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.

HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE: THE GLAMOUR GIRLS

A glamour girl is one who looks good enough to eat and dresses with taste. –Evan Esar

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In my “preview of coming attractions” post of Oct. 13, the subject of Hollywood glamour girls (in general) and Rita Hayworth (in particular) came up in an exchange of comments. October 17 being Rita’s birthday, it seems the appropriate day to do the appropriate post, focusing not only on Rita, but on several other becoming attractions who fill the bill by becomingly filling their dresses.

My glamour girl choices here are both limited and subjective, due not only to length-of-post considerations, but the implicit broadness of the term, e.g.: is, or is not, glamour girl of a piece with sex goddess? For the arbitrary purposes of this opus, I’ve drawn a distinction between the two by disqualifying actresses considered to be ‘pure’ sex symbols, such as Jayne Mansfield, Jane Russell. and (perhaps unfairly) Marilyn Monroe. They (and European sex symbols like Brigitte Bardot) may “look good enough to eat,” but dressing with taste was hardly their strong suit.

With that model of suitability out of the way, here are the glamour girls I think stand out as epitomizing Hollywood’s Golden Age by virtue of such disparate criteria as a touch of class, sex appeal more than skin deep, talent, and even pin-up popularity with WWII GIs.

Let’s start with the birthday girl, Rita Hayworth, who said “I like having my picture taken and being a glamorous person. I never really thought of myself as a sex goddess.”:

https://www.thevintagenews.com/2018/10/31/rita-hayworth/

My next choice is the actress called the most beautiful woman in the world in her day:

Next, the actress called the last major star to come out of the Hollywood studio system:

With apologies to the likes of Veronica Lake, Lana Turner, and Betty Grable, I will close with this glamorous actress who, but for the overriding racism of the period, could and should have been a major Hollywood star (seen here in a scene with Eddie “Rochester” Anderson and Ethel Waters from CABIN IN THE SKY (1943):

 

CHAN SONG D’AMOUR

It occurs to me that the subject of my last post, Charlie Chan, may be a mystery to those of you to whom such things are a mystery (things such as antique detective stories). Charlie Chan is a fictional Chinese detective (created by Earl Derr Biggers in a 1925 novel), played in movies by various actors, most famously and memorably by Warner Oland (16 films) from 1931 to 1937 and Sidney Toler (22 films) from 1937 to 1947.

I loved those movies when I was young and still enjoy watching the better ones now and then. As for the title of this post, it’s a play on the closest song title I could come up with to express that affection:

That title (being French) leads seamlessly — or should I say shamelessly — to this clip from Charlie Chan In Paris (1935):

1935 was also the year the Marx Brothers made A Night At The Opera, which has nothing to do with Charlie Chan, but serves to lead us equally shamelessly to Charlie Chan At The Opera (1936), one of the best films in the series. This movie also starred Boris Karloff and featured a “mock opera” composed by Oscar Levant, the pianist, actor and wit who was a close friend of George Gershwin. Here is the entire film:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeV5YBDs2tc

Of course, no Charlie Chan piece would be complete without citing some of his famous aphorisms:

Owner of face cannot always see nose.

Bad alibi like dead fish — cannot stand test of time.

Detective without curiousity is like glass eye at keyhole — no use.

Grain of sand in eye may hide mountain.

It takes very rainy day to drown duck.

Smart rat know when to leave sinking ship.

Bye now.