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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Slaphappy Sea Salts

On one of the hottest days of the year, thirty-eight (38) persons took the plunge and braved the elements (no air-conditioning) to watch tonight’s seaworthy film program. Entitled “Slaphappy Sea Salts”, viewers cooled off vicariously from the watered-down screen affairs of the evening’s movies. So, we all got ourselves comfortable, scraped the barnacles off our chairs, pulled in a little closer, weighed anchor (“How much did the anchor weigh?”, asked Billy Gilbert in the Our Gang short featured this evening), and we set sail into scenes of sea-faring celluloid silliness.

The Chimp Tent’s good friend in California, Ken Runyan, provided the opening credits and intro music for our program (thanks, Ken! Ken also placed all of the film selections for the evening on a single DVD, making life much easier for Vice-Sheik Victoria Baumgardner, who had to play the durn thing…) After a rousing rendition of “The Sons of the Desert” song (and it actually was sung pretty well by the silver throats in attendance!), aided by our very own Joan Chrislip on piano, we got down to business.

The first offering of the evening was the October 2, 1936 animated release “The Merry Mutineers” (7:29). This Columbia cartoon was originally released in Technicolor and featured Scrappy and Oopy and their (fighting) toy pirate boats. Along with Laurel and Hardy, many other Hollywood stars could be identified among the two ships’ crews. Interestingly, the worst-drawn caricatures were of Columbia’s own stars, The Three Stooges!

We then turned to the Hal Roach film “Why Girls Love Sailors” (17:55), which was released on July 17, 1927. Joan Chrislip provided the excellent live piano accompaniment to this silent film (thanks again, Joan!)This movie was filmed prior to the ‘official’ teaming of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and also featured Viola Richard, Anita Garvin (in her first appearance in a Laurel and Hardy movie), and Malcolm Waite. The Boys appear here as separate individuals and certainly not as part of a team – this teaming would occur 6 to 8 films shot later in 1927 – and it showed in the characters they played in this film, with Stan as a young sailor and Ollie as a first mate, who is described as “the nastiest brute on board”.

Interestingly, this film was considered “lost” because after its initial run in 1927 it was not seen again until a copy was found in the French Film Archive in 1971. It took until 1986 to get a copy of the film made, and since the original film had French titles, they had to be re-translated back into English for our viewing pleasure. It’s funny how these things happen, isn’t it?

Our Gang made many memorable short films during their 22-years of film-making. One of your Grand Sheik’s very favorites is the October 10, 1931 release “Shiver My Timbers” (20:52), which featured Billy Gilbert as the sea captain, June Marlowe as the Gang’s teacher Miss June Crabtree (why couldn’t any of my teachers in elementary school look like Miss Crabtree?), Harry Bernard as a pirate, and has Wheezer and Stymie in prominent roles (and Stymie’s puns have never been better…I mean worse! With Stymie, “polar bears” become “pallbearers” and so on!). Watch out for Petey (the pup – the one with a circle around his eye!) the pirate, and note that the “pirate” ship itself is the same great set used in “The Live Ghost”, the Laurel and Hardy film we screened at our Halloween show several months ago.

Anyway, here the Gang play hooky from school to listen to the sea captain’s tall tales of swashbuckling and pirate adventures down at the docks. Miss Crabtree asks the captain to stop telling these tales because the kids are missing school. Although the captain agrees to scare the kids (and Petey) away from wanting to be pirates, nothing is this simple. The Gang have some surprises of their own in store for the captain and his “cut-throat” crew.

Mention was made of this short representing the transitional era of the Our Gang comedies, what with Jackie Cooper, Chubby Chaney, and Mary Ann Jackson all having just left the series. For a time, until Spanky McFarland joined the cast, the slack was taken up by Wheezer Hutchins and Stymie Beard. They both really held their own in this film, and listen closely for Stymie’s puns (e.g. polar bears/pall bearers, veal cutlass). Some of the film’s best moments came when he engaged Billy Gilbert in rambling conversations.

We snuck in a “bonus” clip after the intermission, the brief “The Tree In A Test Tube”, which was filmed on November 29, 1941 and released either in the Spring of 1942 or 1943. Pete Smith narrated and Charles McDonald directed The Boys in what was essentially a patriotic industrial film demonstrating how wood products were omnipresent in the American economy. After the Laurel and Hardy bit, the rest of the film (which we didn’t show) is unrelated documentary footage showing us how important wood is for the war effort. The film wasn’t released theatrically, because it was more of an amateur, promotional endeavor. It had been commissioned by the Department of Agriculture.

