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Friday, February 09, 2018

Vas You Dere, Sharlee?

Meet The Baron (1933) Is Tunnel Through Comic Pyramids

Under heading of things MGM did for boxoffice came Meet The Baron, a screen launch for Jack Pearl of radio fame. Leo brought him and Ed Wynn aboard because free broadcast was too big to ignore. Each got a single starring vehicle at the lot. Metro wouldn't warm to radio like Paramount, but then they weren't invested in radio like Paramount. Somehow producer David Selznick fell on the sword that was Meet The Baron. He wanted no part of the project but did want to be a team player. Selznick spoke to wretchedness of Meet The Baron in notes done years later for a proposed memoir. "A horror I produced," he'd recall, "I made the picture with a loathing for it." Selznick confessed he had "never been a devotee of radio comics," indeed had never heard Jack Pearl perform. Hard as DOS labored at movies, I'd not imagine him listening to much radio, what with time off spent gambling and wenching per this dynamo's wont. Only hardest airwave-cores would know Jack Pearl today. Some of his programs can be heard online. Jack mangled words and made malapropisms a found art for schoolboys. They'd spread far/wide his catchphrase, "Vas You Dere, Sharlee?," this Pearl's response when funning partners tried catching him in a lie. "World's Biggest Liar" was in fact his shtick, hence "Baron Munchhausen" as air identity. Here's but sample pearl of Pearl's humor ... I'll spare you more ... Announcer to Jack: What did you have for breakfast, Baron?, to Jack reply: Baseball pancakes, then the announcer again, Baseball pancakes? What do you mean, baseball pancakes? Jack: I don't know, but we used a batter to make them!

The above lobby card from Meet The Baron sold at auction in 2005 for $6900. Can you guess why? Mind you, this was an 11X14 piece of paper. Could be someone bought this instead of paying their child's college tuition, or for that operation so Dad could walk again. Nuts as I was for collecting, I'd like to think I was never this far gone. But hey, it's the Stooges, and Ted Healy, so many might let the family stay lame for such treasure. Would the same card hammer for so much in 2017 as in 2005? It's a cinch there aren't as many Stooge fanatics above ground as twelve years ago. Let that pass, as they say in precode, but I'll add this: Meet The Baron is lush with Ted and his slap-ee boys. He and Stooges are prolific through running time, enough to cull into a solid two-reeler, if one were of editing mind. For most, of course, it's Stooges that make Meet The Baron bearable. I had fun for ardent clowning by not only them, but Jimmy Durante (minus Keaton, could he sustain as lead, or continuing second-lead, comic? --- MGM certainly tried), Zasu Pitts, Edna May Oliver, plus curiosity satisfied on seeing Jack Pearl do his way-back thing. Who knows? There might be a latent Jack Pearl fan within us all. I'm just waiting to spring "Vas You Dere, Sharlee?" on a next person that doubts my veracity. Should I save it for the next GPS reader who tries to factually correct me?


Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Just watched this last week after having had it for years. Got it for THE STOOGES. As you write, they make it barely bearable. Somebody was out to lunch on this one.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

Many of the DVD pressings of this film have decomposed, turning brown and not playing. I've had to buy this disc twice.

8:44 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

I saw it at TCM on a day when they had several features where the Stooges had small parts, including another interesting one, STUDENT TOUR.

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What, will no one defend MEET THE BARON for having the raciest number ("Clean as a Whistle") in MGM's entire musical canon, and possibly in all of pre-code? Yow-WHEE!!! Whenever I see it, I too am "wearing a great big smile!"

11:56 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Without THE STOOGES on it would that lobby card have sold for that price?

6:31 AM  
Blogger Beowulf said...

I doubt it, Reg.

Years ago, when I played some Pearl/Munchausen stuff for my classes, no one so much as burped up a giggle. Humor ages quickly and this Pearl didn't emerge from an oyster!

The Wolf, man.

3:51 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dear John:

Great post -- and wotta lobby card story!

