Friday, January 19, 2018

New On DVD: Pre-Code Gems by Silent Comedy Great Charley Chase

The classic movie and comedy aficionados who write this blog are thrilled and delighted to hear about the release of this 2-DVD collection of early 1930's films starring the director/writer/comedian Charles Parrott a.k.a. Charley Chase (1893-1940) and produced by Hal Roach Studios. New Blu-ray/DVD collections of Charley Chase, one of the most popular comedy stars in both the silent and sound eras, but neglected for decades, are most welcome!

We love the silent 2-reelers Charley and Leo McCarey collaborated on in the silent era and also love his pre-code talkies, which will be on this 2-DVD set.

This will include some of the funniest and most delightful of all pre-code films of the early 1930's. See Charley co-star the wonderful Thelma Todd in two of their best films, The Pip From Pittsburg and Looser Than Loose! See Charley sing! See Charley do a "wrestling women" routine 50 years before Andy Kaufman in the hysterically funny Thundering Tenors!

Charley Chase: At Hal Roach: The Talkies Volume One 1930-31 can be ordered now. We're big fans of the inventive, hilarious Charley Chase at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog and look forward to this DVD release, which can be ordered here.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Happy 126th Birthday, Hal Roach!

We're a year too late to wish comedy-meister and movie legend Hal Roach (January 14, 1892 - November 2, 1992) a happy 125th birthday, so we will wish Hal a Happy Birthday on his 126th!

Mr. Roach, who began working in films as an extra in 1912, was still making personal appearances AFTER he hit 100 years of age!

Fittingly, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is presenting its monthly L&H/Our Gang matinee on Mr. Roach's natal anniversary, today!

The Laurel & Hardy Talkie Matinee program is The Sounds of Silents: the transition to talkies. The lineup includes L&H in Unaccustomed as We Are and They Go Boom, plus Our Gang in Boxing Gloves and Small Talk. Showtime is at 4PM Pacific Standard Time.

Several of the comedians and comediennes who consistently get the biggest, loudest, longest belly laughs from this blogger starred in films produced by the Hal Roach Studio, a.k.a. The Lot Of Fun. Even the much-maligned Harry Langdon early talkies by Roach will predictably send this film buff into unstoppable giggles, chortles, howls and guffaws.

All-time favorite films include such hilarious comedy shorts as Laurel & Hardy in From Soup to Nuts, Liberty, Two Tars, Big Business and Helpmates; Charley Chase in His Wooden Wedding, Mighty Like A Moose, Limousine Love, The Pip From Pittsburg and Mr. Bride; Max Davidson in Pass The Gravy and such classic Harold Lloyd features such as Why Worry and Safety Last!.

All were produced by Hal Roach.

In addition, among the most-read entries on this blog were two about the Our Gang comedies, produced by Hal Roach Studios from 1922 to 1938.

So we tip our brown derbies respectfully to Hal, Stan & Babe and all the others who made audiences laugh making and starring in movies produced by The Lot Of Fun.

Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Roach - and let's finish this post with some hilarious films guaranteed to provoke plenty of belly laughs!

Sunday, January 07, 2018

It's Post #1000 At Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog

Today, am most thrilled and delighted to still be walking the earth, drinking a nice hot cup of black coffee and available to write Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog's 1000th post here in the freezing Northeast (Kingston, in the Hudson Valley, Ulster County, NY) on a Sunday afternoon.

That Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog lasted this long is regarded here with no small amount of amazement, given that this blogger was fully expecting to run out of stuff to write about or get totally and inextricably mired in the following occupational hazard around post #172.

Quoting post #1 from 2006. . . "WTF will I be talking about here in my impassioned yet infrequent posts? I am obsessed with comedy".

Guilty as charged and only a tad more discreet than lecherous burlesque comic Bobby Clark is (IIRC) with the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee in this photo.

The first post, "Oh No - Another Entry To The Blogosphere," continued. . . "will periodically jabber on about music, just about all from the pre-MTV era, those halcyon days before marketing came first and music came second."

Another one of my obsessions is the movie musical, whether a Busby Berkeley surrealism-and-cheesecake fest. . .

"a big budget Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly extravaganza"

"a 1932 Vitaphone Musical short"

"Soundies from the 40's. . .

"or mid-1960's Scopitones, crammed with bee-hived bikinied dancers, supporting the inimitable Debbie Reynolds as she belts out her Las Vegas floor show version of "If I Had A Hammer."