The Tree In A Test Tube was a forgotten film until Richard Bann discovered its existence in 1967. Shot on 16mm Kodachrome stock, The Tree In A Test Tube is notable for being the only extant footage of Stan and Ollie in color, except for some home movies from the ’50s and a few short clips from the long-lost “The Rogue Song”.

We then enjoyed another “bonus” clip, that of Danny Kaye presenting Stan Laurel’s Oscar, which was awarded to Stan by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on April 17, 1961.

Returning to the seafaring theme of the evening, Laurel and Hardy re-entered the scene with “Men O’War” (18:46), only their third talking film, which was filmed from May 11 to May 18 and released by MGM on June 29, 1929. Our heroes were sailors on leave who met two girls at a park, and offered to treat them to sodas. Soda jerk Jimmy Finlayson uttered his first sound “D’Ohhhhhh” in this film, which in itself merited attention. However, for Stan and Ollie, this simple act of treating ladies to sodas is not so routine! And then we watched as these men – sailors yet – demonstrated their prowess in a rowboat on a lake. Boat? Water? Laurel and Hardy? Guess what happens next … ! Can you say “reciprocal destruction”?

We made mention of the duplication of the soda jerk scene in this film with that of the middle sequence of their 1928 silent film “Should Married Men Go Home?” Laurel and Hardy repeated gags from their silent films into several of their sound films probably due to the fact that silent films were now considered passé and wouldn’t be viewed much anymore anyway.

A special added attraction was the Laurel and Hardy magic act (6:22) from “The Hollywood Revue of 1929”, which was originally released on November 23, 1929. We featured The Boys’ short cameo appearance, which included a youngish Jack Benny (in his very first film appearance).

We then snuck in the 1981 Arby’s commercial featuring Chuck McCann and Jim McGeorge impersonating our heroes. Did you know that Arby’s stood for “America’s Roast Beef, Yes Sir!” Well, that’s what we learned from this commercial!

We concluded our swelterfest (I mean it was HOT in that room!) with Laurel and Hardy’s “Any Old Port” (20:02), which was released on March 5, 1932 and featured favorite bad guy Walter Long (as Mugsie Long), Harry Bernard, Charlie Hall, and Julie Bishop (who was billed as Jacqueline Wells in this film). In this movie, Stan and Ollie were sailors on leave who checked into a sleazy hotel. There they find Mugsie intends to marry a young girl against her wishes, and it’s The Boys to the rescue! After this, they’re on the run from the enraged Mugsie, and out of money, and then an offer is made to Ollie whereby they can earn some money by fighting in a boxing match that evening. Ollie volunteers Stanley as the fighter, but guess who Stan’s opponent is at the boxing match? If you guessed Mugsie Long, you win the prize! This film originally had a different beginning, but the first reel was deleted at the film’s preview. After previews the entire first reel was cut, and the original second reel became the first reel, and a new final ten minutes was shot. Sadly, scenes involving Jimmy Finlayson as The Boys’ captain, and those of Tiny Sandford as a sailor have been lost.

At this point we dropped anchor and set everyone back ashore. We hoped you enjoyed the program this evening and that you’ll tell family and friends about our meetings. In fact, bring them all along to our next gathering this summer on July 31, an all-silent film evening that we’re going to call “Silents Are Golden”. Check your email and our web site for additional details over the next week or two or so.

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The Con Game

On a blustery and rainy evening 44 fine film fans joined together to enjoy the first screening of the new year. These lucky 44 sang a hearty version of “The Sons of the Desert” song together, which was accompanied by live keyboard courtesy of Joan Chrislip. Next to be screened was “Big House Bunny” (running time ~7:00), released April 23, 1950, directed by Friz Freleng, and voiced of course by Mel Blanc. We watched Bugs Bunny trying to escape hunters by tunneling in to Sing-Song prison. Sam Schultz, the prison guard (played naturally by Yosemite Sam) mistakes Bugs for a real inmate, and you can guess who gets the raw end of THAT deal! We watched the uncut version, the one that Nickelodeon, ABC, and Cartoon Network wouldn’t show for years due to what they thought might be objectionable material (which was no different than seen regularly in Tom and Jerry or Itchy and Scratchy cartoons by the way!).

