Archive for Frank Tashlin

The Cast and the Curious

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2023 by dcairns

Or maybe I should’ve saved this title for IF I HAD A MILLION, in which WC Fields and Alison Skipworth trash more vehicles than George Miller could get through in, oh, a lunch break.

Too late, I’m using it for SIX OF A KIND, a Leo McCarey film I’d somehow bypassed. It’s rather adorable, with its middle-aged characters (only Grace Bradley is youthful — her screen partner/fellow baddie Bradley Page is only in his thirties but seems prematurely seedy and dissolute in a very thirties way).

Bank clerk Charlie Ruggles and wife Mary Boland decide to take a road trip to Hollywood for their second honeymoon. They never arrive — Page has smuggled stolen thousands out of the bank in Ruggles’ valise, Boland has advertised for traveling companions to share the bills and Burns & Allen show up, causing chaos; mostly Gracie’s doing — it’s interesting to see her pretzel logic and unflagging joie de vivre matched up to some life or death situations. You really wouldn’t want her around when the going gets serious. When Boland is hanging from the Grand Canyon by suitcase straps, Gracie gets convulsed with laughter because a key strap is fraying. Idiocy is terrifying. Fields and Skipworth turn up as small-town sheriff and hotelier.

Fields does his pool routine, explaining how he came to be called Honest John while elaborately failing to break the balls. Amazing stuff, his physical skill (all that juggling pays off) allied to his sense of absurdity. The punchline, casually thrown away as he wanders off, would have been funnier onstage, where the exit would read as a definitive scene end: on screen, we sort of expect him to pick up the line in the next set. But watch it a second time and the inconclusive feeling makes it even funnier. Fields practically invented the art of naturalistically underselling a joke.

Frank Tashlin seems to have had this at the back of his mind for HOLLYWOOD OR BUST, since the unwelcome car-share couple have a huge dog, though he is not called Mr. Bascombe or whatever it was this time round. Both movies are Paramount, of coutse.

Some comedians benefit from flat staging. Keaton, of course, used beautiful planimetric compositions as part of the gag. Laurel & Hardy, more apparently artless, eschewed showy angles and favoured flat lighting. And so it only takes a slight emphasis to turn W.C. Fields into the beginnings of a horror movie character. (His sequence being cut from TALES OF MANHATTAN may be down to the fact that the film used dramatic lighting, turning Fields from a cut-out cartoon into a fully dimensional gargoyle.)

McCarey didn’t rate this one too highly, and it doesn’t reach the head-spinning heights of THE AWFUL TRUTH, but I’m accustomed to his films either soaring to the heavens or falling flat, so it’s nice to meet one which is just perfectly pleasant.

Pig Race 2000

Posted in FILM, Radio with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2022 by dcairns

Sorry, the whole of PORKY’S ROAD RACE isn’t on YouTube, so you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you this Loony Tune by Frank Tash(lin) is the Warners 1937 animated version of DEATH RACE 2000. Tricked-out cars causing mayhem with tacks and glue and grease…

For some reason, it’s not just that, though, it’s a race of Hollywood caricatures

WC Fields is paired with Edna May Oliver, which might have been a good casting idea for a feature; Laurel & Hardy power a car jack with a see-saw; a very poor Charlie Chaplin, envisaged as a long thin chap in white trousers; Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh, but in a car.

Some of the references are quite obscure:

I guess this is meant to be George Arliss, Leslie Howard and Freddie Bartholomew?

And here’s one that required actual research:

Definitely John Barrymore. In a car called Caliban. Pursued by a woman in a car called Ariel (with an aerial). The first source I checked was baffled, as Barrymore had never appeared onstage in THE TEMPEST. But they did identify the woman as Elaine Barrie, his wife at the time. It turns out he’d played the part on the radio, as part of a 1937 series called Streamlined Shakespeare. I don’t know if a recording survives, but here’s Twelfth Night. Anyway, that seems like a moderately obscure set of references even for 1937. It’s a cartoon that needs annotated.

Of course, as in the other DEATH RACE 2000, there’s a Frankenstein, but instead of David Carradine it’s, naturally enough, “Borax Karloff.”

The concept overall is weird, there aren’t really any good jokes, and Tashlin’s fanboy side is charming but when he did gags about film technique rather than about movie stars, he was funnier. The closest thing to that is the disclaimer at the start, which starts great but fizzles out, but hey, at least it starts great.

Aaaaaaaaaand thanks to @GearGades on Twitter, here’s a link to the full toon:


Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , on May 5, 2022 by dcairns

Bob Clampett’s OTHER Disney parody, A CORNY CONCERTO (story by Tashlin) isn’t as offensive (for all the right AND wrong reasons) as his COAL BLACK AND DE SEBBEN DWARFS, but it has one marvellously horrid joke right at the start, where the dignified silhouette morphs into a seedy and off-model Elmer Fudd. Subbing in a ludicrous cartoon dweeb instead of Disney’s cultural effigy is funny, but making him such a dissipated wreck is purely obnoxious, and therefore even funnier.

The rest is just OK — Bugs appears in drag, under far more peculiar circumstances than usual. Daffy is a sweet little duckling… who turns into a fighter plane when riled. Evidently this film is separated from FANTASIA not only by a chasm of variant sensibilities, but by Pearl Harbor.

Thanks to Veikko.