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Dec. 9 – Toyland

Stan Ollie SantaIt’s the most wonderful time of the year again — time for the December Chimp Tent meeting! Join us for “Toyland,” a celebration of our favorite part of the holidays from years gone by.

Laurel and Hardy are delightful in our feature, “Babes on Toyland,” a holiday tradition for children of all ages. Plus, there are more festive film classics from Our Gang in “For Pete’s Sake,” Joe McDoakes in “So You Want to Be a Model Railroader,” and Harold Lloyd in scenes from “Hot Water.” And of course, classic cartoons, toy commercials, and holiday videos.

So, join us on Saturday, December 9, at 6:45 p.m., at the E.T. Carson Masonic Lodge, 218 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, Cincinnati 45220. $6 adults, free to kids 13 & younger and Chimp Tent members.

And December is the perfect time to renew your Chimp Tent membership — or give one as a gift — as we move ahead to 2018, the year Cincinnati hosts the International Sons of the Desert convention!

Oct. 14 – Defective Detectives

Detectives Laurel & Hardy Big NoiseOctober is always a spooky time of year. But have no fear! Laurel and Hardy are on the case!

The Chimp Tent presents the “Defective Detectives,” featuring Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang, and The Three Stooges. Yikes! I told you it’d be scary.

The mystery line-up includes Laurel & Hardy in “Do Detectives Think?” and “The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case,” Our Gang in “Hide and Shriek,” and The Three Stooges in “Dizzy Detectives”; other Halloween haunts including “Dr. Pyckle & Mr. Pryde” starring Stan Laurel. Plus, cartoons, surprises, live musical accompaniment, and our “fabulous” raffle!

And — It’s Ba-ack! Our annual Halloween costume contest! A gift card awarded to the best costume!

So, join us on Saturday, October 14, at 6:45 p.m., at the Seasons Retirement Community, 7300 Dearwester Dr., Kenwood, Cincinnati 45236. $6 adults, free to kids 13 & younger and Chimp Tent members.

MARVELOUS MUSICAL REVUE

Join us Saturday, August 26, 2017, at 6:45 p.m. at Ascension and Holy Trinity Church, 334 Burns Ave., in Cincinnati’s Wyoming neighborhood, for the “Marvelous Musical Revue.” This tribute to song (and dance) features Laurel & Hardy! Our Gang! Bugs! Mickey! And a host of musical surprise sure to delight!

The cost is $6 for adults, free to Chimp Tent members and kids under 13. Please bring a snack or drinks to share, plus your friends and family.

Domestic Bliss

Tonight’s meeting was lovingly dedicated to that most sacred of unions, holy matrimony. Titled “Domestic Bliss”, the evening’s program was devoted to showing how marriage makes for happier living – depending on how you define ‘happier’ that is!

The 30 attendees sharing the bonds of holy fraternity tonight were first entertained by the animated cartoon “The Novelty Shop” (6:38 running time), which was originally released on August 15, 1936. Yes, Stan and Ollie made themselves known here as two of the novelty items who come alive after the toymaker closes shop for the night.

There are many highs and lows in a marriage. I would hazard a guess that having a man impersonate another man’s wife to impress a rich uncle would definitely be one of those lows. In fact, this is what occurs in Laurel and Hardy’s silent film entitled “That’s My Wife” (17:36), which was amazingly filmed in 6 days in December 1928 and released March 23, 1929. We noted that the month of December 1928 was a very busy one for the boys at the Roach Studios. “Wrong Again” (the one with the horse on the piano, remember?) finished December 1, and “Big Business” would be completed just after Christmas. “That’s My Wife” was shot in-between these 2 films, making for quite a month. The Studios closed after this for the installation of sound equipment, heralding the talking film era at the Roach Studio.

In marriage, communication is a must. Surprises should be kept to a minimum. Such as coming home from work early to unwittingly interrupt your wife’s bridge party ‘with the girls’. This is what Robert Benchley sadly finds out in his May 27, 1939 release “Home Early” (8:32).

Children of course can be associated with many a marriage. What a joy they are to their parents, except of course if the father wants a quiet night at home on his birthday to enjoy his evening meal. In Our Gang’s Feed ‘Em And Weep (10:40), Darla’s father is not appreciative of the presence of her friends – the Gang (minus Spanky and Buckwheat, among others) – in this May 7, 1938 short. Interestingly, Johnny Arthur (Darla’s dad here) played Spanky’s dad in “Anniversary Trouble (1-19-35), and Darla’s dad previously in “Night ‘n’ Gales (7-24-37). Oh well, nobody noticed.

After the intermission and ‘fabulous’ raffle, we continued with our tour through the many facets of marriage. Of course, to have a marriage, one party must first ask another party TO get married. In the WB Foghorn Leghorn cartoon “Of Rice And Hen” (6:17), released November 14, 1953, Foggy is induced to ask Prissy for her hand with the underhanded help of the barnyard dog…

Celebrating memorable dates in a marriage is a long-held and cherished tradition. An anniversary is a special event commemorating that special day when two became one. However, in this instance, two stayed at two in Laurel and Hardy’s February 25, 1933 release “Twice Two” (19:30). Here, it is the first anniversary of Laurel and Hardy’s marriage – each married the other’s twin sisters one year ago and a special meal with cake for dessert has been arranged. Cake? Laurel and Hardy? I wonder what could possibly happen?!

