27 July 2002 | RJV
Todd and Pitts Shine Under Charley Chase's Direction
Having achieved success with Laurel and Hardy's shorts, producer Hal Roach decided to create a female comedy team in 1931. He paired sultry Thelma Todd with plain-jane ZaSu Pitts. The comediennes immediately clicked with moviegoers and continued making two-reelers until Pitts was replaced by Patsy Kelly in 1933.
BARGAIN OF THE CENTURY was one of the last Todd-Pitts shorts. As in their other films, the stars' charming personalities boost this one. Thelma Todd's glamour and levelheadedness effectively counterpoints ZaSu Pitts's drabness and dizziness. Despite their contrasts, one perceives a companionable bond between them.
The scenario isn't much. The girls accidentally get a policeman friend, Butterworth(James Burtis,) fired. Mistaking someone (Billy Gilbert) for the police captain, they try to play up to him so Butterworth can get his job back. What makes BARGAIN OF THE CENTURY move along are the comedic set ups and gags. Particularly hilarious are a series of booby traps for crooks that Butterworth sets up when he temporarily moves into the girls' apartment. These traps not only provide funny inconveniences for Todd and Pitts, but they also help humorously resolve the plot.
The supporting cast is fine with Billy Gilbert standing out as the "captain." His German accent is funny in itself. And he is ferociously hilarious when he rages over a prized watch ZaSu accidentally broke, assaulting every clock he can find in the girls' apartment.
This two-reeler was the only one in the Todd-Pitts series directed by comedy legend Charley Chase. He handles the comedy with flair and energy, making sure that the gags supplement but never overwhelm the stars. It's a pity Chase never directed any other Todd-Pitts shorts or any Todd-Kelly shorts for that matter.
BARGAIN OF THE CENTURY not only exemplifies a prime showcase for Thelma Todd and ZaSu Pitts but also a prime showcase for Hal Roach comedies as well. This two-reeler easily measures up to the best of fellow Roach stars Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang, and Charley Chase.