"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini
Jan 182015


SINNERS’ HOLIDAY (1930) Two of the Golden Age’s greatest performers, James Cagney and Joan Blondell, were brought to Burbank to recreate their co-starring roles from the Broadway smash “Penny Arcade”. Now dubbed Sinners’ Holiday, Grant Withers and Evalyn Knapp topline in this tale of love and death among the barkers and ballyhoos along the seaside boardwalk. Ma Delano (Lucille La Verne) runs her family’s arcade with an iron fist, but youngest lad Harry is her Achille’s heel. As freewheeling Harry falls under the sway of bad gal Myrtle (Blondell) and mob guy Mitch McKane (Warren Hymer), Ma’s good gal daughter Jennie (Knapp) and her beau (Withers) get caught in the middle of a collision of booze, betrayal and murder. Cagney arrives on film as fully formed a performer as the medium would see, while Blondell can’t help but captivate. Directed by John G. Adolfi.

RKO: Music & Comedy

NEW FACES OF 1937 (1937) Well before Bloom and Bialystock, Robert Hunt (Jerome Cowan) and Wallington Wedge (Milton Berle) hatched a hare-brained to scheme to craft a hit by staging a flop and selling 85% shares of the musical revue “New Faces” to multiple backers. After impresario Hunt comes down with a bad case of the skip towns, Wally Wedge is left careening between the options of staging a hit or a miss. Berle, making his feature debut as an adult, is a delight, and the cast is well salted with talented faces including Ann Miller, Harriet Hilliard (better known as Harriet Nelson), Parkyakarkus (Harry Einstein) and Joe Penner. Directed by Leigh Jason, with a script contribution from Philip G. Epstein.

RKO DOUBLE FEATURE: OLD MAN RHYTHM/TO BEAT THE BAND (1935) Already on his way to becoming a luminous legend in the annals of the Great American Songbook, song and wordsmith supreme Johnny Mercer (“Hooray for Hollywood”, “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby”, “Fools Rush In”, “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)”, “Satin Doll”, “Moon River”, “When October Goes” to name a tiny fraction) took a brief detour as a contract player for RKO. Lending his talents to their B-unit musicals, what may have been forgotten becomes rarity worthy of rediscovery. Double feature includes:

  • OLD MAN RHYTHM (1935) When millionaire toy magnate John Roberts (George Barbier) discovers heir apparent college boy Johnny Roberts, Jr. (Buddy Rogers) is in danger of going astray with glam girl Sylvia (Betty Grable) he decides its time he went Back to School. With Barbara Kent, Donald Meek, and Erick Blore. Directed by Edward Ludwig, cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca.
  • TO BEAT THE BAND (1935) A borrowed from Warner Bros. Hugh Herbert stars in this tale of hapless Hugo Twist who stands to inherit a fortune from his wealthy aunt (Hugh Herbert) provided he marry a widow within three days. If not, the $59 million goes to his aunt’s favorite performers, Fred Carson (Fred Keating) and his band (including Johnny Mercer). It’s a good thing Hugo has a suicidal pal willing to marry his gal (Phyllis Brooks). Also Starring Helen Broderick. Directed by Ben Stoloff.

THE RKO BROWN & CARNEY COMEDY COLLECTION (1943-44,1946) Decades before dumb got doubled down with Harry and Lloyd, RKO paired up vaudeville vets Wally Brown and Alan Carney for a series of side-splitters as successors-of-sorts to Wheeler and Woolsey. Usually appearing as the characters “Jerry Miles”(Brown) and “Mike Strager” (Carney), the films’ loose continuity is buoyed by their consistency in comedic characterization. Unlike most comedy two-somes, Brown and Carney eschew straight man/foil for foil/foil as the two gents appear to be in constant competition for the bottom of the IQ barrel. Collection includes:

  • THE ADVENTURES OF A ROOKIE (1943) In their first comic outing, Brown and Carney star as two soldiers who are quarantined in a “women only” boarding house when the cook contracts scarlet fever.
  • ROOKIES IN BURMA (1943) Escaping from an enemy prison camp, GIs Miles and Strager are joined by two showgirls in a mad race to the American lines.
  • GIRL RUSH (1944) Showmen Miles and Strager strike it rich when they promise to bring an all-female revue to a gold-mining town starving for women. Robert Mitchum costars as a two-fisted cowpoke (in drag!).
  • GENIUS AT WORK (1946) Radio detectives Miles and Strager attempt to catch a master criminal (Lionel Atwill) and his sadistic henchman (Bela Lugosi) in Brown and Carney’s final big-screen pairing.

Widescreen Rarities

ALL NEAT IN BLACK STOCKINGS (1969) This unusual hybrid starring Victor Henry and Susan George mashes up “swinging London sex farce”, New Wave and Kitchen Sink Drama for an intriguing portrait of a society in transition and a culture adrift. The sexual revolution has come up roses for working class window washer “Ginger” (Henry) and his best mate Dwyer (Jack Shepherd) as they divvy up the spoils between them in the spirit of share and share alike. But when Ginger meets a nice girl (George) the spoils take on a different meaning. Farce and drama collide for a formula that leaves us with a film portrait as bleak and as human as they come.

PANIC BUTTON (1963) When the taxman comes calling, high flying biz exec Frank Pagano (Mike Connors) is in danger of his jet-setting getting grounded, so he cooks up the perfect scheme: produce a film flop (wait a minute…). Pagano sets out to deliberately make an atrocious TV pilot based on the Bard’s Romeo and Juliet, and miscasts a has-been (Maurice Chevalier) and a vamp (Jayne Mansfield) under the direction of a pretentious dolt (Akim Tamiroff). But the machinations go awry when the has-been’s ex (Eleanor Parker) gets involved… Directed by George Sherman.

KILL OR CURE (1962) George Pollock, director of the beloved Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple films, turns the whodunnit on his head in this mystery parody starring UK comedy superstar Terry-Thomas. When slightly seedy but pretentious photog/P.I. Captain J. (Jeroboam) Barker-Rynde is summoned to an exclusive health resort by a wealthy widow, he arrives undercover in time for her to show up dead and her secretary (Moira Redmond) poisoned. Unfortunately for the good men of Scotland Yard, Barker-Rynde decides to take the case…

RATBOY (1986) Sondra Locke directs this surreal satire on the role of celebrity in the modern media that is as prescient as it is poignant. Unemployed window dresser Nikki Morrison (Locke) meets a rat-faced boy (S.L. Baird) and decides that his stardom is her destiny. But Ratboy may have other ideas… Also starring Robert Townsend and Louis Andserson.

Antics, Animated

DUMB AND DUMBER: THE ANIMATED SERIES (1995-96) The mind-blowing adventures of America’s favorite morons take a surreal turn in this cartoon spin-off of the smash success comedy. Harry and Lloyd are brought to vocal life by Bill Fagerbakke (Coach, Spongebob Squarepants) and Matt Frewer (Max Headroom, Gargoyles). With Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants, Futurama) lending an assorted character assist and the film’s co-writer Bennett Yellin overseeing the action, Dumb and Dumber fans are in store for some seriously stupid fun. The series begins  with the duo rescuing their dognapped van, Otto, picking up a strange pet, Kitty (a purple beaver) before hitting the road to ridiculousness. No circumstance is too strange for this show’s satire, from the mundanities of physical fitness and test piloting to the insanities of robot mailmen and speeding taco-mobiles rigged with stink bombs! Two-disc, 13-Episode complete series collection.

NOTE: These DVDs are Manufactured on Demand (MOD); to order, fans must visit The Warner Archive Collection, WB Shop.com, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 Posted by on January 18, 2015  Add comments

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