Our first Laurel and Hardy short film for the evening was “The Second Hundred Years” (19:56), released October 8, 1927, directed by Fred Guiol, produced by Hal Roach, written by Leo McCarey and H.M. Walker, and was their first film distributed by MGM. We kept a watch out for supporting actors Charlie Hall, Jimmy Finlayson, Dorothy Coburn, and Tiny Sandford.

Basically, The Boys played cons who attempt to escape via tunneling, and then by disguising themselves as painters. Proving that crime doesn’t pay, their efforts are wasted as their plans to steal suits from visiting dignitaries lands them back at the prison because the dignitaries were scheduled to visit the prison!
We noted that Laurel and Hardy’s heads were shaved for their appearance in this film, and their hair had not yet grown back in their cameo roles in Max Davidson’s “Call of the Cuckoos” (1927), released a week after this film. In addition to this, this film is of particular interest to Laurel and Hardy fans because it is the film that led Stan Laurel to acquire his famous spiky hair that became a part of his screen image. As his hair was growing back, Stan noticed that his constant attempts to keep his hair under control were causing the crew and other people on the Hal Roach lot to laugh. So Stan decided to keep his hair spiked in his films, due to its usefulness as a laugh-getter.

We followed “The Second Hundred Years” with a special surprise: an unaired Anco Wiper Blade Commercial featuring Laurel and Hardy look-a-likes. Made for the 1979 Super Bowl, this particular commercial was not aired; two other Anco commercials featuring these same Laurel and Hardy impersonators were aired during the game (and shown at our meeting last May). Chuck McCann played Hardy to Jim MacGeorge’s Laurel in this commercial.

Next we showed the June 12, 1937 Our Gang short release “Roamin’ Holiday” (10:32), which was directed by Gordon Douglas, produced by Hal Roach, with music by Marvin Hatley. Here the Gang doesn’t like having to do household chores, especially baby-sitting, so they run away from home. When a nice storekeeper at the next town takes them in and finds out they’ve run away, she tells her husband (the sheriff!) who decides to ‘teach the boys a lesson’ and pretends to arrest them, outfitting them in convict stripes and making them work a rock pile. Not to worry, bee swarms notwithstanding, the Gang return home safely and conclude that it’s not such a bad place to be! Buckwheat and Porky shine in this film.

Our final entry prior to intermission was a short clip from the April 4, 1931 entry entitled, “The Stolen Jools” (titled as “The Slippery Pearls” in the UK). While the entire short film runs for 20 minutes, we only showed only the brief clip which featured Laurel and Hardy (1:29). This film, released April 4, 1931, was directed by William C.McGann, produced by Pat Casey, and starred (among others) Wallace Beery, Buster Keaton, Edward G. Robinson, Norma Shearer, Fay Wray, and of course Laurel and Hardy. The plot was simple: at the “Screen Stars Annual Ball” Norma Shearer has her jewels stolen. The police must find them and return them to her. Actors in the film appeared in cameo roles and were from different studios such as Warner Bros., RKO, MGM, and Paramount Pictures because the film was made to help raise funds for the National Variety Artists Tuberculosis Sanitarium. Technical costs for this charity film were paid for by Chesterfield cigarettes – imagine a cigarette company funding a charity movie for respiratory diseases. We also mentioned that this film was thought to be a lost until prints were found in the UK and USA in the 1990s.

After the intermission and fabulous raffle we returned with “The Hoose-Gow” (19:05), a Laurel and Hardy very early talking film, released November 16, 1929. The film, directed by James Parrott and produced by Hal Roach, featured support from actors Jimmy Finlayson, Charlie Hall, and Tiny Sandford.

The tagline for this film summed it up nicely: “Neither Mr. Laurel nor Mr. Hardy had any thoughts of doing wrong. As a matter of fact, they had no thoughts of any kind.” Anyway, our heroes are new inmates at a prison after apparently taking part in a hold-up raid, a raid they tell a prison officer they were only watching. A botched escape attempt lands them on a work detail where more mishaps occur, ending with a rice-throwing melee with the visiting governor. It figures!

We mentioned that Oliver Hardy was injured during the filming of the scene in which Stan kept nicking him with the pickaxe. A rubber pickaxe was originally to have been used for the scene, but it was decided that it looked too fake in action, so a real one was substituted. Babe moved a little too close to Stan during Stan’s back swing, and received a very real scar from the pickaxe on his rear!

