Wacky Winter Holiday Hijinks!

It was a dark and stormy night…in Cincinnati! However, even the gloomy splatterings of rain, the darkness of the evening, and the cold of Winter couldn’t keep fifty (50!) hardy souls from attending The Chimp Tent’s “Wacky Winter Holiday Hi-Jinks!” film event at the E.T. Carson Masonic Lodge in Clifton on December 11, 2010.

After a warm welcome from the Grand Sheik, we delved straight into our “Sons of the Desert” opening song, which was well-voiced by the anticipatory crowd, eager to sample the evening’s celluloid delights (OK, OK, so they were DVD delights – sue me!).

Along with some miscellaneous holiday film treats, such as the 1949 “A Visit From Santa”, Our Gang’s 1936 “Happy New Year” clip, and a 1960’s Disneyland “Carousel of Progress” holiday greeting, we viewed several early-1950s cartoons that wished us greetings of the festive season. We saw “Frosty The Snowman” (2:39 running time), released in 1954 from UPA, which featured an a capella soundtrack by The Starlighters. This was the very first animated cartoon about Frosty, and was made about 15 years before the more commonly known TV cartoon special made by Rankin & Bass.

Laurel and Hardy sauntered by next, in “Laughing Gravy” (29:00), released April 4, 1931. Charlie Hall featured as the landlord, Harry Barnard was the cop, and Laughing Gravy was, well, Laughing Gravy! Our canine friend featured again with L&H 5 years later in “The Bohemian Girl”, and with his star quality it was easy to see why he was retained by the Hal Roach Studios during this time. “Laughing Gravy” was a remake, sort of, of their final silent film from 1929, “Angora Love”, where Charlie Hall played a tenant. Charlie and Laughing Gravy spent a lot of time together on the Roach lot!

We watched the Laurel inheritance letter version of this film. According to Glenn Mitchell in “The Laurel and Hardy Encyclopedia”: “The version of this film shown for many years, until the mid-1980s, ended with the landlord committing suicide when due to his residence being quarantined he finds he is unable to evict Stan and Ollie. Foreign prints jettisoned the quarantine ending in favor of an additional 10-minute segment wherein Stan receives a telegram just before they are evicted which says he is to inherit a vast fortune, but only if he leaves Ollie behind forever. This ending was thought to be unique to the overseas prints until an English language version was discovered in 1985 in either the UK or the USA. It seems to have been edited a the time of production, its deletion having probably been decided very shortly before release. The general opinion is that the sequence was deleted as it was of a much slower tempo and darker mood. We are going to see the American restoration version, which includes both this and quarantine ending – some have said this version makes for a clumsy arrangement, but it certainly is of great academic interest for Laurel and Hardy fans.”

Next up was another wonderfully strange cartoon, “Hardrock, Coco, and Joe: The Three Little Dwarves” (2:50), a stop motion animated cartoon about three of Santa’s helpers who ride on Santa’s sleigh each Christmas. We laughed because Joe, the smallest of the three dwarves and very boyish-looking, had a very deep bass voice.

Our Gang followed, with their funny tale of “Bedtime Worries” (20:10), which was released on September 9, 1933. The film starred Harry Bernard (this time as a burglar), Gay Seabrook, Emerson Treacy, Frank Terry, and of course Spanky, Stymie, Tommy Bond, and Pete the Pup. Spanky was as cute as could be in this short film, which was filmed during a transitional period for Our Gang. With Bobby Hutchins, Dickie Moore, and Dorothy DeBorba having departed the series after the previous film “Mush And Milk”, Spanky sort of carried the next two films. In early 1934 new ‘regulars’ for the Gang would be introduced.

During the intermission at this point, many lucky members of our throng won some fabulous raffle prizes. If you didn’t happen to win anything this evening, it’s never too late to attend our future meetings and buy lots more raffle tickets!

The second half of our program began, and Charley Chase made a welcome reappearance to The Chimp Tent’s itinerary with his December 12, 1926 (almost 84 years ago to the very day!) release of “There Ain’t No Santa Claus”, which was directed by his brother, James Parrott. Noah Young, Kay Deslys, and Eugenia Gilbert also starred in this funny tale of Christmas present mix-ups. This silent film was accompanied beautifully by the live keyboard playing of our very own Joan Chrislip.

We followed this with the August 25, 1950 Famous Studios release of “Helter Swelter”. This animated short about the first days of summer also contained a sing-along to the song “In The Good Old Summertime”. The audience was cautioned to learn the song lyrics so they could sing-along to Ollie in our next feature…

Below Zero” (19:33), which was released on April 26, 1930 and starred The Boys along with Frank Holliday as the angry cop, Charlie Hall as the angry shopkeeper, Blanche Payson as the angry woman in the street, and Tiny Sandford as the angry restaurant owner. Is there a theme to the people Laurel and Hardy meet in this film. And why, for Heaven’s sake, would any of them be angry with our heroes?

Suzy Snow Flake” (2:33), released in 1951 from Centaur Productions, followed next. This was another stop-motion animated cartoon featured a haunting soundtrack from singers from the Norman Luboff Choir.

Our final feature of the evening was the February 9, 1935 release “The Fixer Uppers” (19:30) featuring Laurel and Hardy, Mae Busch, Charles Middleton, and Arthur Housman played, guess what? A drunk! This was the penultimate Laurel and Hardy short comedy made at Hal Roach Studios, and was a reworking of a very early silent comedy The Boys appeared in prior to their teaming, “Slipping Wives”, made in 1927.

And unfortunately, that was that! It was a fun evening of films featuring Winter, snow, Santa, and the Holidays. Thanks to all who joined in the fun, and if you happened to miss this event, don’t get caught out again! The next film evening will be Saturday evening February 19, 2011 at the Seasons Retirement Community main auditorium in Kenwood (see home page for more details, directions, etc.) and will feature Laurel and Hardy working with wood. Wouldn’t work you say? Exactly! Join us for an evening of “Wood ‘n Work” with Laurel and Hardy!


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