Of course, in marriages there are misunderstandings which must be worked through if one’s union is to stay healthy. In “Fate’s Fathead” (17:27), a Charley Chase November 17, 1934 release, Charley is happily married but accused of being a ‘masher’ to one of his wife’s girlfriends. It’s just a silly misunderstanding, but Charley just can’t seem to explain his way out of it. Keep trying, Charley!

Sometimes a little white lie is needed to get one through a difficult situation in marriage. A little white lie is quite different from an outright HUGE lie, which Laurel doesn’t seem to understand. With the help of his equally unhelpful friend Mr. Hardy, they set out to deceive Stan’s wife (played by Anita Garvin who you should NEVER get angry by the way!) in “Blotto” (24:49). Written and filmed in December, 1929 and released February 8, 1930, the plot involves sneaking out to go to a nightclub, stealing the wife’s wine, the wife substituting cold tea for wine, nightclub dancing and singing and drunken carrying on, and a wife’s revenge. Ouch.

And yet somehow the institution of marriage continues and perseveres even in the light of Laurel and Hardy’s attempts to sabotage it. Some things even Stan and Ollie can’t manage to destroy.

Next up in the “Pot-Luck Outdoors Adventure” on Saturday September 24 at an “undisclosed location” (sorry Mr. Cheney). All those on the email distribution list of “The Chimp Tent” will receive an invitation. So – if watching Laurel and Hardy outdoors while enjoying a pot-luck dinner appeals to you, please join us for this RSVP-only affair, which is being co-hosted both by your local “Chimp Tent” and the Cincinnati Area MENSA group. After this comes the October 22 Halloween show, so get your gear out and come in costume! We hope to see you then.

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Mae Busch

Cincinnati’s “The Chimp Tent” welcomed 31 lucky attendees to another Laurel and Hardy film evening; tonight’s program celebrated the life (and film appearances) of Mae Busch, one of the most memorable adversaries in the Laurel and Hardy stable of co-stars. She had roles in approximately 130 films between 1912 and 1946, but she is best known for the 13 movies in which she worked with Laurel and Hardy, the first being the 1927 silent “Love ‘Em And Weep” (which is on tonight’s film program!), and last being “The Bohemian Girl” in 1936. She also worked on one other Hal Roach Studios film, the Our Gang short “Fly My Kite”, which not coincidentally will also be shown tonight!

Mae Busch was born in Melbourne, Victoria in Australia in 1891 and moved to New Jersey in 1900. She appeared on stage and in vaudeville before switching to films in 1912. In 1915 she joined Mack Sennett and Keystone Studios and during the first half of the 1920s, known as the ‘Versatile Vamp’, she starred in notable big-name feature films and worked with actors such as Lon Chaney and directors like Erich von Stroheim. Her career declined abruptly in 1926, when she walked out on her contract at MGM and suffered a nervous breakdown. Afterwards, she found herself working for less prestigious studios, and she was relegated mostly to supporting roles.

And then… along came the offer to join the Hal Roach Studios, where she enjoyed her second career battling Laurel and Hardy. Appearing in films with them such as “Chickens Come Home”, “Their First Mistake”, “Oliver The Eighth”, “Going Bye-Bye”, “Them Thar Hills”, “The Live Ghost”, “Tit For Tat”, and “The Fixer Uppers”, she established herself as a force The Boys had to reckon with. She appeared as Ollie’s wife in four of these films, including the wonderful “Sons of the Desert” feature film. Tonight we’ll take a look at four of her Roach comedies.

But first, we took a little detour and enjoyed a cartoon released on August 29, 1931. “Movie Mad” (8:09 running time) featured Flip the Frog who tries to break into Hollywood as an actor and has to gate crash a movie studio. Look for his encounter with some familiar faces in the pie fight! The cartoon was directed and animated by Ub Iwerks, a former Disney animator who left to start his own animation studio.

Now came a surprise bonus screening for the evening! Now just who were these two Mexican bandidos appearing onscreen? Well, they were Señors Laurel y Hardy of course, in one of their cameo appearances in the May 21, 1937 release, “Pick A Star”. The film stars Rosina Lawrence (remember her as Mary Roberts in “Way Out West”, and Our Gang’s teacher in “Bored Of Education”?).

Here, Rosina is a country girl who goes to Hollywood and becomes a star with the help of a publicity man. We won’t watch the entire film tonight; instead, we’re just going to show you the scene in which Laurel and Hardy appear as bandidos (they also appear in another scene in this movie, but we’ll show THAT piece at another meeting down the line). This movie isn’t a real “Laurel and Hardy” film as they are completely peripheral to the plot. However, their scenes ARE amusing, as you’ll see for yourself. And look for Jimmy Finlayson (without his moustache!) as a movie director in one of the scenes, with Charley Hall as his assistant.

