Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Awkward Early Talkie Theatre: "The Unholy Three"

Once upon a time, in a pet shop in a very snowy city around 1930, lived three old friends -- a ventriloquist disguised as an old lady (Lon Chaney), a surly midget disguised as a baby (Harry Earles), and a strongman disguised as, um, a big guy in a suit (Ivan Linov).

They called themselves "The Unholy Three" because they had run away from the circus, where they had done bad things to people, including pocketing watches and lifting wallets. They thought the pet shop would be a perfect place to hide, and no one ever got suspicious, even though they kept a giant ape in the back room.

The ventriloquist talked like an old lady, and also supplied the "voices" for the exotic birds she sold. The midget didn't talk much, which is just as well, because he had a heavy accent and everything he said sounded like "Vith ah shirty doo open peasants." The strongman said very little, but was always giving dirty looks to the ape. 


Living with the three disguised people was a woman who didn't need any disguise at all. Her name was Rosie (Lila Lee), and she was also from the circus, and she had also stolen things. She acted like her heart was as cold as the snow on the sidewalk, but it was actually melting thanks to Hector (Elliott Nugent), the only person in the store who was not a thief. (Technically, the ape also was not a thief, but he was not on the payroll.)

Hector: It's wonderful the way your grandma can make those birds talk.

Rosie: Hector, she could make Coolidge talk.


The old lady sold many exotic birds to wealthy customers. When the customers took the birds home and found they wouldn't talk, they called the old lady, who again "talked" for them while she/he was casing the joint for a robbery. Then he/she would return to the shop and the unholy three would have a conference:

Old Lady: Listen up, you mugs -- this is a perfect setup.

Strongman: That ape is looking at me.

Midget: Vith ah shirty doo open peasants.

Soon it is Christmas day -- Rosie and Hector have put up a tree, the old lady is knitting and the midget is in baby clothes, smoking a cigar. The newspapers tell of a robbery and murder the night before -- at the very same house where the old lady had been the day before to see a man about a bird!

The police get suspicious, so the unholy three plus two (Rosie and the ape) take it on the lam. They end up in a mountain cabin, and the ape is angry because he wanted to go to the seaside.


Meanwhile, Hector has been framed for the jewel robbery and murder, and is on trial for his very life!

Will Rosie escape? Will the ape get to tangle with his sworn enemy, the strongman? Will the surly midget learn to speak clearly? (No, yes and yes, not in that order.)

Here are the full cast and credits for "The Unholy Three," which incidentally was Lon Chaney's only talking picture.


Monday, July 30, 2012

"Bombshell," or Harlow Can You Go?

We know what -- and who -- "Bombshell" (1933) is about from the get-go:


Burns is the name, Lola Burns, and any resemblance to Jean Harlow is purely intentional. She's platinum blonde, she's an international sex symbol and she's the star of "Red Dust." She lives in a gorgeous Hollywood mansion along with her sponging father and brother (Frank Morgan and Ted Healy), a wisecracking maid (Louise Beavers) and faithful assistant (Una Merkel).

At the studio, Burns is hounded by a persistent stalker and by fast-talking, fast-thinking studio publicity man "Space" Hanlon, played by Lee "Aw, sugar, you got me all wrong" Tracy:


"Bombshell" moves as fast as Tracy talks. At any given moment in any given frame of this movie, someone is leaving, coming in or passing by. The dialogue is just as fast and funny, as when Space is justifying what he's done for Lola:

"I've seen to it that Lola Burns is a family slogan from Kokomo, Indiana to the Khyber Pass! Strong man take one look at your picture and go home and kiss their wives for the first time in ten years! You're an international tonic! You're a boon to re-population in a world thinned out by war and famine!"

There's also great dialogue involving Beavers as Harlow's maid. In one scene she tells Harlow that the negligee Harlow gave her was "torn." "Your day off is sure brutal on your lingerie," Harlow says. And when Merkel, as Harlow's assistant, tries to bully Beavers, she responds, "Don't scald me with your steam, woman. I know where the bodies are buried!"       

"Bombshell" also has great footage of the real-life MGM lot and surrounding buildings -- how many liaisons, you wonder, began at Ryan's Cafe just outside the studio gate? And it has a healthy sense of humor about Hollywood, spoofing fan magazines, gigolos with phony royal titles and stars adopting babies because it makes good copy. When Burns expresses an interest in adopting, Space stops her short -- "You think I want my bombshell turned into a rubber nipple?"

