HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE: WHAT A CHARACTER (ACTOR)!

“Nobody needs a mink coat but the mink.” –S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, character actor (Feb. 2, 1883-Feb. 12, 1955)

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There have been so many great male character actors in Hollywood Golden Age history that, for this post, I’m going to narrow the field to comedic character actors….and even then, I’ll probably leave out some of your favorites. Of course, if you don’t have any old comedy film favorites, you’re probably not an old comedy film fan, so you’re excused (even though that’s no excuse….actually, you should be ashamed of yourself).

Leaving that aside, let’s move on, starting with the author of the above quote….a quote which probably didn’t go over too well with most of the Hollywood glamour girls he knew — speaking of which, did you know that Sakall was born in, and is strictly from, Hungary (btw, he was also in Casablanca). Here’s more scuttlebutt about Cuddles but…it’s not a lot:

Next, Laurel & Hardy fans will remember the trademark ‘double-take’ look of this gent, who appeared in many of their films, including here in one of their best, WAY OUT WEST:

Remember double features (two films for the price of one in movie houses of the 1930s-50s)? Here’s a double feature of two great comedic actors for the price of one in a scene from SHALL WE DANCE, one of three Astaire-Rogers movies in which they appeared together:

If you’re a fan of Charlie Chan movies, you may recall the pop-eyed comic who played Chan’s chauffeur in over a dozen films, as well as parts in Preston Sturges’ THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942), CABIN IN THE SKY (1943), CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK (1944), and many others. Here he is in a scene from THE SCARLET CLUE (1945):

In closing, I’ll mention several other great comedic character actors I could’ve/should’ve profiled here, but I have to stop somewhere: William Demarest, Edgar Kennedy, Frank Morgan, Franklin Pangborn, Erik Rhodes, Victor Moore, and many more. Thank you, one and all, for bringing character to comedy.

FOR YOU, MORE HUMOR

N’yuk-n’yuk-n’yuk! –Curly Howard, The Three Stooges

April being NATIONAL HUMOR MONTH, I thought I’d humor you with humor-us woids of wisdom from some of my favorite humor-ists. I’d have begun with a self-sample, but thought it best to start on a higher plane — and who in comedic history soared higher than Curly when it comes to debonair comedy? So it is written that I must take second place in my own post (third, if you count comedienne Joan Rivers’ intro to my poem):

THE DIVINE COMEDY CLUB

Humor is God’s gift to all of us.
–Joan Rivers

Thank God for funny
because seriously
we could be
dying out there.

Being a comedian is a lonely occupation; you stand on the stage talking to yourself, being overheard by audiences. –Fred Allen

Humor is merely tragedy standing on its head with its pants torn. –Irvin S. Cobb

Humor is just another defense against the universe. –Mel Brooks

When humor works, it works because it’s clarifying what people already feel. It has to come from someplace real. –Tina Fey

Humor is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue. –Virginia Woolf

Start every day off with a smile and get it over with. –W. C. Fields

The secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow; there is no humor in Heaven. –Mark Twain

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is. –Francis Bacon

I don’t want to run for office; there’s already too many comedians in Washington. –Will Rogers

Without a sense of humor, I don’t know how people make it. –Marlo Thomas

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We close on an upbeat note from this laughing-at-life jazz great whose birthday is April 7:

 

HUMOR INCORPORATED

Humor must both teach and preach if it would live forever; by forever, I mean 30 years.
–Mark Twain

If Webster’s definition of humor as the “quality of imagination quick to perceive the ludicrous or express itself in an amusing way” is on the mark, Twain underestimated the staying power of his humor by nigh onto 100 years (and counting). But “staying” is just one of humor’s possible powers, and because (as Lord Acton famously observed) power tends to corrupt, humor cannot absolutely avoid Acton’s axiom.

My musing on this subject is occasioned by April being National Humor Month — so proclaimed in 1976 by Larry Wilde, Founder/Director of The Carmel Institute of Humor: http://www.larrywilde.com/

As you might expect, The Carmel Institute of Humor is not without serious competition. A similar entity I’ve come across is The Humor Project, Inc., founded by Joel Goodman in 1977 “as the first organization in the world to focus full-time on the positive power of humor” — a claim that suggests a merger of Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” with funny business. And, from such appealing funny businesses as Goodman’s, have big businesses grown (judging by their “power” promotions): https://www.humorproject.com/

Now, far be it from me to regard the corporatizing of humor as a phony business — hey, there are worse things to make of humor than a commodity, and worse ways to earn a buck than to commercialize the process. But, purist that I am, I see making humor in the same light as making love: much to be preferred on a human level than as an industry (the virtues of consumer capitalism notwithstanding). Nonetheless, I’m not so doctrinaire as to deny either humor or sex to potential customers when free(?) enterprise comes a-courting.

