Buster Keaton: Last Action Hero

Buster Keaton fights crime in a movie inside a movie. Image: Walker Art Center In the summer of 1993, Columbia Pictures released a big-budget film about a boy who is transported inside a movie to help the hero fight crime. The movie was Last Action Hero, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was an $85 million failure. Other directors have tried… Continue reading Buster Keaton: Last Action Hero

Comedy · Musical

James Cagney’s Mass-Produced Theatre

Modern movie audiences are getting ripped off. Get this: In cinema’s earlier days, audiences were presented with live musical performances, known as prologues, before the feature film. So, instead of the in-theatre advertising we endure today, audiences enjoyed genuine musical theatre that introduced the film. According to Vaudeville Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America, Vol. I, prologues were meant to… Continue reading James Cagney’s Mass-Produced Theatre

Comedy · Musical

The Rococo Lucille Ball in Louis XV’s Court

Confession: We (as in, yours truly) have a biased view of movies set in France. In our eyes, these movies can do no wrong. This is because we went to Paris in our impressionable youth and came home all très sophistiqué. We wore a bemused expression to match our jaunty silk scarf, and we took to drinking lattés from a bowl.… Continue reading The Rococo Lucille Ball in Louis XV’s Court

Comedy · Gangster

Claire Trevor’s 3-Pronged Attack in the War on Drugs

Before Claire Trevor is sent to infiltrate a Mexican drug ring in the 1950 crime comedy, Borderline, she is asked a question many women recognize: “Do you think you can handle this?” Aww, isn’t that cute? Trevor’s character, a smart and experienced member of the Los Angeles Police Department, is asked if she can handle this. To her credit, she refrains from… Continue reading Claire Trevor’s 3-Pronged Attack in the War on Drugs


Sonja Henie’s Glam Winter Fun

Today we’re bringing you a movie with figure skating. No, wait! Don’t go. Hear us out first. Sun Valley Serenade is a film starring Sonja Henie who, in the 1930s-40s, was the most famous figure skater in the world. (She was famous because she won 10 world figure skating championships in a row. Plus, she won three gold… Continue reading Sonja Henie’s Glam Winter Fun


Daffy Duck: How to Succeed in Show Biz

Before Daffy Duck was a Big Star, he was a character actor in Looney Tunes animated shorts. His career began in Porky Pig‘s star vehicles, starting with 1937’s Porky’s Duck Hunt. Daffy was created by the saucy animators at Leon Schlesinger Productions (later Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc.) as a colourful but supporting cast member of Porky’s dramatis personae, as outlined in this studio… Continue reading Daffy Duck: How to Succeed in Show Biz


Bob Hope, Swashbuckler

Swashbuckling movies are always lots of fun, but… let’s face it. Sometimes they’re just begging to be spoofed. Come on – swashbuckling movies revel in men with floppy hair, swishy clothes and impractical footwear. These guys are our first line of defence against evil highwaymen and pirates? It can be a bit of a stretch, no? That’s… Continue reading Bob Hope, Swashbuckler


Warner Bros. Animated Pop Quiz

Hooray! It’s time for a Pop Quiz. What – did you think we were never going to have a Pop Quiz? Where’s the fun in life if you can’t enjoy a surprise test every now and then? Today’s quiz is based on the Warner Bros. animated short, Hollywood Steps Out. This eight-minute film is a send-up of Hollywood… Continue reading Warner Bros. Animated Pop Quiz


The Complexities of an Italian Straw Hat

Conventional wisdom tells us the world was a simpler place before the popularity of cars, computers and celebrity culture. We’re not so sure about this, now that we’ve seen the 1927 silent French comedy The Italian Straw Hat (Un Chapeau de paille d’Italie). This film, adapted from a popular and frequently-produced French play, is set in 1895 and takes place during the… Continue reading The Complexities of an Italian Straw Hat

Comedy · Musical

The 42nd Street Cooperative

In an effort to be Smarter, we’ve been reading Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein. Dickstein’s book is filled with all sorts of Thoughts and Information on the 1930s. One example is an analysis of Depression-era films, specifically the Oscar-nominated musical, 42nd Street (1933). Here are Dickstein’s conclusions: Until [the end]…nothing… Continue reading The 42nd Street Cooperative