The movie ends with a "His Girl Friday"-style twist -- Burns runs away from the studio to a dude ranch and starts to worry if the studio really misses her. She also falls for a rich young man (Franchot Tone) who seems perfect -- too perfect.  

As much as "Bombshell" lampoons the studio system, however, it's interesting that two of the male leads -- Tracy and Healy -- would go on to violate system rules and end up in big trouble. In 1934, MGM suspended Tracy for his drunken hi-jinks on the Mexican set of "Viva Villa," and his career was never the same. And Healy died in 1937 under suspicious circumstances -- at least one book contends that he was beaten to death by a group including MGM star Wallace Beery, and that MGM sent Beery out of the country until the hubbub died down.

You can find complete credits for "Bombshell" here.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Heroes for Sale," or Happy Days Aren't Exactly Here Yet

Richard Barthelmess had a face suited to sadness, and as the hero of "Heroes for Sale" (1933), it fits his character perfectly. He's Tom Holmes, a World War I veteran who faces prison, poverty, death, drugs and depression. He ends the movie with his ethics intact, but not much else.

But although "Heroes for Sale" is downbeat, it's also a textbook example of couching social commentary in a well-made, fast-moving story, enhanced by a supporting cast of pros including Aline MacMahon, Robert Barrat and Loretta Young.

We first meet Tom during wartime. He and Roger Winston (pasty-faced Gordon Westcott), who happen to be from the same hometown, are sent on a suicide mission to storm a German machine gun nest. At the crucial moment, Roger freezes and lets Tom go it alone. Tom is shot and Roger thinks he's dead -- then he's hailed as a hero because of Tom's courage.

Then on the ship back home, just as a blind soldier (James Murray, the tragic star of King Vidor's "The Crowd") is fingering Roger's Distinguished Service Cross, up pops Tom. He was saved on the battlefield and nursed back to health by the Germans. Just one catch -- his pain is so extreme that he's become addicted to morphine.


Back home in Gooberville, Roger gets a hero's welcome at the palatial family manse, while Tom goes back to his mother's bungalow, locks the bedroom door and pops a pain pill.



Out of guilt, Roger finagles a job for Tom at the family's bank, but Tom's drug habit gets the better of him and he's sent to rehab. Once he's released, Tom heads for Chicago. There he rents a room where the landlady is good-hearted Mary (MacMahon), who also runs a lunchroom and sees to it that no one is denied a meal. Also renting a room in the same place is Ruth (Young), who Tom likey.

Another tenant is Max (Barrat), a Communist ("When you get to be my age, you'll have a bomb in every pocket") who nonetheless is a whiz with machinery. 

Tom and Ruth begin a romance, and Tom gets a job at the same laundry where Ruth works. He starts as a deliveryman and builds his route up so quickly that the kindly boss gives him a promotion. With the help of Max (Barrat), Tom sells his boss on a new, more efficient laundry system. Max explains his turnabout thusly -- "I despise them (bosses)! I spit on them! But I'm willing to get rich with them."

Tom turns to his co-workers to raise money to finance the new washer prototype, so everyone profits. And he gets the boss to promise that there will be no layoffs as a result of the new machines.

Time flies. Tom and Ruth have a child, prosperity prospers, Max starts wearing spats. Then comes the depression, and kindly laundry boss passes on. The new owners, represented by the weaselly Douglas Dumbrille (Of course!), see no reason to keep such a large laundry staff, and the layoffs begin. An angry mob gathers at Tom's house and they prepare to storm the laundry. Tom tries to stop them, but gets swept up in the mob, as does Ruth, who is killed. Tom is wrongly imprisoned as one of the organizers. Max is still wearing spats.

Five years later, Tom is released from prison. He goes back to the lunchroom, where Mary has been raising his son. He's rich -- the laundry system is still making money, and Max has been depositing Tom's share into the bank for him. The depression is in full swing, and to Tom the laundry money is tainted, so he gives it to Mary to help feed the jobless, who are crowding outside the lunchroom window.     

But there's no peace for Tom -- he's been branded as a Communist, and he gets a visit from the police department's "Red Squad." They let him know that his every move will be shadowed as long as he stays in Chicago.


