Tagged: Laurel and Hardy Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • mistermuse 12:00 am on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Borscht Belt, , Carl Reiner, , , Dancing In The Dark, , Howard Dietz, , Imogene Coca, Isaac Newton, Laurel and Hardy, , , Sid Caesar, television, , , Your Show of Shows   

    A LAUGH AND A SONG AND DANCE 

    If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. –Sir Isaac Newton

    Comedian Sid Caesar, in his autobiography, CAESAR’S HOURS, quotes the above and adds, “I too stand on the shoulders of giants. Nobody does anything alone.”

    To me, to call Sid Caesar (born 9/8/22) a comedian is akin to calling Newton a physicist — accurate, yes, but hardly adequate. In a down-to-earth way, I might even say that what Newton was to gravity in the 1680s, Caesar was to levity in the 1950s. The bottom line is, I was in my teens then (the 1950s, not the 1680s), and still reasonably sentient at the time; thus I can bear witness to the comic genius that I, as a geezer, still see in Caesar.

    And just who were those giants on whose shoulders Caesar stood? He tells us in his book: “I always wanted to be Charlie Chaplin. He was one of my earliest comedic heroes, along with Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and W.C. Fields. Most of their comedy came from their character. They each believed in what they did, and I believed them.”

    Caesar was an up-and-coming comic performing mainly in the so-called Borscht Belt in New York’s Catskill Mountains when this opportunity arose in the infancy of network TV:

    It was called YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, and what an innovative show it was. It premiered live on 2/25/50 with writers like Mel Brooks, Max Liebman (who also produced) and (later) Woody Allen. Said Caesar: “For nine years, I presided over what was arguably the best collection of comedy writers ever assembled in the history of television, and possibly in the history of the written word — unless you think the U.S. Constitution is funny.”

    Add co-stars Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris, and the show was both a commercial and artistic success from Hour One. Here, they show you why:

    Again quoting Caesar: “Until that time, the only big things on television were bowling, wrestling and Charlie Chan. [Max Liebman] wasn’t interested in the American public’s lowest common denominator. He wasn’t going to dumb down. His goal was that the quality of the show would drive its popularity and ultimately elevate taste.”

    As Charlie Chan might say: Noble goal like chasing rainbow — beautiful while it lasts.

    • * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Originally, I came to this post with the idea of making it a birthday (9/8/1896) tribute to Howard Dietz, one of my favorite lyricists, whose autobiography (titled DANCING IN THE DARK) I also commend. Then I learned that Sept. 8 is the birthday of Sid Caesar as well as Howard Dietz, and I thought I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN.

    Hold on — it wouldn’t be right not to dance with the dude what brung me, so rather than ditch Dietz, I’ll sing his praises here too….starting with his first big hit (above), then an excerpt from early in the book, closing with a realization of the song which titles his story.

    The following is quoted from the book’s forward by Alan Jay Lerner: As for that quality of life known as charm, I can only shrug sadly and chalk it up as another victim of that creeping nastiness called modern civilization. I think about the man whose reminiscences are contained in this book. They come to mind because of that special gift of charm that is so characteristic of his lyrics. Howard [Dietz]  is the Fred Astaire, the Chevalier, the Molnar, the Lubitsch of lyric writers.

    Dancing in the dark
    Till the tune ends
    We’re dancing in the dark
    And it soon ends
    We’re waltzing in the wonder
    Of why we’re here
    Time hurries by we’re here
    And gone

     
    • scifihammy 2:41 am on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t know Sid Caesar too well but I have seen that hilarious clock clip. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Ricardo 9:44 am on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Your talent for bringing back things I barely remember from childhood continues unabated, Sr. Muse. My dad was a big fan of “Show of Shows.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 4:31 pm on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        I can still remember seeing that Bavarian Clock piece when they first did it in the early 1950s. It made such an impression on me that I still think it ranks as one of the most original and funniest skits ever done on TV….especially when you consider how ‘primitive’ television was back then.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Jay 12:17 pm on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Hardly adequate: you’ve got that right.

      Liked by 2 people

    • mistermuse 4:39 pm on September 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      That makes it absolutely certain, because two rights can’t make a wrong. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

    • linnetmoss 8:40 am on September 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      I was a little too young for that show and then it didn’t get syndicated, or at least we didn’t see it where I lived. I only heard about Sid Caesar later, but of course I knew of Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. Speaking of Mel Brooks, I just watched “Young Frankenstein” last night and could not stop laughing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 10:19 am on September 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        In his autobiography, Sid Caesar has some very interesting and funny things to say about Mel Brooks when Brooks was a 20-something year old CHARACTER (that’s character with a capital CHARACTER) working for YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS. I have a feeling you would enjoy the autobio (CAESAR’S HOURS) tremendously if you have time to read it (Amazon has it in both hardcover and paperback).

        Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Scheel 10:05 pm on September 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Muse,

      Wow! That takes me back all right. You’ve got a great talent for bringing back the blast from the past! Thanks for the memories.

      Mark

      Liked by 2 people

    • Don Frankel 5:17 pm on September 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Muse most people are familiar with Sinatra’s upbeat version of Dancing in the Dark but he also sang it like this from time to time a little slower and more poignant.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 10:40 pm on September 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Don — I hadn’t heard this version before, and must say I prefer it to the upbeat version. I usually prefer Frank’s older & more mature voice, but in this case, I think he’s more in tune with the way the song should be sung and no doubt the way the songwriters (Dietz and Arthur Schwartz) envisioned it.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Jadi Campbell 3:02 am on September 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for a grreat post! I had the incredible good luck to see Sid Cesar and Imogene Coca together on stage. They did a piece without any words and it was amazing. I knew I was watching legends at the height of their gifts. Still shake my head at the memory, all these years later.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 7:31 am on September 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        That was indeed incredible good luck, Jadi — and it was an incredible pleasure to do this post, bringing back such recollections as the “Bavarian Clock” sketch which I hadn’t seen in decades.

        Thank you for sharing your memories.

        Liked by 1 person

    • restlessjo 4:38 am on September 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      LOVE a song and dance man 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 9:28 am on September 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        Song and dance men don’t come any better than Fred Astaire!
        I especially love the DANCING IN THE DARK dance with Cyd Charisse — so sensual, so effortless, so perfect.

        Liked by 1 person

    • moorezart 11:43 am on September 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Reblogged this on From 1 Blogger 2 Another.

      Liked by 2 people

  • mistermuse 12:00 am on April 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Billy Gilbert, , , , Grady Sutton, Hattie McDaniel, , , Laurel and Hardy, , , , , ,   

    A PAST OF CHARACTERS 

    For some time, I’ve had it in the back of my mind to do a post on one-of-a-kind character actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age, most of them long forgotten except to old film buffs like myself. There are familiar exceptions, of course — non-starring actors who appeared in classic films which continue to be shown today, such as Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West in THE WIZARD OF OZ) and Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet (Ugarte/Joel Cairo and the fat man, respectively, in CASABLANCA and THE MALTESE FALCON). But today I want to focus on the rule, not the well-remembered exceptions.

    It was while researching April 5th birthdays for notables born on this date (and finding the likes of Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis and Gregory Peck) that I saw among them a long forgotten character actor whose name (Grady Sutton, born 4/5/1906) rang a bell….so I decided to do such a post today and include him among those I pay tribute to. To make it a bit (player) more interesting, I’ll list six names, followed by clips (not in the same order) of scenes in which they separately appear. Can you spot one of the six in each clip?

    1. Eric Blore
    2. Margaret Dumont
    3. James Finlayson
    4. Billy Gilbert
    5. Hattie McDaniel
    6. Grady Sutton

    a. 

    b.

    c.

    d.

    e.

    f.

    How many could you identify? Hint: the names match the clips in reverse order; e.g.,
    1. Eric Blore is the British valet being “summoned” in “f.” For more on Blore, click here:
    Eric Blore: What a Character!

    2. Margaret Dumont (clip “e”) should pose no recognition problem for Marx Brothers fans. For those who aren’t Marxists, mark this: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0241669/bio

    3. James Finlayson (clip “d”) should pose no recognition problem for Laurel & Hardy fans. When you can’t imagine any other actor in his L & H roles, you know he was truly unique: http://www.wayoutwest.org/finlayson/

    4. Billy Gilbert is the man (Pettibone) in the middle in this clip (“c”) from HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940). Like Finlayson and Dumont, another one-of-a-kinder: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0317970/

    5. Hattie McDaniel (clip “b”) plays Aunt Tempy and sings “Sooner or Later” opposite James Baskett (as Uncle Remus) in this scene from Walt Disney’s SONG OF THE SOUTH (1946). Best known role: Mammy, in GONE WITH THE WIND (1939): http://www.biography.com/people/hattie-mcdaniel-38433

    6. Grady Sutton (clip “a”) plays new assistant (Chester) to W.C. Fields in this scene from YOU CAN’T CHEAT AN HONEST MAN (1939). He was also a Fields foil in MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE (1935) and THE BANK DICK (1940).

    Yes, my friends, there were great character actors in the land of make-believe in those days. If some were but “bit” players, they made their small parts singularly indispensable. We shall not see their like again.

     
    • Don Frankel 7:39 am on April 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      You know I was thinking Hattie McDaniel is well known. I mean she has an Academy Award and she had her own TV show… and then I realized, no I’m just old enough to remember. But these are those great actors that would pop up in all those old movies and they were very believable in all their roles.

      There’s another actor in the Billy Gilbert clip and wasn’t he the Judge in Miracle on 34th Street?

