Wednesday, July 11, 2012


OK, get the fact outta your mind that Leonard Maltin is nothing but a bearded buffoon who not only has one of the most irritating voices (worse than mine!) to be heard on the cathode connection but tastes befitting those of Karen Quinlan after downing the booze 'n least he was watching long-forgotten comedy shorts and related flotsam on afternoon tee-vee while all of those other budding film crits were more likely to sneak into screenings of obscure art films with subtitles written in Sanskrit as MAD magazine once so eloquently put it. And yeah, even though I can take him and his nasonex voice for only so long I will say that Maltin sure did a good job with this once-omnipresent book (from which I've snitched more'n a few snaps for various issues of my crudzine) that, while not as up there and as thorough as I woulda liked, at least made for one of them nice "introductory" looksees back when I was a teenager and wanted to know more about them Li'l Rascals and Three Stooges comedies that were still gettin' the afternoon tee-vee play long before being banished into the far reaches of cable 'n low wattage UHF hell.

Gotta admit that THE GREAT MOVIE SHORTS is info 'n snap packed to peak perfection, and the inclusion of complete and detailed short subject filmographies with credits and synopses is what really makes this 'un a keeper. It's especially helpful if you're trying to keep track of all of the shorts you've managed to see on tee-vee and wanna know what you've missed out on. However, don't you think Maltin can get a li'l overbearing at times (but hey, if he really was that much of a kiddo as he was when he wrote this well, I can forgive 'im!) and some of his opines just don't jibe with what a typical BLOG TO COMM reader's would be with regards to what is good and what is douse? Yeah, me too but then again in those pre-internet times it wasn't like we had that much to rely on, eh?

OK, Maltin can complain all he wants about the "cheap" look of Educational Pictures and their supposedly duff scripts, but in many ways don't'cha think that the low budget look is just what made those latterday Educationals so appealing? And besides, any book dealing with short subjects and would limit a total great such as Joe Cook to a passing mention (and ignore another true comedy genius as Willie Howard) does have something crucial missing. And I'm sure many fans of the various Columbia short subject series were wincing from here to Bizoo and back over Maltin's curt dismissals of the Vera Vague and El Brendel comedies, but hey it's his book and I guess if you wanna do something better you can always start up your own blog, site or do whatever there is witin your means to get your message across.

As for me I can't complain that much if only because at least the guy gathered up most of the hotcha stuff (inc. all of the big names like the aforementioned Rascals 'n Stooges, and of course Lauren & Hardy, Edgar Kennedy, Charley Chase...) along with all of those other Roach, Columbia, Educational and RKO rarities and got the thing published and slapped into book stores and libraries where brain-addled teens could write weird obscenities and scribble in the pages when the virginal librarian types weren't looking. And if it weren't for him, where would typical suburban slobs like myself have found some of our first information regarding those old mooms we've seen on tee-vee for years on end! Can't fault him for that even if the sight of him on the tube is enough to make me want to click the remote to find a nice soothing braindead drama on Lifetime.

Who knows, if they still have libraries this one might be available even if it has been surpassed at least three times over by many other efforts both print and pixel. Grab hold of it while you can for a quick comedy short fix that might even leave a lump in your throat 'stead of your groin.


django said...

I remember seeing this book at a library once and thumbing through it, but don't remember much otherwise.
Does he deal at all with Mack Sennett's odd early-sound shorts, distributed by Educational (he may have also had a distribution deal w/ Paramount for some of them)? Some are in color, some feature elaborate under-water photography (!!!), and of course a few feature Mack's idea of the biggest laugh-getter of anything, putting a Lion into a scene. They are not very funny, but they are odd. The lovely Marjorie Beebe stars in some. He even tried to make James Murray (yes, ill-fated star of THE CROWD) into a witty comedy star in one, where he plays himself! I have some murky vhs transfers of some of those, but can't imagine them ever being legitimately reissued in my lifetime...unless I live to be 200...
Great to have Blog To Comm back...I missed it while it was away...

django said...

how dare ANYONE dismiss Vera Vague? my children literally grew up on Vera Vague shorts...she is fantastic, very attractive and sexy but with perfect comic timing and able to handle the most blunt forms of Jules White Columbia slapstick...she is an icon in my home!!!!

Christopher Stigliano said...

Thanx for far as Sennett goes his talkie days get a fair share of coverage (and of course are mentioned with regards to the Andy Clyde shorts he released), though they are pretty much downplayed and ridiculed as one would expect. And yeah, Maltin is particularly unkind to Vera Vague, whose shorts I 100% agree with you on. Too bad fate wasn't kinder and people like ourselves aren't having our opinions splattered across the country thus setting everybody straight 'stead of these intellectual dorks who think that CITIZEN KANE is somehow a cinematic high point while dismissing the films of William Beaudine!

Marjorian said...

Leonard Maltin's book is nice enough. It's not really that detailed, not compared to Brent Walker's more recent book on Mack Sennett which covers Educational much more thoroughly. Maltin deals briefly with the studios without attempting filmographies, but then moves on to the performers and does list their films together with one line synposes. Marjorie Beebe- Sennett is on record as saying she had the potential to be the greatest comedienne of them all- only gets in through Andy Clyde as Lloyd Hamilton is not given his own section, though there is a picture of them together in the opening section. So from Beebe's brief period in the sun, when she was the star of her films and the titles reflected that, there is "Cowcatcher's Daughter", with Andy Clyde, but not "Doubling in the Quickies", nor "Dance Hall Marge" where she does that bravura underwater scene in a car. As for Maltin himself I'd say his heart was in the right place, and that's all one can really ask of anyone. We each have our opinions that can get others riled.