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  • Ron Oliver6 September 2003
    An MGM PETE SMITH Short Subject.

    A very silly housewife receives help with her dinner MENU - and a cure for her hubby's upset tummy - when a chef magically arrives in her kitchen.

    This fanciful little film is an enjoyable bit of early Technicolor fluff. The practical demonstrations, mixed up with the gentle humor, serve up a most pleasing result - almost as appetizing as the roast duck & baked apples. Movie mavens will recognize Franklin Pangborn as the dyspeptic husband, Una Merkel as his featherbrained wife, and Luis Alberni as the remarkable chef, all uncredited.

    Off-the-wall narrator Pete Smith would produce a reworked version of this story - with Oscar winning results - four years later in PENNY WISDOM (1937).

    Often overlooked or neglected today, the one and two-reel short subjects were useful to the Studios as important training grounds for new or burgeoning talents, both in front & behind the camera. The dynamics for creating a successful short subject was completely different from that of a feature length film, something akin to writing a topnotch short story rather than a novel. Economical to produce in terms of both budget & schedule and capable of portraying a wide range of material, short subjects were the perfect complement to the Studios' feature films.
  • I love these little "one reel wonders" that TCM throws in at the end of their regularly scheduled movies as filler till the next movie comes on. I caught this one at the end of Sunrise, during TCM's 31 Days of Oscar. Seems this little 1933 one-reeler was nominated for Best Short Subject.

    It's very amusing. An early technicolor about a man with indigestion, thanks to a wife who's a klutzenheimer in the kitchen. Una Merkel plays the dippy wife -- she utters about 3 words but is told by the unseen narrator that he's the only one allowed to talk! The narrator acts as an omnipotent overseer, putting broken eggs and spilled condiments back together again by the magic of reverse-action filming. He also brings in a chef in a puff of smoke, to come to the housewife's rescue. We are then treated to a mini-cooking show, with instructions on how to prepare stuffed duck and baked apples. It's quite droll, with the narrator getting off such funny zingers as:

    "Cook the stuffing for 15 minutes, for that perfect taste that you love to burp up later."

    "Now clutch the apple firmly so it will realize the futility of any resistance."

    Very funny and amusing. Too bad there's no way to actually know when this will be on again. I don't think TCM lists its one-reel wonders in its programming guide, which is too bad. Well, if you run across "The Menu" at the end of your regularly scheduled program, be sure to stick around and watch it. I think you'll enjoy it!
  • This is a rare case of a short that was so highly regarded by the makers that it was remade under another title several years later. Audiences must have loved it.

    I can't say that much for it. A woman (UNA MERKEL), in a modern looking kitchen with all sorts of gadgets, is a complete klutz until, by magic, a chef appears to help her stuff a duck before her husband (FRANKLIN PANGBORN) comes home from work with some company. Otherwise, the poor woman would have nothing to show for her efforts but a mess on the kitchen floor which he clears up immediately. He also shows her how to make baked apples.

    The real source of amusement is the script, narrated in witty fashion by Pete Smith and making a lot of funny observations.

    It's funny, not hilarious, and for anyone interested in gourmet cooking it might be even more worth watching.
  • This very slight MGM comedy short from 1933 isn't particularly funny, but it received an Oscar nomination for "Best Short Subject" that year, and it has the wonderful UNA MERKEL in her physical prime in TECHNICOLOR! (She would not appear in a color feature film until the early '50's MGM remake of "The Merry Widow" starring Lana Turner.) I'd give "Menu" a "10" if it had more of Merkel, but as it stands, it's worthy of an "8" for a Technicolor Una Merkel alone. Merkel was one of the great supporting players of the Hollywood studio era, and one of its most prolific, appearing in about three dozen feature films, primarily for MGM and Warner Brothers from 1931 to 1934. "Menu" is an early example of the three-strip Technicolor process that would not be used in feature films until 1935's "Becky Sharp" with Miriam Hopkins. Up until that point, it was reserved for short films, but usually musical shorts, unlike this simple "Pete Smith" MGM comedy short, most of which were shot in plain B&W. Una Merkel, with her strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes and pale pink complexion, was a feast for the eyes in the then "new" Technicolor process, and is the primary reason to see this film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Menu---The Burp of a Nation---8/10.

    This little ditty shows up occasionally on TCM, so you might be lucky, as I was, to accidentally run across it in the ending minutes of a Tivo recording of a classic movie. The running time states that it is 10 minutes in length, but it seems much shorter than that.

    The short centers on a housewife and her feeble attempts at cooking. Her kitchen is in a shambles; everything she touches produces a sound effect and a wise crack from an omnipotent narrator (Pete Smith). Away from home, the husband sits in his office worrying about what his wife will be concocting in the kitchen for his consumption when he gets home. Meanwhile, at the office, his belly is aching, so he is never far from his bicarbonate of soda, which he keeps in his jacket pocket.

    The narrator keeps everything moving along very nicely as he throws in one liners, puns and wry observations of the hapless couple. The narrator also punctuates the proceedings by not only dropping in many appropriate sound effects, but also by bringing to life a chef to manage the wife's dinner arrangements. In a puff of smoke the chef enters into the kitchen and proceeds to teach the wife how to stuff a duck and bake some apples.

    When the husband comes home, the chef has disappeared and so has the husband's bicarbonate. The husband has a meal fit for a king, but he'll only be king for a day, I don't think this wife could make a bowl of cereal.