      Like

      • mistermuse 9:43 am on April 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Don, you’re right about the Judge in Miracle on 34th Street being the same actor (Gene Lockhart) as the sheriff (the man with no hat) in the Billy Gilbert clip. Lockhart appeared in many films and was interesting in his own right, but Gilbert and the other guy in that clip (Clarence Kolb) steal the scene. Their fast-paced exchange, especially in the last 20 seconds or so of the clip, is hilarious.

        Like

    • arekhill1 9:22 am on April 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I’ll just take my “F,” please.

      Like

      • mistermuse 10:00 am on April 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        In my classroom, you get an “A” just for showing up (or, if you prefer, an “a” for “arekhill1”). You also deserve an “A” for Attendance (as in perfect attendance).

        Like

    • Mél@nie 1:53 am on April 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      wonderful and emotional tribute to those non-starring actors of several classic films(“films-culte in French!) – we call them “personnages secondaires”(secondary roles)… they play small parts, but most of the times they’re great actors who have contributed to the success of the film…

      • * *

      I’ve seen all these movies, but I must have watched “Casablanca” 4-5 times, and I’ve never been tired of it!!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 9:12 am on April 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        For those of us who either grew up with, or later came to appreciate, those old movies and the essential part the non-starring actors played in them, we know the part they have played in making our lives richer. Vive le Casablanca and all the rest! 🙂

        Like

    • linnetmoss 6:36 am on April 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I love Erik Blore, whom I know from the Astaire-Rogers films. Another brilliant comic actor along these lines is Erik Rhodes (“Your wife is safe with Tonetti! He prefer spaghetti!”)

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 9:21 am on April 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Coincidentally, I was going to include Erik Rhodes in my “cast of characters,” but decided to limit the number to six in order to keep the post to a reasonable (however arbitrary that may be) length. Rhodes was absolutely wonderful in that role, and I well remember the lines you quote!

      Like

    • RMW 11:33 pm on April 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      “Character” actors make a very good living without all the hassles of being “stars.” If I had another life to live that is one of the careers I think would be very satisfying to me. Would not want to be a “star” for any amount of money.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 7:41 am on April 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        I agree. A few of the stars in the old days (like Greta Garbo) sought to be virtual recluses outside the studios, but I’m sure even trying to avoid the spotlight was a hassle.

        Liked by 1 person

  • mistermuse 6:45 pm on April 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Damon Runyon, , humorists, , Laurel and Hardy, , , , Toulouse-Lautrec   

    WHAT’S SO FUNNY? 

    Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke, the leading 19th century Prussian strategist, was said to have laughed only twice: once when told that a certain French fortress was impregnable, and once when his mother-in-law died. -Paul Johnson, historian/author

    April is NATIONAL HUMOR MONTH. Why? April may have this privilege over other months because it begins with April Fools Day and ends with National Honesty Day — but to be honest, I’m just speculating. A more interesting question is raised by this post’s title….or, as W. C. Fields put it, We know what makes people laugh. We do not know why they laugh.

    But we do know that what some people find funny, others don’t. A joke that cracks you up, I may not get. Something I consider juvenile may strike you as hilarious. Paul Johnson takes a stab at this in his book HUMORISTS FROM HOGARTH TO NOEL COWARD, in which he relates journalist/writer Arthur Koestler’s example of “the very primitive Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert of South Africa. What really makes them roar is when a springbok, fatally wounded by a bullet, continues to jump and kick in its death agony.”

    What is the difference between our reaction to the Prussian’s reaction to the death of his mother-in-law, and to the Bushmen’s reaction to the death throes of the springbok? Apples and oranges? That comparison will have to do….at least, until someone pays me for the fruits of my labor. Meanwhile, for those who might contemplate the purchase of Paul Johnson’s HUMORISTS, here is a list of A-list humorists covered in his book:

    Hogarth, Dr. Johnson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Rowlandson, Dickens, Toulouse-Lautrec, G. K. Chesterton, Damon Runyon, W. C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers, James Thurber, Nancy Mitford and Noel Coward.

    An interesting cast of characters, no doubt, though in a few cases, such as the second name mentioned, “it stretches [quoting Paul Johnson himself] credulity to write of Dr. Samuel Johnson as a comic.” What seems to me even more curious, however, is the non-inclusion of the likes of Mark Twain, whose omission I will make a feeble attempt to mitigate by giving him the last word here (which was also the closing quote of my April 16 post):

    Well, humor is the great thing, the saving thing, after all.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    • arekhill1 9:32 am on April 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Every month should be National Humor Month, unless every other month was International Humor Month instead. Or World Humor Month. Or Planetary Humor Month. Whether you call attention to the humor in the month or not, it’s always there.

      Like

    • mistermuse 10:34 am on April 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      If only the religious fanatics and extremists of the world believed humor is always there.

      Like

c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel