1 November 2011 | duke1029
Fast moving and lots of fun
"Hollywood Out-takes and Rare Footage" is a lot of fun for fans of old movies. The blooper section shows some iconic classic stars like James Cagney, Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, Claude Rains, and Errol Flynn flubbing their lines, mishandling a prop, or taking an accidental pratfall. Edward G. Robinson is refreshingly good-humored about his gaffs, but Humphrey Bogart takes his miscues more seriously. In one blooper from "Dark Victory" he apologetically explains to the director that he blew his line because he backed into a hot stove during the scene, burning his derrière. Easily the funniest clips feature singing cowboy Dick Foran. An apparently out-of-shape Foran fails to lift himself onto his horse several times, repeatedly exclaiming with frustration, "I can't get my ass off the ground!"
The source of these vintage bloopers is the editing department at Warner Brothers. During the 1930s, it routinely printed and kept the funniest outtakes from its films, which were edited into a blooper reel to show in-house to Warner personnel at an annual party each year. These compilations have been preserved, which is the reason that most of the flubs from the 30s that have survived to this day come from Warners.
Although many of today's self-indulgent stars intentionally create flubs for their own amusement, that practice was rare in the economy-minded studio system during the dark days of the Depression. Despite that, there are a few bloopers of the intentional variety here. Tough cons George Raft and James Cagney spontaneously break into a waltz in prison as warden George Bancroft asks to cut in a deleted scene from "Each Dawn I Die." Lou Costello deliberately uses obscenities to Brenda Joyce in "Little Giant," blowing take after take. Although it's not possible to know his motivations, it does seem somewhat mean-spirited on his part.
For years an out-take clip from "International House" with W. C. Fields was supposed to have recorded an earthquake striking the studio. The Great Man is seen evacuating the sound stage cautioning everyone to remain calm. Since this documentary was released in 1983, it has come to light that the earthquake was a hoax engineered by Fields with the earthquake effect achieved by the cinematographer shaking the camera.
Some of he "rare footage" are pleas for good causes and charities: Shirley Temple asking for support for the Red Cross, Frank Sinatra pleading for religious tolerance, and Bugs Bunny pitching War Bonds to his audience. However some of them seem strangely ironic. "At Home with Joan Crawford" is a 1953 promo for Ted Williams' charity for dying children, The Jimmy Fund. Crawford is seen lecturing her adopted children about sharing and generosity to the less fortunate. Her daughter Christine would later pillory her mother after her death in 1977 with the infamously bitter biographical memoir "Mommy Dearest." Another sequence originally filmed as a promo for safe driving to be broadcast on the 1955 TV show "Warner Bros. Presents" has Gig Young interviewing James Dean dressed in character as Jett Rink on the "Giant" set. Dean cautions young people to drive safely and ad-libs "because the life you save may be MINE." ironically he was killed shortly afterward, and the studio pulled the spot from the broadcast.
Another poignant clip shows Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall doing wardrobe tests for the proposed Warner comedy "Melville Goodwin, U.S.A." Initially, Bogie is smiling for the camera and his actress-wife but later is seen wincing in pain for several moments. After a while he relaxes back into a smile. The silent footage and its narration does not give us any explanation for Bogie's seeming apparent look of discomfort, but shortly thereafter he would be diagnosed with the fatal cancer that would take his life at age 57. The picture would eventually be made as "Top Secret Affair" with Kirk Douglas and Susan Hayward.
A variety of other enjoyable clips round out the film. The 1939 Academy Awards are highlighted by Hattie McDaniel's emotional acceptance speech. Short Mickey Rooney mugs and ad-libs while standing cleavage- high to a buxom Jayne Mansfield. Assorted premieres include the star-studded red carpet for 1954's "A Star Is Born" and Mae West's "I'm No Angel." W. C. Fields Pre-Code comedy "The Dentist" contains a salaciously hilarious scene with Fields and Elise Cavanna simulating sex during a tooth extraction. Bela Lugosi as Dracula vamps Mae Questal in her Betty Boop character from a "Screen Snapshots" short, and "Hollywood Extra Girl," a promo short for "The Crusades" depicts iconic dictatorial director Cecil B. DeMille browbeating his cast and crew on set.
"Hollywood Out-takes and Rare Footage" moves fast and will serendipitously delight every fan of the Golden Age of Hollywood.