Archive for Herman Bing


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on July 8, 2013 by dcairns


Alice White and her… zombie beatnik chorus?

When you’re feeling poorly, a pre-code can be a tonic, or else it can be about all you can handle. Although some of them are rather spicy, and some (THE BOWERY) even toxic, so you have to watch out. Fiona had a very good week, during which we ventured out of early thirties Hollywood and ran L’AUBERGE ROUGE, but then she’s had a couple of bad days so we ran for cover into the soothing crackle of Vitaphone.

A SHOW GIRL IN HOLLYWOOD is a 1930 Warners dramedy, or dromedary if you will, with an interesting history. The character of Dixie Dugan sprang from two novels by J.P. McEvoy (IT’S A GIFT), was adapted into a comic strip with Louise Brooks serving as model for the showgirl’s design, and then found her way to a Gershwin-scored Broadway play (Ruby Keeler in the lead), and thence to the screen, embodied by Alice White in 1928’s SHOW GIRL (which I haven’t managed to see) and its sequel.


Gargantuan clown weeps chorines: a staple of entertainment in the ’30s.

This being 1930 means the studio with the most pre-code paprika hadn’t quite hit its stride — Mervyn LeRoy directs, but he lets everybody take their time (even Herman Bing, though playing a character called Bing, just does not bring the Bing), and everybody being somewhat miscast and the material being somewhat thin, the film kind of just lays there. Still, it’s interesting.

One reason for this is the behind-the-scenes stuff, which we’ve been wallowing in lately. Though the movie isn’t particularly abrasive in its portrayal of Hollywood, it does feature a musical number interrupted by shots taken from inside one of the soundproof booths, which means they must have crammed TWO cameras in there, one filming the other. The motor whir is pretty loud, alright. This fine post covers most of what I’d have said about that.


Another reason is Alice White, who fascinates. She has natural oomph, and it’s not that she can’t act, exactly — she just seems to not know what’s going on around her most of the time. Her quicksilver shifts of facial expression are enticing, but not strictly tied to anything in the scene, they’re more like hats being tried on for size. A more intelligent performance might have focused and injected fizzle into what are often quite flat scenes. It’s not really clear if Dixie is a gold-digger, a ditz, or what, and White’s reading of the snappier lines is uncertain enough to suggest Dixie is repeating things she’s overheard, rather than minting her own witticisms.


Third reason is Blanche Sweet, in one of only three early talkies she made, rather cruelly cast as a past-her-prime actress. “I’m thirty-two,” she confesses, though Sweet was actually a little older. Still, point taken — Hollywood’s search for the new, the young, is a merciless thing. Sweet had a perfectly good voice, in fact she made her living in radio and on the stage when the movies stopped calling, so her decline can be credited purely to the changing of fashion. I guess when movies began yapping, people were excited to see their favourite stars give voice, but less-celebrated players couldn’t compete with imports from the New York stage or elsewhere, who could be marketed as the next big thing.


The Sunday Intertitle: Having a Ball

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2013 by dcairns


Well, this is more like it — a proper intertitle. But from a talkie.

Lubitsch’s sublime THE MERRY WIDOW could be seen as a revival of the short-lived operetta-film form which he’d pioneered in the very early days of sound. Ruritanian romance, musical interludes, Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald — Lubitsch brings them all back, and this time configures the elements so perfectly that there was really no need to revisit the form again. He got it right.


The movie benefits from a technical smoothness made possible by advances in sound and camera equipment, and from a gigantic MGM budget, not that THE SMILING LIEUTENANT or the others really suffers from a lack of those things. It also has really delightful performances from its leads — Lubitsch had a remarkable skill at getting light comedy performances from performers not necessarily associated with that tone… I guess I’m talking about Jeanette. I like her in LOVE ME TONIGHT just fine, but she’s more winning here, and there’s genuine chemistry with Chevalier. She played a lot of romantic comedy, I guess, but usually seemed a bit of a prig. Here, that’s part of her character, but she still has warmth.