    After watching this short, I thought it was made sometime during the 1940's, but was completely shocked to see (while on IMDb) a release date of 1933. I didn't know they used color as early as that.

    Very short, very tasty and easily digestible. 8/10.

    Clark Richards
  • Warning: Spoilers
    " . . . which makes it a dead duck." So observes Pete Smith, with his trademark Snarkiness, at one juncture in this cooking fantasy. If MENU's main character, John Xavier Omsk, added his name up for Scrabble value, it would total a sizable 40 points. (My full name has the same number of letters, but yields only half as many points.) Perhaps more interesting to word game players (at least those of grandpa's or great-grandpa's generation) is that one of the notable clues for vintage crossword puzzles plays John's wife, Mrs. Omsk. Yep, Una Merkel (as in 37 Down: Actress _ _ _ Merkel) makes an appearance here as a particularly ditsy blonde. Referred to by narrator Smith as "this dizzy dame," Una tries to crack open an egg with a metal nutcracker! Once chef Luis Alberni pops into the scene like some sort of kitchen genii, things settle down into two actual recipes being given and prepared: one for dressing (as in, how to stuff a duck), and the other for making baked apples (no, you cannot just set an apple on the sidewalk in the summer--I suppose you actually COULD, but it probably would not taste as good as these ones seen on the screen).
  • boblipton11 January 2020
    Luis Alberni shows Una Merkel how to prepare a duck for husband Franklin Pangborn, while a Smith called Pete describes what's going on, leaving everyone more confused than when they started. At least, however, You've got a duck ready for the oven.

    You also have Una Merkel in color. That means a lot to fanciers of pre-code comedies. True, we get only two-strip Technicolor, giving the entire movie a sepia wash, but Miss Merkel - W.H.O. entered the movies as Lilian Gish's stand-in before making a name for herself as a blank-faced sexual predator.... that's her starring persona. I say nothing about her actual,character.

    You also,get good recipes for duck and for baked apples. I would add some cinnamon to the apples before baking.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    " . . . the duck, of course, NOT the chef," observes the narrator of this salacious "Pre-Code" cooking show, MENU. Back in America's infamous "Roaring Twenties," the nation only had one thing on its mind: S-E-X. Even Wall Street was so obsessed with this one-track railway of thought that they let our Homeland roll behind the eight ball, resulting in the Great Depression. Despite hundreds if not millions of people starving to death during the subsequent decade, Hollywood's Dirty Pictures persisted for five years into this Famine Era. MENU is just another of the countless examples baring up Tinsel Town's primary operating principle: Sleaze sells. Chock full of double-entendre innuendo, MENU helped prompt the joint church and government censorship rating board which continues to edit every frame of film footage available for mass distribution Today. So the next time you are forced to suffer through a blockbuster flick in which all the "good parts" obviously have been excised for the personal viewing pleasure of ecclesiastical big wheels and their circle of pervert friends, blame MENU, with its lines such as "the apples are then partially peeled, reducing them to a state of semi-nudity."
  • Nick Grinde's Menu is an uproariously funny short film, focusing on a chef (Pete Smith), who is summoned by the narrator of the short (also Smith) to assist a housewife (Una Merkel) in cooking a complete duck dinner with baked apples that will be delicious and not give her husband (Luis Alberni) debilitating indigestion. The narrator talks us through several hilarious scenes between the chef and the housewife, as he teaches her to prepare the duck and the proper steps of seasoning and topping it off before it is cooked.

    Menu feels like a playful nudge in the sides of the cooking shows we see network Television populated with, despite being over eighty years old. Smith has an elegance and a deadpan sense of wit in the short, frequently poking fun at the ineptitude of the housewife or playing along to the chef's free-spirited cooking process throughout the short. Never is writer Thorne Smith's screenplay too condescending or mean-spirited but, much like the duck dinner, fresh and pleasant, enough to leave one with an appetite for more. At ten minutes, Menu is a fulfilling comedic appetizer.

    Starring: Pete Smith, Una Merkel, and Luis Alberni. Directed by: Nick Grinde.
  • Menu (1933)

    ** (out of 4)

    Technicolor short from MGM has Pete Smith teaching women how to cook a duck that won't make their husbands sick. I've seen quite a few of these Smith educational shorts and while most of them are entertaining the same can't be said for this one. Even at nine minutes this thing goes on too long and none of the comedy in the film works.

    You can find this short playing on TCM quite often and Warner has released it on their Katharine Hepburn set. This is one of the weaker Smith shorts but they all have a certain quality.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Menu" is an American 10-minute live action short film from 1933, so this one will have its 85th anniversary next year already. The names of director Grinde and writer Smith will certainly not be to familiar to most, but this is the film that got 2-time Academy Award winner Pete Smith his very first of many Oscar nominations. He was the producer and narrator here. This film is about cooking as the title already gives away. We have a housewife here preparing the perfect meal that he husband can eat despite his tummy troubles. The cast isn't two shabby, two people with a star on the Walk of fame including a National Board of Review winner and an Oscar nominee. But the project is just too ridiculous. The comedy by the narrator while we see her prepare the duck is not funny and even if you love cooking (more than I do), there's really no point in seeing this one here. The Oscar nomination was way too much and it lost to a geography/travel documentary film and it would have been way worse even if it had taken home the crown. I may be a bit biased here as a vegetarian too, but this really wasn't a convincing work. Most production values are pretty low and the fact that it is in color (surprisingly given its time) does not make it a better watch either. Huge thumbs-down.