Unlike Larry Wilde and Joel Goodman, mistermuse does not have a Speaker’s Bureau, a three-day Annual Conference (discounted fee for early registration), a five-point humor program, seminars or workshops. But mistermuse does offer an every-five-days discourse on subjects of interest (his, if not yours) — usually with tongue in cheek, and never with hat in hand. Dis course today concludes with ten humorous quotes, which come with a funny-back guarantee if he doesn’t think they’re priceless:

Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.Oscar Wilde (not to be confused with Larry – or Curly or Moe, for that matter)
Conference: a meeting held to decide when the next meeting will take place. –Evan Esar
You can’t study comedy; it’s within you. –Don Rickles (the Donald Trump of insult-comics)
Start every day off with a smile and get it over with. –W.C. Fields
Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else. –Will Rogers
Culture is roughly anything we do and monkeys don’t. –Lord Raglan
In politics, an absurdity is not a handicap. –Napoleon Bonesapart (I’ve been waiting a long time for the opportunity to butcher that name)
Politicians do more funny things naturally than I can think of doing purposely. –Will Rogers
Humor is just another defense against the universe. –Mel Brooks
Wit – the salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out. –Ambrose Bierce

Over, and out.

 

THE MOE, THE MERRIER

 Moe: What’s yer watch say? Shemp: Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. (FRIGHT NIGHT, 1947)

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When I found that Moe Howard, of THREE STOOGES fame, died on this day (in 1975), I thought of writing a post celebrating their timeless brand of sophisticated humor — nyuk nyuk nyuk.

Of course, when you think of role models for how siblings (Moe, Curly & Shemp were brothers) — or how people in general, for that matter — should respect and treat one another, no one set a higher standard than The Three Stooges — nyuk nyuk nyuk.

Like most guys — and possibly a few gals — I loved The Three Stooges when I was young. Still do, as a matter of fact, but on a more selective basis. For example, I looked at four or five of their short films to find one I thought came close to meeting my high standards and those of my exceedingly discriminating audience — nyuk nyuk nyuk:

So, nyuknuckleheads, that concludes my film presentation….but you say you want Moe? Soitenly! Nyuk nyuk nyuk. There’s lots Moe quotes (and Curly and Shemp quotes, not to mention Larry Fine quotes) where that opening quote came from. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

Burnt toast and a rotten egg? Whatta ya want that for?
I got a tapeworm and that’s good enough for him.
Moe and Curly, PUNCH DRUNKS, 1934

Why don’t I come up and see you sometime when you’re in the nude…I mean mood.
-Shemp, ART TROUBLE, 1934

What’s that for? I didn’t do nothin’!
That’s in case you do and I’m not around.
-Moe and Larry, HOI POLLOI, 1935

Soitenly I’m sound asleep.
Then why are you talkin’?
I’m talkin’ in my sleep!
-Curly and Moe, MOVIE MANIACS, 1936

Are you sure this work will be in competent hands?
Soitenly, we’re all incompetent!
-Mr. Morgan and Curly, SLIPPERY SILKS, 1936

You mean I’m um-day in pig language?
You’re um-day in any language.
-Curly and Moe, TASSELS IN THE AIR, 1938

Oh boy! I can see it now — I come home from a hard day’s work….I whistle for the dog….and my wife comes out.
-Curly, YES, WE HAVE NO BONANZA, 1939

Why don’t you get a toupee with some brains in it?
-Moe to Curly, THREE SAPPY PEOPLE, 1939

Good morning, sir — I’m the census taker. Are you married or happy?
-Moe, NO CENSUS, NO FEELING, 1940

Them’s fightin’ words in my country!
Well then, let’s fight.
We ain’t in my country.
-Shemp and Icabod Slipp, HOLD THAT LION!, 1947

You know fish is great brain food.
You know you should fish for a whale.
-Larry and Moe, PARDON MY CLUTCH, 1948

Whale, I think I’ll quit now, because I resemble that remark.

WITH RESPECT TO RODNEY

Rodney “I get no respect” Dangerfield died on this day (Oct. 5) in 2004. Now that’s a comedian I can relate to, the more the years pile on me. As the English novelist and playwright J. B. Priestley once said, “There was no respect for youth when I was young, and now that I am old, there is no respect for age — I missed it coming and going.”

Well, better “late” than never, Rodney. I respect you, and I can think of no better way to show it than with these Dangerfield dandies:

Some dog I got. We call him Egypt. In every room he leaves a pyramid.

My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you’re ugly too.

I’m taking Viagra and drinking prune juice — I don’t know if I’m coming or going.

When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.

I could tell my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.

I had so many pimples as a kid, one day I fell asleep at the library and when I woke up, a blind man was reading my face.

I haven’t spoken to my wife in years. I didn’t want to interrupt her.

I close with this (click the following): Rodney’s classic stand-up comedy routines.