It is believed that this film contains the earliest appearances of two of Ollie’s pet phrases: “Why don’t you do something to help me?” and “No, no, no, no, NO!”. Thus, in a sense this is a very important sound film of the Laurel and Hardy archives.

We then turned our attention to two other important actors on the Hal Roach Studios payroll: Charley Chase and Thelma Todd, who appeared in “The Pip From Pittsburgh”, a March 21, 1931 release (20:51). Dorothy Granger, Kay Deslys, and Charlie Hall also appeared in supporting roles in this James Parrott-directed film. Here, Charley Chase is non-too pleased to be set up with another blind date after a previous bad experience. Fearing the worst, Charley does his best to become an unattractive slob so his date won’t like him – and then he finds out that the beautiful Thelma Todd is his date, And now Charley has to make himself attractive once again while actually ON the date! We watched to see if Charley could do it…

Our final film for the evening was the Laurel and Hardy June 23, 1934 release entitled “Going Bye-Bye” (19:49). Charley Rogers directed, Hal Roach produced, and Mae Busch and Walter Long (my favorite Laurel and Hardy bad guy) co-starred in this film of revenge taken too far…

After providing evidence to convict the notorious gangster Butch (played with relish by Walter Long), The Boys plan to leave town after agreeing to take a traveling companion (played by Mae Busch) along to share expenses. But guess who the traveling companion’s boyfriend is? That’s right – it’s Butch, who has escaped from custody, comes to Mae Busch’s apartment, gets locked in a trunk, gets out of the trunk, and then seeks retribution on Laurel and Hardy. Does Butch succeed? We waited until the ending to find out!

We mentioned that this movie was written, filmed, and released in a matter of weeks! In mid-May, 1934, Charley Rogers and Frank Terry met with Stan Laurel and came up with a story based on the then-current John Dillinger manhunt. They called it Public Enemies; the script was reportedly retitled On Their Way Out before it was finally christened Going Bye-Bye!

We also watched for the “Excuse me please, my ear is full of milk” scene, which was just wonderful, and kept our eyes on the bunch of flowers brought by The Boys to Mae Busch – they were never put down, even in the final scene of the film.

Another fun evening filled with laughs was completed; our next Tent film evening will be Saturday evening June 26, 2010 in Clifton as we enjoy some “Slaphappy Sea Salts”. We hope you will share the evening (and lots of laughs) with us then! AND DON’T FORGET TO LET THE GRAND SHIEK KNOW IF YOU WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE JULY 4 PARADE IN NORTHSIDE!

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It’s The Holidays!

The festive Holiday season was celebrated by thirty-seven (37) oh-so lucky attendees to The Chimp Tent’s “It’s The Holidays!” film frolics. This was the 1-year anniversary of The Chimp Tent, and special thanks were doled out to those who contributions to our Tent over this first year enabled us to succeed as we did. Included in the kudos were all 3 Ohio Grand Sheiks (Rick Lindner of the Perfect Day Tent of Columbus, Brad Farrell of the A-Haunting We Will Go Tent of Dayton, and Flip Lauer of the Big Business Tent of Cleveland. Bob Stowell and Ken Runyan in California were thanked for supplying so many wonderful DVDs and information about The Boys, and in our own Tent, Joan Chrislip was thanked for the wonderful keyboard accompaniment she provided for all the silent films screened during the year, Bruce McCollum was mentioned as the biggest Laurel and Hardy fanatic in the Tri-State, and Vice-Sheik Victoria Baumgardner was recognized for her tremendous assistance in ensuring the smooth runnings of the evenings. The event was held in the beautiful and historic (1925) E.T. Carson Masonic Lodge in Clifton, Cincinnati on a cold, but dry and clear, night.

We soon got warmed up by all singing the “Sons of the Desert” theme song together, and although it wasn’t the Vienna Boys Choir it was a most respectable rendition nonetheless! We then went straight into Toyland Premiere (9:02 running time), a Universal Studios cartoon directed by Walter Lantz (later of Woody Woodpecker fame), which was released December 7, 1934. We enjoyed watching Santa muster his toys to thwart the effort of The Boys to get that chocolate cake!

