part players is especially commendable.

“Watch your step,” says the elevator operator (Otto Hoffman) to Marian as she alights at Williams’ penthouse fuck pad. And then he drives his double entendre home with a meaningful look.

This delivery boy (name unknown) gets TWO looks, a bored/nosy/dopey one as Marian signs for her delivery, and an obsequious/lecherous one when he makes eye contact. The guy makes his mark.

The movie also finds space for sparky Claire Dodd, cadaverous Clarence Wilson, an unusually camp Edward Van Sloan, and many other attention-grabbing artistes.

And for 1931 this is a remarkably fluid piece of work, with long camera moves and expressive angles unhampered by the demanding microphone. Here, setting up Williams’ shagging palace, Mayo proves himself a regular pre-code Ozu with the three building-block establishing views he uses ~

Of all the pre-code parties, this may be the best, even if the host suffers a near-fatal injury.

For B. Kite.