So Tom hits the road, with what seems like all the rest of America. And one rainy night in a Hooverville, he meets a familiar face -- Roger the rat. He's been ruined by the crash, and he's done a little embezzling on his own. Roger remarks that, despite everything, Tom seems oddly optimistic.

"It's not optimism," Tom responds, "just common horse sense. Did you read President Roosevelt's inaugural address? He's right. You know, it takes more than one sock on the jaw to lick 120 million people."

To get technical about it, Tom has gotten more than just one sock on the jaw. And "Heroes for Sale" leaves a lot of questions unanswered. But it at least raises points that not many other Hollywood movies were daring to raise -- and wouldn't be raising again until the 1960s.

Here's the trailer for "Heroes for Sale":


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More Old Stuff Online!

Leonard Maltin has a great rundown of film sites that deal in silent movies, home movies and other oddities here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Jewel Robbery": A Little Gem

Please forgive me.

I have been raised in a cynical age, so expressions of sincerity don't come easily to me. On the one hand, I am a firm believer in what Lily Tomlin once said: "No matter how cynical you get, it's never enough to keep up." On the other, when I come across something that's genuinely delightful, I have to make it clear that I really, honest to goodness, mean "genuinely delightful."

Which brings us to the 1932 film "Jewel Robbery."

It really IS straight-up delightful -- light comedy and sly satire that's practically on the Lubitsch level, placed there largely through the efforts of William Powell and Kay Francis, who would finish this film and go immediately into Lubitsch's immortal "Trouble in Paradise."

True, "Jewel Robbery" isn't perfect. Lousy title, for one thing -- it's so prosaic, it's like calling "The Thin Man" "Drunk Detective." And there's a plot point involving marijuana that's daring for its time, but that degenerates into dumb visual comedy.

Amazingly, this is a Warner Bros. picture -- from a studio where the "Lower East Side" backlot got much more of a workout than the "European" backlot. We are in Vienna -- real Lubitsch territory -- under the direction of William, nee Wilhelm, Dieterle. Francis is a bored baroness, married to Franz (poor Henry Kolker, almost always in roles where he is very rich and very cuckolded). The highlight of her day is choosing expensive jewelry and letting Franz pay for it. She has just put on her latest purchase, the 28-carat Excelsior Diamond, when a man enters the store:



He is not just any man, of course. He is William Powell as a jewel thief who goes by many identities, so we won't list a name here. We don't need to -- we know and enjoy this man for his identity as William Powell as much as for his portrayal of a jewel thief.

The Baroness is struck by the thoughtful thief -- even while he steals her precious new diamond. "As I watched him go about his work so simply I realized what a high civilization we have in Europe today," she tells a friend (Helen Vinson).

Act two takes place in the baroness's mansion, where she receives another visit from the thief, and act three takes place in the thief's elegant hideaway:



Powell shows Francis his collection of jewels, including one spectacular necklace:

Francis: Oh, they're too heavenly! This necklace--where did you get it?
Powell: At a charity ball.
Francis: What courage!
Powell: No, merely nimble fingers. The lady stood beside me. The Prince of Wales was announced. I could have removed her dress.


All the while, the police are in hot pursuit of our man Powell, but if you think he gets caught then you haven't seen many pre-code movies. He makes his getaway, and the Baroness shows every indication of going with him, without a care or concern about what -- or who -- she's leaving behind. Francis's final gesture to the camera, where she breaks the fourth wall between the actors and the audience, is, well, delightful -- in a totally non-cynical way.

Here's the original trailer:




Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Dancing Lady" and the Crawford Stomp

Robert Osborne, the urbane host of Turner Classic Movies, never ever badmouths a movie or a star. He might struggle to find something nice to say about the Bowery Boys in "Dig That Uranium," but he'd find it.

That's why it's so interesting to watch him describe Joan Crawford's dancing ability (spoiler alert: she doesn't have any). He raises an eyebrow and his eyes glaze for a second and he uses euphemisms like "energetic" and "unique." "She's very game," he says, and you wonder if he isn't dying to add, "... like a moose."

So let's get this straight -- dancing did not come naturally to Joan Crawford. The irony is that, over at Warner Bros., Ruby "Leadfoot" Keeler wasn't much better, but she was making one musical after another and stomping her way across America's aorta.

Still, for the most part I come to praise Crawford, not to bury her. The 1933 film "Dancing Lady" was her only out-and-out musical, and it has a lot to recommend it. It has a supporting cast that includes everyone from Clark Gable to the Three Stooges, and the screenplay by Allen Rivkin and P.J. Wolfson is filled with the same kind of backstage wisecracking and racy dialogue you'll find in "42nd Street." In several interesting ways, however, "Dancing Lady" comes up short when compared to that classic.

Crawford plays Janie Barlow, who lives to dance and vice versa. She's hoofing in the chorus of a burlesque show when she catches the eye of playboy Tod Newton (Franchot Tone), who's out slumming with his friends. When the show is raided, Tod bails Janie out of jail and tries to help her get a job on Broadway, in a new show directed by Patch Gallagher (Gable). Patch resents Janie getting special treatment, but she wins him over with her gunk and spumtion -- er, spunk and gumption. For instance, take this scene in Patch's workout room:


Let's also add that Crawford is flat out gorgeous in this movie. Her eyes could dance, at least.

And Gable is easily her match. It's fun to watch them verbally spar -- it's even funnier when they do it while the Three Stooges, as stagehands, are doing their "spread out" routine in the background:


"Dancing Lady" also was the debut film of Fred Astaire, who plays a featured dancer named, um, Fred Astaire. (Hey, nobody knew who he was at that point!) When Crawford partners with Astaire, it isn't pretty -- one floats like a butterfly, and the other lumbers like a caterpillar with gout.

The musical numbers in "Dancing Lady" occur toward the end, and this is really where "42nd Street" leaves the movie in the dust. "42nd Street" had songs like "Young and Healthy," "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" and the title song. Sure, the songs were given outrageously imaginative stagings by Busby Berkeley, but they were good songs to begin with, snappy and wittily written. In "Dancing Lady," by contrast, we have the mundane "Dancing Lady" and "Let's Go Bavarian," with lyrics that include the lines "Here in Bavaria/They take good care of ya." There's nothing like a German number to bring a show to a grinding halt. These numbers aren't just bad imitations, they're anti-Berkeley -- they try to do with scale alone what Berkeley did with scale and imagination. Get a load of the ending to "Let's Go Bavarian":


Foam in your face! Aaaaah!

The final number, "Rhythm of the Day," shows a bit more imagination, but by then you're looking for the exit even if you're sitting in your living room. Finally, after the show is proven a success, Crawford confronts Gable. She's broken up with Tone, and she's gonna be a star. Oh, and they love each other.

Gable: What it is this you're dishing out?

Crawford: Can't you take it? (They kiss.)

Here's a preview from "Dancing Lady":

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Gabriel Over the White House," or the Fascist and the Furious


In 1930, Walter Huston played Abraham Lincoln in D.W. Griffith's biographical film, and three years later he played the President again in "Gabriel Over the White House," based on a best-selling novel of the day written anonymously.

Huston plays President Judson Hammond, and at the beginning, to paraphrase another real-life president, he's much more of a Ford than a Lincoln. He's a Warren Harding-like party hack who's packed the cabinet with all his political cronies. Sure, he's a good uncle to nephew Jimmy (Dickie Moore), who's always hanging around the office, and he commands the respect of secretary Pendie Molloy (Karen Morley) and chief aide Harley "Beek" Beekman (Franchot Tone), but he shows every sign of being a complete George W. -- er, mediocrity in office.

But desperate times call for desperate plot twists, and divine providence intervenes when the President is seriously hurt in an auto accident (he himself was driving, pushing the speedometer above 90). He's in a coma, and something strange happens:


The President Hammond who emerges from the coma is a haunted, schizoid zombie!

"I'm bad, I'm bad. You know it."
No, not really, but he is a much more forceful fellow who's driven to do the right thing, no matter who he offends. The old Hammond wouldn't meet with Bronson (David Landau), the leader of the unemployed, but after Bronson is killed Hammond bravely goes to the massive camp of marchers and proposes a "construction army" to put them back to work.

Next Hammond takes on prohibition and the gangsters who prosper from it, particularly Nick Diamond (C. Henry Gordon, whose hawk-like looks suggest an evil Fred Astaire). Hammond even invites Diamond to his office for a face-to-face meeting, but when they can't come to terms and a government liquor store is bombed, Hammond forms a "police army" and puts Tone in charge of catching the bad guys, judging their criminal trial and overseeing the firing squad in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty!:


Finally, Hammond tackles the problem of foreign debt by gathering representatives of debtor countries on a battleship and destroying two empty ships to demonstrate -- well, his point escaped me, but it worked, and everyone pledges to pay up pronto.

Having fixed all of America's problems unilaterally, without the bother of Congress or the constitution, Hammond's health starts to falter. Is this the end of his heavenly prolonged life?

Casting the U.S. President as Mister Fix-It is always an appealing idea, particularly when the country is in the kind of crisis it was in the early 1930s. The unemployed marchers are based on the real-life Bonus Army, of course, who demanded early payment of cash benefits they were promised at the end of World War I; President Herbert Hoover responded by sending an opposition army with General Douglas MacArthur in charge and setting their camps on fire. And the "construction army" that Hammond proposes is eerily similar to the kind of government programs put in place by President Franklin Roosevelt.

Humph. Financial crisis. Protests in the streets. Government stimulus programs. That's all so Great Depression-y -- it couldn't happen today.

For full credits and production info, click here.
  



 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Monroe Owsley Film Festival: "Ten Cents a Dance" and "The Keyhole"

"Don't hate me because I'm beautiful."
Of all the actors who appeared in movies during the 1930s, Monroe Owsley (1900-37) was certainly one of them.

In various films, he appeared opposite the likes of Gloria Swanson, Clara Bow, Bette Davis, Kay Francis, Barbara Stanwyck and Margaret Sullavan, leading critics to exclaim, "Who is that guy who always plays schmoes opposite Gloria Swanson, Clara Bow, Bette Davis, Kay Francis, Barbara Stanwyck and Margaret Sullavan?"

Alas, someone has to play the schmoe. And Monroe Owsley, not to be confused with Marilyn Monroe, was pretty good at it. He played conceited schmoes, selfish schmoes (say that three times fast), gigolo schmoes, cowardly schmoes, greedy schmoes and psycho schmoes.

In fact, if you're watching a pre-code movie where a heroine is starting to find true happiness, and some nogoodnik comes along to blackmail her, threaten her or otherwise weigh her down like an anchor made of hair pomade, old spats and neediness, chances are it'll be Monroe Owsley.

In the interest of giving you the full Owsley, here's how he appears at the beginning of 1933's "The Keyhole":



He's a blackmailer, and the blackmailee is Kay Francis. He's the old vaudeville partner who tried to lower her curtains, if you know what I mean. She's married to a rich guy who doesn't know about her past, and Owsley's being all Monroe Owsley-ish about it, talking blackmail and such. So Francis goes to Cuba for a quickie divorce from Owsley. Her rich husband doesn't know what's going on, and thinks Francis is being unfaithful to him, so he hires detective George Brent to follow her. In the climax, they all meet in Francis's hotel room:



Fortunately, Owsley has the decency to fall off the side of the hotel and get killed, thereby ridding Francis of her problem.

In "Ten Cents a Dance," a 1931 film directed by Lionel Barrymore (!), Owsley is another kind of problem entirely. He's Eddie, a mild-mannered sort who lives in the same apartment building as taxi dancer Barbara (Barbara Stanwyck). She feels sorry for Eddie and takes him under her wing, but she has another admirer -- decent rich guy Bradley Carlton (Ricardo Cortez). He gives her $100 just to talk to her, and when she finds that Eddie is about to be evicted, she gives him the c-note. This is how we know she is extremely decent, and he is a needy schmoe.

Barbara ends up marrying Eddie, who in turn ends up being selfish, neglectful and snobbish -- he's like a member of the one percent without any money:



Actually, he does have money, but only because he embezzled it from his boss, who happens to be RICARDO CORTEZ. Stanwyck goes to Cortez to ask for a loan to keep Owsley out of jail, and he gives it to her, and instead of being grateful, Owsley ... well, you can guess. Owsley just disappears at the end of this one instead of falling off the side of a building, and that's too bad.

For full credits for "The Keyhole," click here. For full credits for "Ten Cents a Dance," click here.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Ladies They Talk About," or The Old Cell Game

It's not news to proclaim Barbara Stanwyck as one of the screen's greatest actresses, and it's practically impossible to dislike her once you learn of her casual, profane attitude on the set, or her preference for directors like Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder, or that fact she had an affair with Robert Wagner when he was in his 20s and she was in her 40s (he says they did, anyway).