Watch out now, because here came Mae! As noted above, her first appearance in a Laurel and Hardy film was “Love ‘Em And Weep” (20:32), shot in January and released June 12, 1927 (84 years ago this week!). Jimmy Finlayson, Vivien Oakland, and Charlie Hall (in his first appearance in a Laurel and Hardy movie by the way) add to the fun in this tale of a businessman (Finlayson) whose past indiscretions come back to haunt him in the form of a blackmailing Mae Busch. Stan Laurel is Fin’s friend trying to help him, and Ollie only has a bit part as a guest at Fin’s house (this movie was made ~ 6 mos. before the ‘official’ pairing of Laurel and Hardy). Four years later, however, after Laurel & Hardy had become the top comics on the Hal Roach lot, “Love ‘Em And Weep” would be remade as a talkie retitled “Chickens Come Home” with Hardy in the lead, Stan and Mae Busch repeating their earlier roles and Finlayson reduced to playing Hardy’s butler. Remaking their silent films, or parts from them, in later sound films was commonly done by the boys in the first decade after sound films were introduced, and these 2 films are just examples of the practice.

Mae Busch’s only appearance in the Our Gang series is chronicled in “Fly My Kite” (20:58). It was filmed from March 2-14 and released May 30, 1931. Along with Mae’s small role, the film stars the Our Gang kids and of course Pete the Pup. Margaret Mann plays Grandma, and Mae is the wife of the dastardly son-in-law Dan (played by Jim Mason). In this film, Dan tries to swindle Grandma out of her valuable stock certificates, while she is using the certificates as a tail to Chubby’s kite. When deceitful Dan tries to steal the kite, it’s up to the Gang, Pete the Pup, and Grandma to teach him a lesson!

After the intermission and ‘fabulous’ raffle, we viewed some ‘surprises’ not listed on the film program for this evening. We watched a very short clip (2:37) from the 1966 King World Productions ‘Claymation’ episode of Our Gang’s “Hearts Are Thumps” (we showed the real short during our October, 2010 meeting, remember?), and then the cartoon “Hollywood Goes Krazy” (a February 3, 1932 release timing in at 5:34), which of course featured caricatures of ‘the boys’ getting into their usual trouble…

Then (and only then) did we return to Mae’s mayhem in the May 4, 1929 release of Laurel and Hardy’s very first sound film, “Unaccustomed As We Are” (19:58). Edgar Kennedy and Thelma Todd also appeared in this ground-breaking (for Laurel and Hardy) film. In the opening scene, Laurel and Hardy speak their very first lines in film. Hardy’s first line is “And we’ll have a nice thick steak, smothered with onions…” Stan’s first line is “Any nuts?” This is the first film in which Hardy says to Laurel, “Why don’t you do something to help me!” which immediately became a catch-phrase, repeated in numerous subsequent films.

Also heard for the first time was Stan’s distinctive, high-pitched whimper of distress. The film is a series of marital misunderstandings and mischief. Look for the novel (in 1929) use of off-screen noises to indicate action and catastrophes that you have to imagine – and not see. And also look for Mae to become the screen’s first rap star and she harangues her husband Oliver to the beat of a 78-rpm record that plays in the background!

Our final Mae Busch-themed film for the evening was “Come Clean” (19:49), filmed circa early/mid-May and released on September 19, 1931. Laurel and Hardy (and Mae) are joined in the movie by Charlie Hall, who has a memorable (and feisty!) role as a soda jerk. Here’s the set-up: Mae does what she does so well, playing a floozie set to spoil the domestic bliss of both the Laurel marriage and the Hardy marriage.

Come Clean” is one of the “domestic” Laurel & Hardy comedies where they’re each married, with a premise based on their usual ethical dilemma: when they get into mischief, should they admit to their wives the truth or should they flat out lie or try to bluff it out? Guess which option they choose! Mae’s mayhem is malevolence to the max, a middle-class man’s matrimonial miasma: a crazy gold-digger with nothing to lose. What will happen? Watch and learn (or not!).

And so we concluded our mini-tribute to Mae Busch. We hope you enjoyed tonight’s films, and further evenings devoted to Jimmy Finlayson, Charley Hall, or other Laurel and Hardy co-stars may be in the offering in the future. And speaking of the future, don’t dare to miss our NEXT film evening on August 27, at the Seasons Retirement Coummunity main auditorium, where we will continue the theme of marriage in “Domestic Bliss”, with special appearances by Our Gang, Charlie Chase, and Robert Benchley in addition to Arthur Stanley Jefferson and Norvell Hardy, better known as Stan & Ollie! We hope to see you then!

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Speechless

A beautiful Spring evening attracted thirty-five (35) pleased patrons to this all-silent film program focusing in on the early days of Laurel and Hardy. Many thanks to Ken Runyan for assembling the film selections and putting them together on a single disc – makes it so easy and convenient!

Given that the tax filing deadline of April 17 was only a week away, The Chimp Tent provided 2 public service announcements during the evening describing how to do your taxes. The first was from “Fractured Flickers” (4:23 running time), and the second one, released March 19, 1938 was “How To Figure Income Tax” and featured Robert Benchley describing how his 1936 tax return was completed to his advantage – until the IRS came calling to dispute this!

Our stalwart keyboardist, Joan Chrislip then flexed her muscles (and musical skills) and played live keyboard accompaniment to the first of our 6 silent films this evening, “The Lucky Dog” (18:11), released Oct 1921 and directed by Jess Robins, produced by Broncho Billy Anderson, and starring Stan Laurel, Florence Gillet, Jack Lloyd, and a bit player named Oliver Hardy. Stan Laurel is the star, while Ollie – thinner than in his heyday, but still a hefty chap – plays a supporting role as a heavy.

The Lucky Dog was the first film to include both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Though they appeared in scenes together, they played independent of each other and not as the comedic team that they would later become.

We noted that at this point in his career, Laurel had appeared in relatively few films while Hardy was a seasoned and professional film comedian, having spent most of the previous five or six years in hundreds of films, probably all comedies.

We also discussed Laurel’s eye make-up for this film: he sports a blind eyes look from what was called orthochromatic film stock that movies were filmed with until the mid-1920s. Stan had blue eyes, and they looked almost white when this type of film was used. Fortunately, by the time Laurel and Hardy got together, film stock was the better “panchromatic” type that rendered more accurate gray tones for colors and you were able to see Stan’s eyes as they naturally appeared (except without the color, of course).

Joan continued to tickle the ivories in Charley Chase’s July 8, 1926 released, “Mighty Like A Moose” (22:18). Starring Chase, Vivien Oakland, and Ann Howe, the film chronicles a case of marital mistaken identification and actions that may have had infidelity repercussions. But fear not, this IS a Charley Chase comedy after all. The film received many laughs and a thunderous ovation at its conclusion, reaffirming its reputation as one of, if not the greatest, of Charley Chase’s silent films. This film is so highly thought of that in 2007, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, which recognizes American films deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Joan took a break while we next viewed Max Davidson’s “Call Of The Cuckoo” (18:41), released October 15, 1927, directed by Clyde Bruckman, produced by Hal Roach and starred Davidson, Lillian Elliot, Spec O’Donnell and had the notable cameo appearances by Laurel and Hardy, Charley Chase, James Finlayson, and Charlie Hall.

Papa Gimplewart (Max Davidson) wants to sell his house because it is next door to an insane asylum, and the inmates (Charley Chase, James Finlayson, Laurel and Hardy) are getting on his nerves. The first house buyer is almost immediately put off by the neighbours, but the next one comes to trade his house for theirs, no questions asked. So Papa, Mama (Lillian Elliott) and Love’s Greatest Mistake (Spec O’Donnell) move to the new house, and all sorts of problems come along. The film ends with new neighbor moving in, the asylum inmates!

This film was made just days after Laurel and Hardy had finished filming The Second Hundred Years (1927), in which they play shaven-headed convicts. This is why for the boys’ sport buzz-cut hairdos in this film.

The intermission and ‘fabulous’ raffle followed, with many lucky attendees able to call themselves ‘winners’ with regards to books, display plates, posters, and DVDs related to Laurel and Hardy and other Roach stars and series. If you didn’t win anything this evening, remember to purchase additional raffle tickets next time!

OK, after Robert Benchley’s “How To Figure Income Tax” (7:36), we embarked on the second half of the program. We began with “Flying Elephants” (17:05), which was filmed May 9-14, 1927, retakes shot June 9, and released February 12, 1928. Laurel and Hardy were among the many Roach lot All-Stars appearing in the film, along with James Finlayson, Dorothy Coburn (who gave Stan a wrestling lesson he’d sooner forget!), Viola Richard, & Tiny Sandford.

Although both Stan and Ollie appear in this stone-age comedy, it isn’t really a Laurel & Hardy film, because there’s no sense yet of the boys working as a comedy partnership. This was a notable, inexplicable step backwards in the evolution of the team…especially odd when you learn that they started filming it only a few days after completing Do Detectives Think?, in which they worked so well together. In Flying Elephants Stan and Ollie are cavemen competing for the affections of the same woman (Finlayson’s daughter) but they share very few scenes and show almost no personality. A side note involving this film is that besides Atoll K, this is the only L&H movie filmed outside of California.

Joan took over the live piano again for “Early To Bed” (18:34), which was released October 6, 1928, directed by Emmett J. Flynn, produced by Hal Roach and starred Laurel and Hardy. In fact, ONLY Laurel and Hardy featured in this film, joining Brats and The Tree In A Test Tube as the only movies the boys made where no other actors are featured.

We mentioned how Ollie does not treat Stan like he would once their partnership was firmly established. In this film he is almost cruel to Stan and takes advantage of him. They were still creating their characters, and fortunately Ollie turned in the sweet soul we now know so well.

Our final film for the evening was “Should Married Men Go Home?” (19:33), which was filmed in March and May 1928 and released September 8 of that year. It was directed by Leo McCarey & James Parrott, produced by Hal Roach, and starred Laurel and Hardy, Kay Deslys, Edna Marion, Viola Richard, Edgar Kennedy, Charlie Hall, and Dorothy Coburn.

Golf was never so messy as in this film. Interestingly, 2 scenes were remade in later Laurel and Hardy sound films: 1) the gag of Stan slipping a note under the door, only to see it get pulled further in from the inside where the Hardys are hiding from him, would find new life and a return engagement in the 1931 talkie “Come Clean” when the Hardys again pretend not to be home when the Laurels come calling; and 2) the soda fountain scene was remade 2 years later in their talkie “Men O’War”.

And so ended another fun evening. The next meeting will take place on June 18, and hold on to your hats – will feature Mae Busch in several of her great roles in Laurel and Hardy films. Don’t miss it – you KNOW you don’t want to make Mae mad! Hope to see you then!