Next we viewed a clip from an episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show (8:39) entitled, “The Sam Pomerantz Scandals”, which first aired on March 6, 1963. Dick Van Dyke and Henry Calvin performed a nice impersonation of Laurel and Hardy, and we noted that Henry Calvin played the Oliver Hardy-ish character in the Walt Disney remake of “Babes in Toyland” that was titled “March of the Wooden Soldiers”, released around 1960 or 1961. Dick Van Dyke was a big fan of Stan Laurel’s, and in fact this wasn’t the first episode to mention Laurel and Hardy we discovered – in a September 26, 1962 episode entitled, “Never Name A Duck”, Dick Van Dyke brought home 2 ducklings that were named “Stanley” and “Oliver”!

Our attention was then directed to the screening of Our Gang’s The Our Gang Follies of 1938 (21:33), which was directed by Gordon Douglas and released on December 18, 1937. We noted that this was a return to the 20-minute short format that had been abandoned previously by Hal Roach in favor of the 10-minute shorts, and marveled at the lavish dream sequence, featuring of course Club Spanky.

The short’s cast included over one hundred children, as nearly all of the parts in the film (even the “adults” in Alfalfa’s dream sequence) were played by kids. The lone exceptions were Henry Brandon’s “Barnaby” character (not named onscreen, but named as such in the script), and the other three adults seen at the Cosmopolitan Opera House. Brandon’s villainous Barnaby character was a reprise from 1934’s “Babes in Toyland”, which we mentioned would be the feature film of the evening. Of interest was the fact that we learned that for the long medium close-up where he gets bombarded with tomatoes, hard cabbage, lettuce, etc. while trying to sing “The Barber of Seville,” Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer was told he would only be hit with soft tomatoes. Of course, when filming started, he found out the opposite, and was hit by hard tomatoes. The anger seen on his face on-screen was not acting! It was speculated that the vegetable toss (which was done by the crew members for this shot, not the kid opera attendees seen in the wide shot) was payback by the crew for having had to endure the pranks, tantrums, and other mischief Alfalfa regularly caused on the Our Gang sets.

We next watched Our Gang wish us all a Happy New Year for 1936, and concluded the first half with a rousing sing-a-long (as we followed the bouncing ball!) of “Jingle Bells”. Again, those in the opera had nothing to fear from our vocal efforts.

The evening concluded with the screening of Laurel and Hardy’s holiday classic, Babes in Toyland (77:26).

Directed by Gus Meins and Charley Rogers and produced by Hal Roach, this delightful film was released on December 14, 1934 by MGM.

We made mention of the difficulties between Hal Roach and Stan Laurel over the screenplay of this film, and noted that it caused the first real signs of cracks in the relationship between Stan and Hal Roach. Apparently Hal Roach never recovered from his bitterness over Babes in Toyland and it was a precursor to contract problems between he and The Boys later in the decade.

Interestingly, the film is most often known today as March of the Wooden Soldiers. This is the name given to the re-issue that took place many years later when the film and its rights were transferred to various film, VHS, and DVD formats. These versions are 9 minutes shorter than the original, but the colorized version we screened included most of the missing footage, including the cave song (“Go To Sleep”) and dream sequence with Bo Peep and Tom-Tom in Bogeyland.

We had a lot of fun noting that the “actor” in the Mickey Mouse costume was really a capuchin monkey (!) and were amazed at the litany of injuries suffered by cast and crew during the filming of the movie, e.g. Stan Laurel fell off a platform and tore ligaments in his right leg, Assistant director Gordon Douglas slid 15 feet from the top of the Old Woman’s Shoe and tore ligaments in his left leg, Henry Brandon was injured in a bar fight, Kewpie Morgan’s part as Old King Cole called for him to laugh continuously – after two days, he ruptured muscles in his stomach, Oliver Hardy had to have his tonsils removed the day after filming wrapped, and Hal Roach developed appendicitis! And yet through all of this, they managed to create a perfectly delightful family film perfect for the Holidays.

And that was that. The next film fun from The Chimp Tent will take place on March 13, 2010 in the Kenwood area of Cincinnati, at the Seasons Retirement Community auditorium; it’s theme will be “The Con Game”, and you can be sure Messers Laurel and Hardy will have plenty of excuses as to why and how they find themselves in the predicaments that our films will describe! We hope that you will join us…and in the meantime, Happy Holidays to everyone.

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