There are other MGM comedy disasters (HOLLYWOOD PARTY, anyone?), but this was something ill-conceived from beginning to end. Jack Pearl was a veteran vaudeville comic (he also put in time in burlesque) who hit it unexpectedly big in radio... but the "Baron" character just didn't transfer to the screen. It's a fascinating curio.

By the way, Tommie Hicks is correct. Last month I tried to look at my MEET THE BARON/GOLD RAIDERS dvd, and it was unplayable.

Best regards,
-- Griff

4:22 PM  
Blogger Robert Fiore said...

On the Munchausen theme, I recently watched the UK Blu-Ray of The Fabulous Baron Munchausen, the largely stop-motion animated picture by Karel Zeman. As I recall from my 1960s childhood this was on syndicated TV a lot, which was unusual for a quirky foreign film. (I'm not sure my memory is reliable on these things; I had been convinced the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan was rerun every year in the 60s, until I read in Wikipedia that it was actually only rebroadcast twice, years apart.) Since you're so hep to the subject of movie broadcasts on television, could you tell me what was going on with that?

6:09 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

I don't recall our having "The Fabulous Baron Munchausen" on television around here. Or maybe I just didn't notice it. It was part of a 29 title "Chiller Package" that was syndicated to local stations during the 70's, others of the group including "The Flesh Eaters," "Horror Of Party Beach," etc.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Barry Rivadue said...

Walking along Manhattan's Upper East Side in the '90s, I overheard two oldtimers on a bench talking. One said "Vas you dere, Sharlie?" I had already recognized the catchphrase from somewhere, so thanks for clarifying its origin!

8:56 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

I had been convinced the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan was rerun every year in the 60s, until I read in Wikipedia that it was actually only rebroadcast twice, years apart.)

Well, a little more often than that. The Mary Martin PETER PAN was staged live in 1955 and again in 1956. A new production was produced and aired on tape in 1960. That taped version was repeated in 1963, 1966 and 1973. Years later, NBC restored the tape and ran it in 1989 and 1991.

Yeah, though, that seems to be a not-uncommon lapse of childhood memory, remembering the Mary Martin PETER PAN as having been aired annually, like THE WIZARD OF OZ was. I've had people swear to me that they saw it every year.

1:23 AM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Mr. Flore: I also had "Peter Pan" down as an annual. I remember "Hoppity Goes to Town", "Hansel and Gretel" (the stop-motion version), and the Robert Youngson films as running a lot when I was a kid, but maybe they just made a really strong impression on one or two viewings.

Only in the past year did I see "The Horn Blows at Midnight". The climax has Jack Benny caught in a display of a giant coffee pot constantly pouring into a giant cup. I had a very vivid childhood memory of that scene, but not remembering who was in it. For decades, any time an old comedy had a character wandering near a ledge, I expected him to fall into that coffee cup. For some reason I mentally tied it to a Shirley Temple movie. At some point I figured it might just be a remembered dream.

3:07 AM  
Blogger Robert Fiore said...

The 1970s Chiller Package would fit the time frame. I don't think anyone would have the nerve to try and pass off The Fabulous Baron Munchausen in their "Chiller Theater" show. I don't doubt a lot of stations treated it as dross they had to take to get the package, and never showed it at all. I do remember Munchausen being played more than once in L.A. during a local station's regular weeknight movie programming. I also remember our local horror host Seymour (Larry Vincent) showing Horror of Party Beach. Everybody thinks their local horror host was a genius.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Outside of the Stooges and that first production number, this is a dreadful movie, right up there with Ed Wynn's "The Chief". I may have overanalyzed it somewhat on my blog a few years ago:

1:36 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Durante, Healy, The Stooges AND Stan and Ollie in BUSY BODIES? I'd plunk down my quarter for that bill, Jack Pearl not withstanding!

1:58 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

There are far more laughs in the two reels of "Busy Bodies" than in the six or seven of "Meet the Baron". But you could say that regarding most Laurel & Hardy shorts.

4:13 PM  

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