Monday, May 16, 2005

Bob Woolsey? Cyclonic?

The Pop Culture Gadabout has a grifty post up about Wheeler and Woolsey's would-be last feature, Cracked Nuts (1931). RKO did split the team briefly, giving each comic one feature apiece, but really only intending to keep Bert Wheeler around. Oddly enough, the lesser-talented Robert Woolsey's solo tryout, Everything's Rosie, turned out the better of the two. Film comedy vet Clyde Bruckman (who eventually committed suicide with a gun borrowed from Buster Keaton) directed Woolsey in this extremely predictable but likeable carnival farce which owes tremendous debts to both W. C. Fields' Poppy and Joe Cook's Rain Or Shine. Woolsey plays sideshow huckster Dr. J. Dockweiler Droop, a lovable conman who has adopted and raised Rosie, a lovable orphan. Rosie falls in love with lovable and handsome Billy Lowe, and Dr. Droop just about wrecks her romance when he cons a few of the Very Influential guests at Billy's 21st birthday party. A tearjerker ending sees Dr. Droop leaving his adopted daughter behind with Billy rather than let her ruin her life by sticking around the carnival scene with an old reprobate like him (sob!). Woolsey almost pulls off his role as huckster with a heart of gold, but the emotional requirements of the script are just out of his reach as an actor. Hey.. he simply wasn't that type of comedian (ever seen Groucho Marx try to play a straight role?). But as predictable and bland as Everything's Rosie is, it's comedy gold compared to Bert Wheeler's virtually unwatchable solo effort, Too Many Cooks (1931). Leave it to RKO to showcase Bert, their star comic, in a stale domestic comedy where he doesn't get to sing or dance or tell jokes. An unbelievable waste of talent and highly-flammable nitrate stock. Needless to say, Bert and Bob got back together in a hurry and continued making profitable pictures for RKO until Woolsey's tragic and premature death in 1938.

And, gosh, aren't these handpainted glass slides purty? In the 1930s, these "coming attractions" would have been projected onto the screen while audience members took their seats.. I think that's still being done in some theaters today, but not with graphics as nice as these!

When was the last time you saw a composer and lyricist get equal billing with a film director?


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