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Sunday, November 05, 2006


A Long Road To Hollywood

"Ole" Olsen and "Chic" Johnson had to start somewhere, and for these two madcap merry-makers, vaudeville in its decline was the ladder up, as shown in this 1935 stopover at a Rivoli Theatre of indeterminate location. Five shows a day on weekends must have been a killing pace, and you wonder if any of those 35 Glamorous Girls might still be with us. The stories they could tell. You'll note the magnitude of this attraction having rocketed admission prices to an astronomical thirty-five and fifty-five cent level. Good thing they brought in these boys, for that screen show looks like pretty weak tea (Hot Tip? --- don't know it). Olsen and Johnson went on to movie triumph themselves at Universal, though our chances of seeing Hellzapoppin (rights problems, I'm told), Crazy House (cameos include Rathbone and Bruce as Holmes and Watson!), and the rest on DVD are pretty remote (but who'd have thought Fox would release two volumes of Will Rogers?).

9 Comments:

Blogger Booksteve said...

Olsen and Johnson are definitely an acquired taste but they make me laugh. I finally saw CRAZY HOUSE a few years back and loved it! HELLZAPOPPIN has been on my list of flicks I always wanted to see for decades though and nothing!

4:55 PM  
Blogger East Side said...

"Crazy House" was a lot more fun than I expected, too. In some ways I thought it more sophisticated than your typical Abbott & Costello movie.

By the way, you can buy "Hellzapoppin" and "Crazy House" if you know where to look. Not that I would recommend a non-offical release, of course...

6:20 PM  
Blogger Rich D said...

It's a shame that HELLZAPOPPIN' isn't officially available as it contains what is considered the finest choreographed lindy hop routine ever. The group is Whitey's Lindy Hoppers and the routine was choreographed by Frankie Manning (the dancer in the overalls). At 93, Manning still teaches lindy hop today, and I've taken a few workshops with him. The guy is an amazing inspiration.

And John, if you're looking for a copy of HELLZAPOPPIN' drop me a line...

10:31 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I agree that "Hellzapoppin" is out there for those who want to look for it (and -- horror of horrors! -- violate Universal's copyright, but I have to say I was disappointed when I finally saw it. Lots of good gags, but way, way too much plot about actors and characters we don't care about.

It's like someone heard Thalberg's theories about the Marx Brothers and took them to the extreme. I don't want characters I can "care about," Unca Carl; I want 90 minutes of jokes and sight gags,

1:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But It's depressing that Whitey's Lindy Hoppers had to act the scared stereotypes and run off after the end of the number.I think "Hellzapoppin" the movie is worth It for the stage show at the end, which is like a potted version of the original B'way show.

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

The first ten minutes of HELLZAPOPPIN are among the most stylized, surreal and prescient in American film comedy.

It's true that throughout its dada-esque structure there's a grade B Universal programmer trying to get out, but the stage show's anything-goes free-for-all is tranformed cinematically into the kind of Brechtian comedy that didn't reappear until the late 60s with the likes of Richard Lester and The Goon Show.

And it's funny.
AND it has one of the great movie swing dance performances by the Harlem Congaroo Dancers.
A shame it's not better known.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Skip said...

Re: the above post from Joe. That's got to be the first time Olsen & Johnson have ever been compared to Brecht. Now I know I've gotta see this movie.

9:14 PM  
Blogger NYCOPYGUY said...

Speaking of those first 10 minutes... someone posted them on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlN2BAiyucI

1:01 PM  
Blogger NYCOPYGUY said...

Speaking of the first ten minutes of "Hellzapoppin'," someone posted it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlN2BAiyucI

1:03 PM  

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