What other topics do we still like after 1000 posts? Well, we love screwy inventions!

Somehow, in 1000 at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, certain 20th century inventions have escaped us: for example, from the pages of Life Magazine, the "external turkey roaster."

The following amphibious bicycle is both thou swell and most bitchen and really should have been used by Lloyd Bridges at some point on the Sea Hunt TV show.

Let's finish this 1000th post and get on with the next 1000 via a clip of two guys we like a great deal: David Bowie and Peter Frampton.

Whenever this blogmeister's in a lousy mood, quality time spent with the complete Glass Spider Tour concert (which both of these fellows are on), as well as the former's Live at the BBC Radio Theatre and the latter's Festival de Viña del Mar 2008 concert will get us back on the good foot (if not My Pal Foot Foot) in short order.

Monday, January 01, 2018

January 1st Comedy

Pondering the good fortune to have made it to yet another year prompts this blogger to find something, anything, that aired originally on January 1. So here's The Frank Sinatra Show, featuring guest stars Moe, Larry and Shemp - The Three Stooges - first seen 56 years ago today.

And, continuing this mission to start the new year right - with laughs - here's Jack Benny!

This episode of The Jack Benny Program, complete with Lucky Strike commercials, was originally broadcast on January 1, 1956. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goodbye (and good riddance) 2017, Hello 2018 - Happy New Year from Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog!

For the last post of wretched 2017, a year we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog are pleased to see end, we wish all the readers a Happy New Year!

Slowly, make that very slowly getting over an obstinate common cold that's hangin' on like a bad memory, this blogger will NOT be whooping it up at the Happy Hour Club to ring in 2018.

Won't even be up to dancing unconvincingly to the less-than-supersonic tempos of Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians.

Instead, we shall watch Jack Benny's New Year's Eve show from 1961.

Next up: a slew of different renditions of that one New Year's Eve tune which has been recorded 1000 times.

It is quite the tribute to Frank Sinatra that I have mistook this recording by Harry Connick, Jr. for one by Ol' Blue Eyes on more than one occasion.

There are some very good unconventional New Year's Eve tunes as well, every one much less played and covered than "What are you doing New Year's Eve?" Always loved Otis Redding and Carla Thomas' Stax Records cover of ace blues guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Lowell Fulson's classic Tramp (which Fulson and Jimmy McCracklin co-wrote) and it turns out this dynamic duo also did an excellent song for New Year's.

Another ace bluesman, Lightnin' Hopkins, waxed his "Happy New Year" single for Decca Records in 1953. The sting, bite and power of his guitar is undimmed 64 years later, so this song remains a great way to ring out the old year and ring in the new one.

We wrap this post and send out awful 2017 in style with the astounding Swedish bandleader, entertainer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Gunhild Carling. Here's Gunhild, accomplishing something I have not seen since the heydey of the legendary hard bop/free jazz saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk: playing three instruments simultaneously. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017 from Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog

The folks at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, struck by both a "happy to have made it to this Christmas alive" conviction (note: Mr. Blogmeister is 61 and more than well aware of 2017 passings and illnesses among his circle) and an obstinate head cold - now offering below market rate rental units (both furnished and unfurnished) in yours truly's nasal passages - send our Merry Christmas best wishes.

At this time of year, there's a key holiday season phrase for people who actually like their families: I like things the way they used to be.

That would be hangin' out at the Christmas tree back in the day - good times, good food, good company, pumpkin pie, eggnog - at the house you lived in that's gone with the loved ones who are long gone. Change happens - and it's not always welcome.

When remembering loved ones who are not with us at this time of year, sadness can be a constant companion. One way to counteract that sadness is to recall a lesser-known Yuletide record or holiday movie that captured everyone's fancy.

One of my family's favorite records was the 1956 Capitol Records Merry Christmas To You compilation, featuring Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Les Paul & Mary Ford, Margaret Whiting & Jimmy Wakely, comedian Yogi Yorgesson and the orchestras of Billy May, Les Baxter and Johnny Mercer.

Still love this album and wish this was available to buy on good ol' vinyl or CD. There's something about hearing The Billy May Orchestra's cha-cha-cha North Pole masterpiece Rudolf Mambo from a thick vinyl platter on a good quality stereo (HI-FI as they used to say then) and top-of-the-line turntable that's better than freakin' homemade apple pie, washed down with homemade eggnog.

In the case of my siblings and I, that lesser-known holiday movie was and remains On The Twelfth Day, a VERY British take on The 12 Days Of Christmas, directed by Wendy Toye and designed by author, satirist and cartoonist Ronald Searle. Our local television stations ran it in the 1950's and early 1960's, but stopped for reasons unknown.

As a would-be grownup quite a few years later, this blogger discovered Allen Sherman's 12 Gifts Of Christmas, a very funny sendup in the vein of Stan Freberg's Green Christmas.

After swapping out a few topical references, the spoof is not dated; simply substitute the words "Indonesian Green Cell Phone" for "Japanese transistor radio" and think of other gifts a person doesn't want or need. That said, we had at least two Japanese transistor radios - which my dad and I loved and listened to broadcasts of San Francisco Giants games with.

Among additional worthy antidotes to wintertime blues would be the Christmas records by Art Carney, actor, comedian and star of arguably the best movie or television script tackling the commercialization of the holiday season, The Twilight Zone episode The Night Of The Meek, penned by Rod Serling.

There were two Yuletide novelty records by Art Carney.

Wonder if the A-side, "all I want for Christmas is a doodle-li-boop" was among the rhythmic inspirations for the Friz Freleng crew's WB cartoon sendup of Three Little Pigs, The Three Little Bops, produced a couple of years later (featuring Stan Freberg on vocals and West Coast jazz trumpet ace Shorty Rogers). Maybe. Maybe not. The opportunity to ask Stan that question passed a few years ago.

Hands-down, my favorite Night Before Christmas reading is the B-side, although Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong's ranks a very close second.

So, as the old song goes, "we wish you a Merry Christmas!"

And with that, and some holiday cheer from Edward D. Wood, Jr. and the Lugosis, a Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Wednesday Night: Noir City Christmas For The Holidays

As we wake up to the news that bandleader, multi-instrumentalist, frequent sideman on Tom Waits records, composer of The Happy Solstice Song, wit, big time classic movie buff and friend of this blog Ralph Carney has passed after injuries suffered in a fall at his home, our holiday spirit has been severely shaken.

Ralph accompanied silent films at several movie events we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog produced. We mourn his passing but remember his music, lighthearted personality and good humor fondly.

So, feeling sad, we suggest strongly that Bay Area moviegoers darken their spirits further by attending the eighth annual NOIR CITY XMAS program at San Francisco's Castro Theatre on this Wednesday night, December 20.

Film Noir Foundation president Eddie Muller of TCM's Noir Alley will be your noir Noël host for the evening.

The Noir City Xmas double feature will include a brand new 35mm print of ALIAS BOSTON BLACKIE, starring Chester Morris, and arguably the best offering in Columbia's long-running "Boston Blackie" series.

Presented via a special one-night-only arrangement with Paramount Pictures, MANHANDLED (1949), directed by Lewis R. Foster, who much earlier in his career made Laurel & Hardy 2-reelers.

Based on "The Man Who Stole a Dream" by L.S. Goldsmith, it's a sly twist on the conventions of mystery and noir thrillers and the only film this writer can think of co-starring Dorothy Lamour (the glamour gal who fed straight lines to both Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in so many Road pictures that she was for all practical purposes an unofficial member of the comedy team) with genre film mainstays Sterling Hayden and Dan Duryea.

The evening will also feature the unveiling of the full schedule (and poster!) for NOIR CITY 16 coming to San Francisco's Castro Theatre January 26 — February 4, 2018.

NOIR CITY 16 Passports (all-access festival passes) will be available for sale at NOIR CITY Xmas – just visit the FNF's merchandise table on the Castro mezzanine. Tickets for NOIR CITY XMAS are now available online and can also be purchased at the Castro Theatre box office on the day of the show.

Noting the holiday season, there will have collection bins for the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program and the SF-Marin Food Bank. The San Francisco Firefighters are looking for toys for kids, infants through 12 years old. Toys must be not be gift wrapped. The SF-Marin Food Bank needs the following: peanut butter, low-sugar cereal, whole-grain rice, pasta, oats, low-sodium soups and stews, tuna and other canned meats, and canned fruits and vegetables. Please no glass, opened items, perishables, or items past their "use before" date. Moviegoers are encouraged to give what they can - Holiday Giving is good.

The Film Noir Foundation deserve kudos, bravos and huzzahs for putting their money where their booze-stained, cigarette-burned, red lipstick-smudged mouths are and presenting newly struck 35mm prints of these classic films for the festival. For more info, go to the Noir City website.