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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Goldwyn and Cantor Pour On Some Technicolor


Kid Millions (1934) Saves Three-Strip Ice Cream For a Last Reel

Goldwyn production values again threaten to swamp Eddie Cantor comedy in a 30's sampling of too much of a good thing. Cantor worked best when left to routines a stage could accommodate and didn't need chorines by dozens engulfing him. A guess game at Goldwyn was spotting future stars among leggy line-ups ... I'm told Lucille Ball is among those here. Our Gang personnel are used as virtual extras. Did feature folk not realize how valued these faces were to short comedy followers? There's a big minstrel number, but by this time, no Busby Berkeley to supervise it (he'd left for Warners). The yarn decamps to Egypt and silly sheiks for Eddie to spar with. A habit of veering afield of Cantor in favor of dullish romance couples (here it's newcomers George Murphy and Ann Sothern) made ninety minutes seem longer. Salvation arrives in a three-color Technicolor ice cream truck --- an entire last reel with Eddie opening doors to confection's dreamland, arguably a tastiest use of the process ever. It's worth watching Kid's B/W lead-up on hot coals to collect visual reward of this. Warner Archive has Kid Millions and Whoopee! among offerings from its recent Goldwyn pact, these an obvious choice what with vintage color process in both.

3 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson considers Eddie Cantor's formula for Goldwyn:


Back when they'd crop up on late night UHF, I caught Kid Millions, Strike Me Pink, Palmy Days and Roman Scandals. Stumbled across Ali Baba Goes to Town recently on a Fox movie channel. I keep hoping for Roman Scandals to re-appear. A few song lyrics linger in my mind ("You can drive your man insane / With a swimsuit of cellophane . . .").

The formula, as far as there was one, was to open with Eddie in a near-plausible 30s setting, usually downtrodden and singing upbeat songs to the equally downtrodden. Then he's whisked off to some Art Deco sets for songs and comedy set pieces. In short, sort of a bargain Ziegfeld Follies.

Cantor is likable in a way Jolson isn't, even when he's selling a song or gag for way more than it's worth. You can see it now; imagine the effect back in the day.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

John, you can find Lucille Ball in the first reel of KID MILLIONS, when the townspeople have been evicted and are all outdoors. Eddie says, "The city put you here, so you should live here." Lucy is the blonde who explains, "He says the city put us here, so we should live here!"

Mr. Benson is right on the money when he says "Cantor is likable in a way Jolson isn't." Jolson must have known this, and for his radio show in the 1930s he insisted on being promoted not as a singer, but as a comedian!

I think Cantor's approachability stems from his fresh-kid characterizations on the stage: outspoken, seeing things for what they were, and being comfortably candid with the audience. You see some of this in WHOOPEE! Jolson is more distant, entertaining but not befriending the audience.

9:30 AM  
Blogger opticalguy said...

Cantor comedies are an acquired taste. I rather liked KID MILLIONS and I liked Eva Sully (Shiek Mulhulla's daughter) who I later found out originated many of the "dumb Dora" routines that were the "bread & butter" for Burns and Allen. It's odd seeing Ethel Merman in her young, hot days. The Technicolor in the musical finale is so vivid that I used to say "it shows up in color on a black-and-white TV."

8:11 AM  

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