50 Movie Comedy Classics Disc 10

Happy Go Lovely, 1951, color. H. Bruce Humberstone (dir.), David Niven, Vera-Ellen, Cesar Romero. 1:37 [1:30].

See, there’s this threadbare American musical revue group in Edinburgh for the Festival, and the investors are about to pull the plug on “Frolics to You,” and the producer’s going nuts. Meanwhile, one chorus girl wakes up late for rehearsal, begs a ride with the chauffeur for Scotland’s richest bachelor (a greeting card magnate!), and one thing leads to another…

You get a rich man pretending to be a journalist to get close to a young woman—and the woman asking him to pretend to be the rich man to keep the show going. You get long dance numbers, of mixed quality, and some good knockabout chase-related comedy. You get David Niven, who does a fine job as the magnate/journalist, and Cesar Romero, chewing the scenery but possibly appropriate for the role. And Vera-Ellen, moving from fired chorus girl to lead dancer/singer, doing lots of dancing, and some acting and singing. All in all, a pleasant entertainment with a good print. $1.50.

The Smallest Show on Earth, 1957, b&w. Basil Dearden (dir.), Virginia McKennan, Bill Travers, Margaret Rutherford, Peter Sellers, Bernard Miles, Francis De Wolff. 1:20.

The sleeve description is wrong in one key respect (well, it gets part of the plot wrong too): It says “Starring: Peter Sellers.” Sellers is in the movie, overplaying an aging, drunken projectionist who’s the only one who can handle a rundown theater’s equipment (when he’s reasonably sober), but he’s definitely not the star. (Margaret Rutherford does well as an aged ticket-taker.)

A writer’s having trouble finishing a novel and the family’s running out of money when he finds he’s inherited the goods of an unknown great-uncle. The goods turn out to “the flea pit,” a wholly decrepit little movie theater that’s constantly shaken by trains and isn’t running—but still employs three ancient staff. The gimmick: The one grand movie theater nearby really needs this place to build a parking lot—but doesn’t want to pay a fair price for it.

It’s actually a lot of fun, particularly as the young couple (who somehow have enough money to do all this…) get the place sort-of running and find profit in running old westerns set in the desert, turning up the heat, and selling lots of cold drinks at intermission.

Not a great movie by any means, but amusing. Decent print, mediocre sound quality. $1.25.

Sandy the Seal, 1969, color. Robert Lynn (dir.), Heinz Drache, Marianne Koch. 1:13 [1:10].

It’s really hard to know what to make of this—and how it comes to be on a set of comedy “classics.” A lighthouse keeper (alternating one month off, one month on) on Seal Island, on shift-change day, hears gunshots on the other side of the island and just misses the poachers (but he’s unarmed, of course). There’s an orphan seal pup, who follows him back…all the way back home on the mainland, where the keeper’s two kids adopt the seal, now named Sandy.

Much frolicking ensues. Apparently, all seals inherently balance circus balls and walk around with them in midair, and do lots of other tricks automatically. So the kids hold a neighborhood circus (with fish as payment). Later, the seal blunders onto a fishing boat and, in looking for it, the kids wind up down in the hold—where there are lots of seal skins. But when they tell their dad and he comes down to look (punching out a foul-tempered mate in the process), there’s nothing there!

Anyway, this “comedy” proceeds to the unarmed keeper once more confronting armed poachers, getting shot, the kids finding him as the poachers smash up the island-to-shore radio…and a happy ending that’s just a trifle contrived. Good points: a little nice underwater photography and a well-trained seal. Weak points: The focus is a bit off during part of the picture—and it’s just not much of a picture, much less much of a comedy. As a sermon on the evils of seal-poaching, maybe. I’ll give it $0.75.

The Front Page, 1931, b&w. Lewis Milestone (dir.), Adolphe Menjou, Pat O’Brien, Mary Brian, Edward Everett Horton. 1:41.

Clearly a classic comedy, and you probably already know the plot. (Reporter wants to quit paper, move to New York, get married; his editor wants to prevent that; there’s a prison escape of sorts; and we get to see lots of byplay among prison reporters…along with some social commentary from the prisoner.)

Note that this is the 1931 version with Adolphe Menjou, not the 1974 version with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Well played, funny, but there are two problems, both print-related more than movie-related: The sound’s poor (lots of background noise, some distortion) and there appears to be lots of overscan—as in, on the opening credits you can’t read the actors’ names.

A great print of the movie would probably get a full $2, but I can’t give this one more than $1.50.

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