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Wood ‘n Work

It was a dark and story night… well, it eventually got dark, and it didn’t storm, but besides all this, forty (40!) intrepid souls gathered to view examples of Laurel and Hardy on the job, working to earn money. Working with wood to be specific. Laurel and Hardy earning money by working with wood? Wouldn’t work you say? Exactly! “Wood ‘n Work”!

A big ‘tip of the cap’ and thanks to Ken Runyan out in California for putting the entire evening’s film program on a single DVD – it made it soooo much easier to run the films that way! The DVD was popped into the player, and the festivities began: after a rousing sing-a-long to the “Sons of the Desert” song, our first selection was the June 11, 1955 animated Warner Brothers cartoon featuring Bugs Bunny, “Rabbit Rampage” (6:56 running time). Directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese, this cartoon was very similar to 1953’s “Duck Amuck” with one big difference: here it’s Bugs who gets the artist’s “treatment” in a wacky way.

This was followed by Laurel and Hardy’s silent film, “The Finishing Touch” (19:07), shot in November and December 1927 and released February 25, 1928. The film was directed by Clyde Bruckman and Leo McCarey, and also starred Dorothy Coburn (she of the no-nonsense nurse variety), Sam Lufkin, and Edgar Kennedy. Here, Stan and Ollie are hired to put “the finishing touch” to a newly constructed house; they’re offered extra money if they can finish the house in a day. The house just happens to be near a hospital, so a cop (Kennedy) and a tough nurse (Coburn) must forcefully persuade the boys to work quietly. Laurel and Hardy as builders? You can only imagine the results, which define the phrase ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’! We noted 2 pieces of trivia associated with this film: 1) The final gag, in which the boys’ truck slams into the house, was a misfire. The script called for the truck to drive all the way through the house, but the carpenters had not built the house to property man Thomas Benton Roberts’ specifications, and the house was too sturdy. As a result, the truck was unable to penetrate it completely and only lodged halfway through and ground to a stop. Rather than rebuild the house for one gag, the cast and crew chose to keep the end gag as filmed. Laurel was philosophical about the foul-up. “Oh, well,” he told Roberts, “maybe it’ll be funnier that way.”; and 2) An internet source, reliable or not, says that this film was used as a training film at the United States Department of Labor! What was it used to train people about? The common mistakes that ordinary people make in construction sites or similar situations that place themselves in danger, of course!

We then watched a short clip of ‘then and now’ scenes, showing the sites and locations used in filming “The Finishing Touch” and comparing them to how they look today. Take it from us, a lot has changed in that neighborhood in 83 years!

Next we watched the Our Gang comedy, “Birthday Blues”, filmed July 30 to August 4, released November 12, 1932 (19:15), directed by Robert F. McGowan, and with music by Leroy Shield and T. Marvin Hatley. It starred Dickie Moore, Spanky McFarland, “Stymie” Beard, Dorothy DeBorba, Pete the Pup, and others. If you have ever seen this film before, even once, you will remember it quite clearly when you heard that sound! What sound? Read on…Dickie and Spanky’s witness their father forgetting their mother’s birthday for the second year in a row. He also refuses to pay for a mail-order dress. Dickie decides to buy his mother a different dress, so acting upon the advice of Stymie, Dickie and Spanky decide to raise money for the dress by baking a cake with hidden prizes. They’ll then auction off pieces of cake at ten cents a slice. The only problem is that Spanky adds a few surprises to the prizes — soap, shoes, gloves, and so on. The resulting baked cake resembles a huge square and is a breathing pastry that makes noises (THIS CAKE NOISE is the noise you’ll remember!) as they ice it. The kids don’t like the “prizes” and demand their money back, starting a pie fight. Dickie’s father gives Dickie a spanking for the mess just as mother comes home and learns the reason for the mess, and the father is humbled and learns a good lesson. Interestingly, the homemade-cake sequence had its origins in a nearly identical segment from “Ten Years Old”, the March, 1927 Our Gang release. During this period around 1932, the depths of the Depression, in one economy-minded expedient, the Roach studio was reworking whole blocks of silent film material intact. Charley Chase did it, Laurel and Hardy did it, but none so heavily (or successfully) as Our Gang.

The intermission followed, which featured the fabulous raffle. Congratulations to the lucky prize winners, who were envied by those unfortunate not to win. Next time, buy more raffle tickets! (a word to the wise…)

A new series short was introduced when the second half of the program commenced. We featured the Joe McDoakes one-reeler “So You Want To Build A House” (10:51). which was released on May 15, 1948. Joe McDoakes was the protagonist of a series of 63 black-and-white live action comedy one reel short subjects released between 1942 and 1956. The Joe McDoakes shorts are also known as the Behind the Eight Ball series (for the large 8-ball Joe appeared from behind in the opening credits) or the So You Want… series (as most of the films were titled). George O’Hanlon, who would later provide the voice of George Jetson, starred as Joe McDoakes. Anyway, in this particular short, Joe McDoakes decides to build his own home. As the project progresses, he sees his dream house turn into a nightmare. Cast: George O’Hanlon (Joe McDoakes), Art Gilmore (narrator), Jane Harker (Alice McDoakes), Donald Kerr (Andy McGoon), Ralph Littlefield (building inspector), Ralph Peters (Happy Jack, the Laughing Irishman), and Clifton Young (Homer).

