Monday, June 15, 2009

The Silly Meme / Day 2: "Million Dollar Legs" (1932)

Day Two of our Silly Meme Week finds us returning to our beloved vintage roots as we explore the mad world of Million Dollar Legs (1932), which manages to wrest several laughs from salesmanship and the hoopla surrounding the modern Olympics, (using settings and footage shot at the venues utilized during the Los Angeles Olympics of 1932. It even made W.C. Fields amusing to me for the first and, perhaps only time. The real reasons to watch, however, as far as I'm concerned, are the endearingly absurd Jack Oakie and Susan Fleming (later, Mrs. Harpo Marx) and Lyda Roberti. Director Edward F. Cline (who was also responsible for filming The Bank Dick) successfully corraled silent comic actor Ben Turpin, life's absurdities, and the budding talent and verbal dexterity of of 23-year old Joseph Mankiewicz for this movie, (it probably didn't hurt that Joe was hired by his brother Herman, then a far more successful writer in Hollywood, and the producer on this movie) Others credited with this manicly paced whirlwind of a movie are the estimable Ben Hecht, Henry Myers, and Nicholas Barrows. Often compared to Duck Soup from the same period, I suspect that you might find that this film holds up better than the better known Marx Brothers picture.

Million Dollar Legs
bears review every few years, though Paramount's vault has ceased to be available for broadcast some time ago. Btw, don't miss the glimpse of actor and athlete Bruce Bennett here as an uncredited competitor. In real life, as Herman Bix, he won a silver medal in the 1928 Olympics for the shot put.

Btw, did you know that since 1981, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a Jack Oakie Lecture honoring this "master of comic timing and a beloved figure in the industry" each year on or near his birthdate of November 12th? What a joy it is to know that he is not forgotten, but that the world continues to honor his gift of laughter, which may have received its best display in this little 63 minute movie!

All aboard for Klopstokia, The fare and the laughs are on me! This is the land where women are all called Angela, the men are each named George, and everyone gets to be an Olympic caliber athlete, especially if you can sing the "Woof bloogle jig" to the tune of "One Hour With You", the popular hit sung by Maurice Chevalier in another Paramount hit. How often do you get to see movie studios kidding themselves after the early 1930s?

You should have access to the rest of the segments of the movie in its entirety after this first sequence.
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Special thanks to my friend Judith for alerting me to this film's availability in this format!


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