By all accounts, she was rigorously professional in front of the camera, and pretty down to earth otherwise. She did comedy as well as she did drama, and had enough of a sense of humor about herself that she made numerous guest appearances on "The Jack Benny Program." Stanwyck grew up in Brooklyn, in poverty, and came to Hollywood with her husband, vaudeville comic Frank Fay -- in true "A Star Is Born" fashion, his career faded as hers flowered.

The 1933 film "Ladies They Talk About" finds Stanwyck still learning her craft. She had already made a couple of movies with Frank Capra and the first film version of the best-selling novel "So Big," but still there are moments in this film when she seems uncomfortable. Then, in others, she's startlingly self assured.

Stanwyck plays Nan Martin, a gangster's moll who gets caught when the gang pulls a bank job and the investigating cop sees through her disguise:



She ends up in jail, but Nan has an admirer -- the anti-crime crusader Dave Slade (Preston Foster). They grew up in the same neighborhood and Slade believes in her innocence. He even talks a skeptical D.A. (Robert McWade) into paroling her:



But for once, Nan thinks of someone else. She knows if her guilt is proven, it'll tarnish Slade's reputation. So she confesses to her role in the robbery. She's sent to San Quentin, and this is where "Ladies They Talk About" kicks into high gear with vivid little set pieces about life in a woman's prison. And Stanwyck has a great sidekick in Linda, played with winning ease by singer Lillian Roth:



(In real life, Roth's career as a singer and stage star was overshadowed by alcoholism, and her biography, "I'll Cry Tomorrow," was made into a 1955 film with Susan Hayward as Roth.)

Meanwhile, back in stir, Nan's only enemy is Susie (Dorothy Burgess), an unbalanced little number who's obsessed with Slade and whose cell is filled with his photos. We see her in one scene that scans a cell block as the prisoners are turning in:



Oh, and here's one more interesting touch -- the giant cockatoo that belongs to prison matron Noonan (Ruth Donnelly):

Noonan gives them the bird.
The films builds to a moral dilemma -- will Nan help her male co-robbers escape from a nearby prison? Will she meet Dave Slade for love -- or revenge? One thing's for sure -- in love or war, Stanwyck's a badass.

For full cast and production information, click here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"They Learned About Women," and Vaudeville

"I'm Van!" "I'm Schenck!" "Our music doesn't stenk!"
"They Learned About Women" was released in 1930, early enough in the evolution of talking pictures that silent film-style title cards were still used to introduce scenes -- and the leading men, who are supposed to be major league baseball players, are wearing eyeliner. But it's important because it's the only full-length film made by the team of Gus Van and Joseph Schenck -- Schenck died just after the movie was released.

The guys were gigantic in vaudeville -- they were a part of the Ziegfeld Follies from 1918-21 -- and their repertoire included songs like "She Knows Her Onions," "Away Down South in Heaven" and the quizzically titled "If You Want to Miss a Heaven on Earth, Stay Out of the South."

In the movie, Van and Schenck are Jerry and Jack, two guys who play baseball for the Blue Sox by day (no night games back then) and play in vaudeville at night. Their performing style was simple -- Van sang bass and Schenck harmonized on tenor while playing piano.  They did a lot of good-humored ethnic comedy numbers, usually poking fun at the Irish and Jews, such as "Dougherty Is the Name":



What plot there is to "They Learned About Women" involves a love story between Jack and Mary (Bessie Love), who are driven apart by the manipulative Daisy (Mary Doran). As if that isn't enough, the hussy also tries to split up Jerry and Jack!

In between there are several musical numbers that take place in the theatre and on the field -- although staging "Shake That Thing" in the team shower probably isn't the best choice. There's also comedy relief from Tom Dugan and Benny Rubin. Dugan would go on to play Hitler in several World War II-era movies, including Ernst Lubitsch's "To Be or Not to Be," and Rubin would become a popular comic second banana for everyone from Jack Benny to the Three Stooges. Their Irish-Jewish interplay actually echoes Van and Schenck's routine -- and as an added bonus, Dugan's character stutters.

During the early talkie era, Bessie Love was one of the busiest actresses at MGM, with a fresh, charming quality. Here's her big number in the picture, performed live on the set as far as I can tell:



You can see the full cast and production info here.