Laurel and Hardy then returned with their October 31, 1931 release, “One Good Turn” (19:39). The film was directed by James W. Horne, written by H.M. Walker and also featured Mary Carr, James Finlayson, and Billy Gilbert (in his first Laurel and Hardy film). This short takes place during the worst days of The Depression. Stan and Ollie are down on their luck and experiencing unemployment and homelessness. They decide to ask for food at an old lady’s house, and the lady is kind enough to offer them a nice meal. While they are eating they overhear a villainous landlord (Finlayson) threatening to evict her if she does not pay the mortgage. Not realizing that they are hearing a rehearsal for a play, The Boys, who believe that ‘one good turn’ deserves another, decide to auction their car to raise money to help the woman. In the confusion surrounding the auction, Stan somehow winds up with a cash-heavy wallet. Ollie accuses Stan of stealing the old lady’s money, making quite a scene of it. However, when the truth comes out, the worm turns and it’s Stan who metes out punishment to Ollie! We noted that the finale in the film, where Stan retaliates against Ollie, was inspired by Stan’s daughter (Lois). After Lois had seen so many movies in which Ollie mistreated Stan, she became fearful of Ollie (known to her as “Uncle Babe”). So, Stan decided to write a scene that showed his character could stand up for himself. After that, Lois got along just fine with Ollie.

Making a refreshing reappearance on The Chimp Tent’s film program, Charley Chase took over the screen for “The Wrong Miss Wright”, filmed around April 8-12 and released June 18, 1937 (16:52). Co-starring with Chase here were Peggy Stratford and John T. Murray. By 1937 Charley Chase had left the Hal Roach Studios and signed on with Columbia Pictures – this was his third two-reeler for them and the set-up goes like this (a remake of Chase’s 1926 silent film “Crazy Like A Fox”): Charley finds true love on a boat sailing from China to the USA. Charley is only returning to the USA for matrimony – his arranged marriage a woman he hasn’t seen since childhood that was set up by both sets of parents years ago! So he tries to get out of this marriage by acting crazy, knowing that the girl’s father will call off the marriage. THEN Charley will be free to marry his shipboard romance! However, unbeknownst to Charley, his shipboard romance is actually the girl he is supposed to marry in the arranged marriage! When he finds out that his bride-to-be is the same girl from the ship that he fell in love with, his explanations fall on deaf ears and so drastic action is taken – will Charley be able to marry the girl of his dreams, or will the girl’s father put a stop to it? We found out!

Our final short film of the evening was “Busy Bodies”, the Laurel and Hardy short film released October 7, 1933 (18:24), directed by Lloyd French, and featuring Charlie Hall, and Tiny Sandford. The crazy theme in this movie is a typical day at the woodshop for Stanley and Oliver. The entire film is set in a sawmill, and there is really no central plot. The film is just a series of incidents (the usual episodes you might expect from these two such as getting jammed in windows, puncturing water pipes, getting stuck to glue brushes, having tiffs with their co-workers, and finally getting their car cut in half in a giant band-saw, etc.) which show what can happen when Stan and Ollie are let loose in this type of work environment. This setting was the perfect place to showcase Laurel and Hardy’s basic characters because if they’re given a basic task such as building a house (“The Finishing Touch”), fixing a boat (“Towed In A Hole”), or putting a radio antenna on the roof (“Hog Wild”), tasks which require a certain amount of physical dexterity and skill, you’re in for a wild ride of mishaps, misfires, and mistakes leading to mayhem and mirth!

Well, we certainly left them laughing after THAT last film. It is hoped that our attendees enjoyed the evening’s film program, and The Chimp Tent hopes that everyone will continue to join us for yet more laughs at our future meetings. In this regard, please circle the calendar for Saturday night April 9 when our next film evening (“Speechless”) takes place in Clifton (NOT at the Seasons despite whatever propaganda attendees might have picked up during tonight’s show)! Please check our web site for all the details. Bring friends, family, and anyone you know who likes to laugh! Thanks for all who came out and joined The Chimp Tent tonight, and we hope to see you again very soon.

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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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Modern Life!

On a beautiful Fall evening, 41 lucky Laurel and Hardy fans attended our “Modern Life!” film evening, which began with our usual rousing chorus of “The Sons of the Desert” song. We went straight into the Warner Brothers animated cartoon “Porky’s Road Race”, released February 6, 1937, which featured Porky Pig, Boris Karloff, W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin, and our course (in a small role) Laurel and Hardy! It wasn’t mentioned but this indeed was Mel Blanc’s very first WB cartoon appearance – he supplied (naturally) the voice of Porky Pig.

Following the cartoon was a short newsreel about the opening of the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo, CA on May 29, 1942. Laurel and Hardy were among the stars attending the opening and, along with other stars from Hollywood, encouraged attendees to buy War Bonds.

Next on the program was Laurel and Hardy’s silent film, “Double Whoopee”. It was filmed in February and released on May 18, 1929. Featured performers with The Boys here were Charlie Hall, Tiny Sandford, William Gillespie, Sam Lufkin, and of course the 17-year old Jean Harlow. We watched as Stanley and Oliver, in their new jobs as footman and doorman at a ritzy hotel, wreak their usual havoc on the guests, including partially undressing a swanky blonde guest (Harlow) and repeatedly escorting a haughty Prussian nobleman into an empty elevator shaft.