Dancing on the spinning globe — that’s not easy to do!

There’s also Edward Everett Horton and Herman Bing and Una Merkel and George Barbier and Sterling Holloway and Akim Tamiroff… And a plethora of babes dropping by on their way to stardom or near-stardom or obscurity, making this the 1930s version of THE KNACK. We get delicious Lona Andre for about a line, Kathleen Burke (the Panther Woman from ISLAND OF LOST SOULS), Luana Walters…

vlcsnap-2013-01-13-11h40m41s25Lona Andre, right.

The Merry Widow 1934, (Region 2 import) Maurice Chevalier Jeanette MacDonald

Mr. Versatile

Posted in FILM with tags , on October 26, 2012 by dcairns

A modest selection from the film credits of Herman Bing. “And each man in his life plays many parts” ~ Shakespeare.

Night and Day (1946) (uncredited) …. Ladisaus Smedick

Rendezvous 24 (1946) …. Herr Schmidt, innkeeper

The Devil with Hitler (1942) …. Louis

Public Deb No. 1 (1940) (uncredited) …. Dutchman

Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940) (uncredited) …. Silhouettist

Sweethearts (1938) …. Oscar Engel

Daffy Duck in Hollywood (1938) (voice) (uncredited) …. Von Hamburger

The Great Waltz (1938) …. Otto Dommayer

Vacation from Love (1938) …. Oscar Wittlesbach

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938) …. Monsieur Pepinard

Every Day’s a Holiday (1937) …. Fritz Krausmeyer

Beg, Borrow or Steal (1937) …. Von Giersdorff, aka Count Herman

Maytime (1937) …. August Archipenko

Champagne Waltz (1937) …. Max Snellinek

That Girl from Paris (1936) …. ‘Hammy’ Hammacher

The Three Wise Guys (1936) …. Baumgarten

The King Steps Out (1936) …. Pretzelberger

Laughing Irish Eyes (1936) …. Weisbecher

Tango (1936) …. Mr. Kluckmeyer, Tango Hosiery

Fighting Youth (1935) …. Luigi

1,000 Dollars a Minute (1935) …. Vanderbrocken

Three Kids and a Queen (1935) …. Walter Merkin

His Family Tree (1935) …. Mr. ‘Stony’ Stonehill

Redheads on Parade (1935) …. Lionel Kunkel

Here Comes the Band (1935) (uncredited) …. Hans Bergenspitz

Don’t Bet on Blondes (1935) …. Prof. Friedrich Wilhelm Gruber

In Caliente (1935) …. Mexican Florist

The Misses Stooge (1935) …. Sazarac the Magician

The Night Is Young (1935) …. Nepomuk

Crimson Romance (1934) …. Himmelbaum

The Merry Widow (1934) …. Zizipoff

Mandalay (1934) …. Prof. Kleinschmidt

Trimmed in Furs (1934) …. Engles the Lodge Owner

Blood Money (1933) (uncredited) …. Butcher Weighing Sausages

College Coach (1933) …. Prof. Glantz

Fits in a Fiddle (1933) …. Heinrich Mickelmeier

The Great Jasper (1933) (uncredited) …. Herman Beaumgartner

A Farewell to Arms (1932) (uncredited) …. Swiss Postal Clerk

Three on a Match (1932) (uncredited) …. Prof. Irving Finklestein

The Crash (1932) (uncredited) …. E.F. McSorley, Diamond Broker

Blessed Event (1932) (uncredited) …. Emil, the Head Chef

Crooner (1932) (uncredited) …. Vaudevillian with Dachshunds

Week-End Marriage (1932) (uncredited) …. Mr. Mengel

Westward Passage (1932) …. Otto Hoopengarner, the Dutchman

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) (uncredited) …. Franz Odenheimer

Men of Chance (1931) (uncredited) …. Fritz Tannenbaum

Show Girl in Hollywood (1930) …. Bing