10 July 2003 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Two suicides in one movie
In my IMDb review for 'Jitters the Butler', I describe the comedy team of Clark & McCullough, as well as the similarities between funnyman Bobby Clark and his contemporary Groucho Marx ... and the circumstances leading to Paul McCullough's suicide. 'Fits in a Fiddle' is another Clark & McCullough comedy short from the same period ... but 'Jitters' is very funny (probably their best work on film), whilst 'Fits in a Fiddle' is pretty bad.
Part of the problem here is McCullough ... or, rather, the fact that he has no material. Clark & McCullough were ostensibly a cross-talk comedy act in which both men were funny; i.e., two comedians, not a comedian and a straight man. But their act was always structured so that Clark got the vast majority of the laughs. McCullough assisted Clark in his physical mayhem but never initiated mayhem of his own. McCullough spoke the feed lines which gave Clark a chance to give the punchlines. McCullough did have a nice talent for making peculiar noises ... but, throughout the history of this act, he was lumbered with the job of playing a 'funny' character while somebody else (Clark) got all the funny material.
Clark & McCullough frequently portrayed would-be musicians, excusing their own incompetence with the very funny line 'We may not be good, but we're loud!' In this movie, they don't even have that excuse. 'Fits in a Fiddle' features the heavily-accented German character actor Herman Bing as the manager of radio station AWOL. Bobby Clark tries to go on the air as a 'fiddle player', but he can't play a note: his violin is rigged with a gramophone! Eventually, Clark and Bing get into a duel, using violins as weapons. (Stand by for a bad pun on 'violins'/'violence'.) Throughout this would-be mayhem, poor McCullough has even less to do than usual.
Here's the funniest joke in this movie:
Pretty girl: Do you have change for a twenty? / Bobby Clark: Not since 1929.
Now here's a 'joke' that's more typical of this movie:
Herman Bing: You are temperamental, eh? / Bobby Clark: No, I was born in this country.
As I was screening this funeral-paced movie, I suddenly realised that the cast list of 'Fits in a Fiddle' includes TWO suicides: McCullough (who slit his own throat with a straight razor) and Herman Bing. Throughout Bing's Hollywood career, his stock-in-trade was a comically exaggerated Teutonic accent. During WW2, this stood him in good stead playing comical Nazis, but in the post-war years there were fewer casting calls for actors with German accents, and Bing topped himself. After watching this movie, I don't blame him. I'll rate this terrible movie 2 points out of 10.