Of note was the fact that this is the same hotel set that was used for the Our Gang short Barnum & Ringling, Inc. (shown at our all-silent meeting last July). In fact, William Gillespie played the hotel manager in both films! We viewed the silent film version rather than the post-synchronized dialogue track version produced in 1969 with Chuck McCann voicing both Stan and Ollie.

An odd early sound commercial featuring Laurel and Hardy was shown next, an ad for Fyffes Bananas. Animated in the early 1930s, it showed Adolphe Menjou, Maurice Chevalier, and Laurel and Hardy singing about bananas. It was ordered by the Swedish Banankompaniet behind the witty animation was most probably Arvid Olsson (the “father” of animated Swedish cartoons).

Our Gang’s “Hearts Are Thumps” was shown next, which was filmed February 2-10 and released April 3, 1937. It Featured Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Darla, Porky, Rosina Lawrence as their teacher, and the rest of the Gang, and involved Alfalfa’s girl trouble with Darla. Spanky and Buckwheat ‘doctor’ Darla’s lunch so that when she shares it with Alfalfa, he gets a mouthful of soap. Add some water, and there are bubbles galore when Alfalfa sings. This short of course was the first to feature the “He-Man Woman-Haters Club”, which was formed because, after all, girls are the bunk!

We followed the Our Gang short with a 1966 cartoon from the Hanna-Barbera Studios co-production with Wolper Productions, and released by Larry Harmon Pictures, “How Green Was My Lawnmower”. These Harmon cartoons were made for several seasons, and along with the Abbott and Costello cartoons by Harmon, sought to capitalize on the names of the these stars. There were 156 episodes of these cartoons, so I don’t think we’ll get through them all!

Larry Harmon had acquired the rights to the likenesses of Laurel and Hardy. Harmon’s company had previously produced the Bozo animated cartoons and many of the made-for-TV Popeye cartoons. Harmon himself supplied the voice of Stan Laurel, with Jim MacGeorge voicing Oliver Hardy.

As an extra surprise bonus film addition to the already gala-evening, we next screened the Laurel and Hardy cameo appearance scenes from the June 1, 1934 release “Hollywood Party”. This film starred Jimmy Durante, Jack Pearl, Polly Moran, and Mickey Mouse (among others), and featured all of the big stars signed to MGM at the time. We saw Laurel and Hardy ring the doorbell to try to get into the party, and having accomplished this (after the usual mayhem) they unfortunately run into Lupe Velez at the bar, where an act of “reciprocal destruction” ensued with eggs as the weapons of choice!

After a most enjoyable intermission we resumed the show with a photo montage of our July 4th Northside parade participants. The Chimps looked awfully good in the get-up garb, didn’t they. A plea was made for continued participation at the 2011 parade.

The final film selection for the evening was the streamliner “Block-Heads”, released August 19, 1938 and starring The Boys along with Patricia Ellis, Minna Gombell, Billy Gilbert, Tommy Bond, and Jimmy Finlayson.

We saw how that in 1938, Stan didn’t know the Great War was over; he’s still patrolling the trenches in France, and shoots down a French aviator. Oliver sees his old chum’s picture in the paper and goes to visit Stan at the Soldier’s Home. Thinking Stan is disabled (it’s just that he’s sitting on his leg), Oliver takes pity on him and takes him home for a nice home-cooked meal. But Oliver’s wife has other ideas and leaves him to fend for himself. After blowing up the kitchen, Oliver is helped by his next-door neighbor, Mrs. Gilbert… until the big-game hunting Mr. Gilbert comes home unexpectedly, carrying a shotgun. The film, a reworking of elements from the Laurel and Hardy shorts We Faw Down (1928) and Unaccustomed As We Are (1929), was Roach’s final film for MGM, and is remembered as one of Laurel and Hardy’s most successful films.

We noted that the role of Mrs. Hardy was originally intended for actress Mae Busch, since an early draft of the script referred to Mrs. Hardy as “Mae”. We also mentioned that when this film was released it was announced as being the last Laurel & Hardy movie. Well, it was the last Hal Roach production for MGM, as he subsequently switched to United Artists due to Roach’s perception of less than adequate MGM promotion of his film “Topper”. We also recognized that former 1920s silent star Harry Langdon had been hired by Roach as a gagman at the studio, and Block-Heads reprised Langdon’s 1926 Soldier Man in that Laurel was left in the trenches of WWI, unaware of the war’s end.

T. Marvin Hartley’s musical score for the movie was nominated for Best Original Score of 1938 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but did not win, and we mentioned that the alternate ending suggested by Stan whereby he and Ollie are mounted like animal trophies on Billy Gilbert’s apartment walls, was vetoed by Hal Roach.

After this film was completed, Stan Laurel and Hal Roach had a contract dispute, and Ollie was signed on to play the part of a country doctor in the 1939 film Zenobia, which also featured Harry Langdon and fueled rumors that Laurel and Hardy were no more. It was Ollie’s first film without Stan since 1928. The new Hardy/Langdon partnership lasted for just one film, as Stan settled his differences with Roach and the Boys signed new short-term contracts.

And then, much too soon, the evening was at an end. Not to worry however, our heroes will return on December 11 in Clifton for some “Wacky Winter Holiday Hijinks!”. We hope that you will join us then for a special evening of festive film frolics.

