Archive for Shemp Howard

Noir Lite

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2020 by dcairns

“He’s dead! Laminated!”

“This is a job for Michael Lanyard!”

I was hoping to amuse Fiona with the above ribtickling remark, but she just stared, so I put on my best Oliver Hardy voice and said, “You know what a lanyard is, don’t you,” and she laughed loudly, not at me and my wit, but at the memory of Oliver Hardy.

THE LONE WOLF MEETS A LADY is a standard-issue Columbia B pic, efficiently directed by Sidney Salkow with his customary anonymity (I doubt even Harry Cohn could pick him out of a line-up) but it has Warren William, the starving lion, and Eric Blore and whatnot. Something about stolen diamonds.

These things generally start out dull (“I’ve just met these people and already I’m not interested!” I declared, paraphrasing Adam Belinsky) then perk up when the leads appear (WW and EB are a delightful team, you can take Boston Blackie and stick him), then run out of steam midway, revived only by interesting bit players, here Shemp Howard as a burglar with echolalia and Luis Alberni as a Greek laundryman (well within his range).

Blore in full dither.

By the end, having been sleeping irregularly, Fiona was drifting off, and managed to hallucinate a new ending, based on the Lone Wolf’s enthusiasm for winter sports, which is a minor plot point in this one (skis and snowshoes in back of car: the quest refused).

“Oh… what was… oh, was that his crampons?”

Not that crampons are really a winter sports thing, anyway. But I’ve always liked Guy Grand’s conceit in The Magic Christian, of splicing upsetting new shots into classic films to startle the unwary. Fiona has a Guy Grand of the unconscious.

The Sidney Salkow signature shot: a buncha guys standing around in the dark.

THE LONE WOLF MEETS A LADY stars Perry Mason; Sir Alfred MacGlennon Keith; Helena – in love with Demetrius; Oberon – King of the Fairies; Mandrake the Magician; Mr. Bel-Goodie; Bloodgood; Mrs. Truesmith; Florenz Ziegfeld; Bert Pierce; Louis Louis of the Hotel Louis; Walt Spoon; and Shempeth.

Breakaway Props

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2019 by dcairns

Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne make a surprising duo, yet they made three films together (and didn’t really get on — Marlene seems to have been the difficult one).

The films have a lot of brawling in them. SEVEN SINNERS is my favourite, although Wayne’s character is kind of a self-destructive dope. Strong support from Mischa Auer, Marlene’s DESTRY co-star, a comparatively slim Broderick Crawford (pictured) and a villainous Oscar Homolka.

THE SPOILERS casts Randolph Scott against type as a louse, which like Wayne as a dope is unconventional but not particularly pleasing. I guess I’m like a 1940s audience member, unwilling to accept my stars out of type-casting.

Mind you, what it does to Wayne’s persona is positively dizzying, and I didn’t mind that so much. Even the blackface gag seemed… not as offensive as it should be. Marietta Canty’s sensitive playing keeps the humour just the right side of awful.

PITTSBURGH — and how weird is it that Universal made a film called PITTSBURGH and expected people to like it? — is my least favourite. Wayne plays an absolute louse, the worst character he ever played. He’s like Charles Foster Kane with anthracite. And I’m reminded of what Billy Wilder said about coal mining films — “I don’t leave the theater… elated.”

Also there’s not enough brawling. Does Pennsylvania lack conducive saloons?

A friend told me a story that’s movie punch-up related. His dad was a merchant seaman or something like that. First time at sea. They stopped in an exotic port and hit some seedy dive on shore leave. Somewhere like the Seven Sinners. A fight broke out.

The young not-yet dad immediately knew what to do — he’d seen the right movies. He grabbed a chair and swung it down on somebody’s back. There was a snapping sound, the guy fell to the floor — but the chair remained in his hands, unbroken.

He ran back to the ship and didn’t leave it for the rest of his leave.

The respective directors of these epics are Tay Garnett (kind of replaying HER MAN), Ray Enright, Lewis Seiler.

SEVEN SINNERS stars Lola Lola; the Ringo Kid; Dr. Cyclops; Harry Brock; Bronwyn; Prince Nikita Starloff; Professor Von Schwartzenhoffen; Col. Stok; Commodore Schmidlapp; Charleston; Blake of Scotland Yard; and Jabez Stone.

THE SPOILERS stars Lola Lola; Gil Westrum; the Ringo Kid; Millie Ray; Trader Horn; Bat MacPherson; Pa Bailey; Pa Joad; Tubal; James R. Smoke; Dobosh; and the Frankenstein Monster.

PITTSBURGH stars Lola Lola; Gil Westrum; the Ringo Kid; Doctor Harry Brewster; Prof. Shemp Howard; Captain Edward Teach aka Blackbeard; Pop Gehrig; Pa Bailey; Mr. Manleigh; and Mrs. Laurel.

I’m Looking Through You

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on July 24, 2010 by dcairns

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (1940), was a lot more fun than we were expecting! Fiona was particularly taken with the film’s female empowerment stance, which has zesty Goldwyn Girl Virginia Bruce avenging herself on a nasty boss (above) and defeating a whole mob of gangsters single-handed before the hero even arrives on the scene. The gang includes Shemp Howard and is led by Oscar Homolka, a mob boss afflicted with crying jags sixty years before Tony Soprano…

“That’s a lot of money for a dame without a head.”

The fact that VB achieves all this empowerment by taking her clothes off gives the whole rigmarole a modern, post-feminist (ie, mixed up and self-contradictory) feeling, as well as a sexy one. Chris Schneider informs me that an invisible shower scene was considered too racy at the time (Ginnie’s outline picked out by the water spray, presumably) but the film still ends with the hero embracing a naked lady, using the art of mime. (Actually it finally ends in epilogue form with the couple’s adorable baby vanishing while the mad prof declares, “Hereditary!”) The have-your-empowerment-and-eat-it message is so contemporary that a modern remake actually seems like a passable idea.

The mad prof is John Barrymore, whom one should feel sorry for, except he seems to be having the time of his life: he’s over the top even by the standards of the hokum surrounding him.

WAY down the cast list is a speechless Maria Montez, the inaudible in pursuit of the invisible, and the guy being kicked up the arse is Charles Lane. Regular Shadowplayer Chris Schneider suggests I turn to David Ehrenstein for elucidation on the subject of that esteemed performer…