Archive for Ned Sparks

Vegetable Magnetism

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on August 9, 2017 by dcairns

By Daniel Riccuito with David Cairns

Art by Tony Millionaire

Vengeance is a tool for the powerless.

And what better revenge could a 1930s movie-going public muster than the absurdist act of turning stars into nourishment?  Take that vision of hate and spittle, Ned Sparks, pulling faces never before seen on the front of a human head. Sparks was the Great Depression’s favorite specialty item: a purple carrot.

Arguably a sweet onion, Frank McHugh had bone-weary audiences drooling in the aisles.

John Litel made a fine rutabaga.

Hand-carved parsnip, Edward Everett Horton, gave our pre-Code vegetable garden nuance.  But mainly we craved cartoon food — entertainment that mixed problem-solving and problem-salving for a seventy-five to eighty-minute span. We liked excitable, doughy screen personas as stand-ins that brought our truth to new lows.

Coming Soon!

Pat O’Brien as Spud.

Mug Shots

Posted in FILM, Painting with tags , , , , , on December 30, 2014 by dcairns


Art by man-myth Tony Millionaire graces a new article at MUBI, co-authored by Daniel Riccuito (of The Chiseler) and I. Subject: the pre-code avatars of, respectively, slopeyness and pointyness, Allen Jenkins and Ned Sparks. Here.

The Criminologist

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on August 9, 2014 by dcairns


A vaguely interesting early talker — Christie Cabanne’s CONSPIRACY. Brief but good location stuff, A Radio Picture (no RKO). Shot by Nick Musuraca who must’ve worked for that outfit his whole puff (later, CAT PEOPLE, OUT OF THE PAST). Starring Bessie Love and — top-billed! — Ned Sparks!

Stagy and stodgy most of the time and uneven perfs to put it mildly. But to break up the play they’re adapting, the screenwriters insert flashbacks to bring the offscreen action onscreen, and thus add a little exciting fire escape action.

I’m not inclined to give Cabanne too much credit, but he was a highly-paid pro in the teens. By the thirties he was slipping and never recovered.

Bessie is her usual sweet self, Sparks is fun, playing much older than his real age — but he can’t stop smiling. It’s like he’s inviting the audience to laugh along with him, and maybe this worked on the stage. He must have seen how it looked on film and resolved never to repeat the mistake.

Don’t know Sparks? Here’s a helpful primer ~