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Silents Are Golden

On a lovely and warm summer evening twenty-nine (29) inquisitive yet courageous attendees, those with, dare I say, an impeccable taste in humor, convened to enjoy an evening of silent film comedy. Yes, it was a silent evening – except for the laughter, which was in abundance during the show.

We began by reminding and recounting to all the glorious exploits of “The Chimp Tent” during the past month, including the participation by 16 of our members in the Northside Fourth of July parade (pictures of which are still on this very website – see the Home page “news flash” link).

We acknowledged in our midst the one and only Mark Turner from our sister chapter in Columbus (“The Perfect Day” Tent) – thanks for coming down to join in our fun, Mark. Also mentioned at this point was the terrific Joan Chrislip, soon to make the evening most memorable by way of her wonderful live keyboard accompaniment to the films to be screened. The show then began with a rousing rendition of “The Sons of the Desert” song, enjoyed by all vocalists in our audience (especially the ones who were tone deaf).

We proceeded with the first of our silent Laurel and Hardy films for the evening, “Sugar Daddies” (15:53 running time), directed by Fred Guiol and Leo McCarey, written by H.M. Walker, and released September 10, 1927.

We observed how Stan and Ollie didn’t in any way look like a team. They played different personas than we were used to seeing and they both even had different hair styles. This is because the team wasn’t exactly a team yet. They’d made some films together but the familiar Laurel and Hardy formula was still in the future. Here, the film is more a film where they and James Finlayson star–a trio instead of a duo. It’s interesting that at one point when lawyer Stan runs into the room where Fin has been staying, and tells him, through a subtitle, “A fine mess you’ve made of things!” Remember, it’s Stan who says this! Shades of things to come…and this was the final film in which Stan and Ollie weren’t a team.

We moved directly into our next film, Our Gang’s “Barnum and Ringling, Inc.” (17:45), directed by Robert McGowan, produced by Robert McGowan and Hal Roach, written by H.M. Walker, and released April 7, 1928. Appearing among the cast were Jean Darling, Joe Cobb, Jackie Condon, Bobby Hutchins, Pete the Pup, Dorothy Coburn, Edna Marion, and Eugene Pallette. And someone else we recognized, in his final film without Stan Laurel until “Zenobia” a dozen years later, Oliver Hardy!

Laurel and Hardy reappeared in their December 29, 1928 release, “We Faw Down” (19:38), which was directed by Leo McCarey, produced by Hal Roach, and written by H.M. Walker. The film also starred Vivien Oakland, Bess Flowers, and Kay Deslys and was shot in August and September 1928.

Mention was made that this film served as the precursor to the later sound film “The Sons of the Desert”, and that other gags from this film were reused in later sound shorts (e.g. “Their First Mistake” and “Block-Heads”). Interestingly, the title “We Faw Down” came from the popular song “I Faw Down and Go Boom” by James Brockman and Leonard Stevens, which was published in 1928 and thus was very contemporaneous with the making of this film. The phrase is repeated, with variations, at least two times in the film. It also is referenced several times in the Laurel and Hardy films “From Soup To Nuts” (1928), and in the title of their 1929 short “They Go Boom”. Ollie also says “I faw down” in their cameo sequence from “Hollywood Revue of 1929”.

Finally, we noted that as originally filmed, this short had almost a reel’s worth of very funny material that did not make it into “We Faw Down”. This footage was saved, and the next short The Boys made was built around the gag of Laurel wearing Hardy’s pants, and vice-versa, along with a belligerent crab! And thus their film “Liberty” was born…

After a brief intermission, a ‘bonus extra’ film short was screened. Originally thought to be a Stan Laurel solo vehicle in Charley Chase’s October 5, 1927 release of “Now I’ll Tell One”, this film was thought to be lost. However, it was located in 1989 by David Wyatt who found it in a can labeled “Pardon Us”. He almost passed it over, but upon checking the first few frames realized it was “Now I’ll Tell One”. Further examination revealed that Oliver Hardy had a brief role as a policeman in the short! Thus, this film became film no. 106 of the Laurel and Hardy catalogue and was screened for the first time since World War II during the first European Laurel and Hardy fan convention in 1993. Unfortunately, the first reel of this film is still missing, but we did get to view the remaining second reel fragment.

Our good friend Charley Chase returned for an encore with “Bromo and Juliet” (23:16), directed by Leo McCarey, written by Charles Alphin and H.M. Walker, and released September 19, 1926. It was good fun to see life in the 1920s via the street scenes, and Charley’s battle with sponges wasn’t bad either! The film was very well received, with lots of good laughs especially in the Romeo and Juliet scenes. Interesting that, though this film was shot during Prohibition, alcohol figured so prominently in it.

We ended our evening of silent comedy with The Boys again, as they proved they were “Wrong Again” (19:29). This film was directed by Leo McCarey, written by Lewis R. Foster and Leo McCarey, and released February 23, 1929. It came from a story thought up by McCarey the previous October as he visited his dentist and noticed a picture of Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy” on the wall there. We certainly learned how ‘peculiar’ rich people are from this film…

And with that, another meeting came to an end. Time to mark your calendars for the next Chimp Tent meeting, which will take place on October 23 and feature Jean Harlow with The Boys in “Double Whoopee”, and the film highlight that night will be the screening of Laurel and Hardy’s “Block-Heads”, which means a fun evening for all. We hope to see you there and join in on the fun.

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