Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Here's one that, shall we say, has been quite omnipresent if you were one to tune into your local PBS station during the eighties and nineties. Back then THE GREAT GABBO seemed to pop up on local "educational television" at about the same rate various Antipodean bloggers stop in at boy brothels for some afternoon enjoyment. Of course that was back in the days when PBS, in between broadcasting rather embarrassing pro-communist/gay/feminist/you-name-it-we-have-a-documentary-for-it programming, would be filling their schedules with not only old movies but various fifties/sixties television programs that even the lowliest independent stations jettisoned ages ago. Well, at least your local PBS station's broadcasting of films such as THE GREAT GABBO hearkened back to the Golden Age of Old Movies that used to be run on your local commercial stations and sure made for a fine alternative to the championship bowling and skating finals that these movies were usually up against on some snowed-out Sunday afternoon.

Print seen (courtesy who of course don't know better) ain't exactly the tops. Was hoping for one with the original color musical numbers restored but this is just the same TV print we've seen for the past umpteen years snap crackle pops and all. Good enough if this were being shown on the legendary-in-my-living room OLD MOVIES THE GOLDEN ERA back in 1975 but nowadays I deserve more. Maybe I shouldn't complain, for this early talkie starring Erich von Stroheim as the mad and abusive ventriloquist is just the ticket for some evening viewing especially when stacked up against most anything to be found on the hundreds of stations that are being made available to us that only makes me wanna this the culture that I was born into???

The typically jaded BLOG TO COMM reader will be put off by the long-hackneyed plot later riffed on in LA STRADA and various dummy-oriented TWILIGHT ZONEs, but this was '29 and such things were undoubtedly fresh enough during the early days of sound gimmickry. You know I love old timey hackdom anyway, especially if it is of a twenties vintage and naturally just about anything with von Stroheim in it's gonna be worth at least the consideration of a viewing. Plus these transitional-era talkies are always a gas for the ear-candy which sent audiences flocking to their nearest theaters no matter how stiff and dull the actual films might have been!

Betty Compson's OK but nothing special as the loving assistant whom von Stroheim tosses around like a dishrag, and who could forget the musical numbers with Margaret Kane, the model for Betty Boop herself who actually ended up suing when things became too noticible. And to top it all off the screenplay was written by Hugh Herbert who later on starred in some of the more scabrous comedy shorts for Columbia which had the Legion of Decency doin' extra duty because of their, er, seamy subject matter!

Do films like THE GREAT GABBO still show up on television other'n on TCM at three inna morning? Maybe a local low-budget station 'round your way'll air it other'n when you're trying to fight off another bout with insomnia. It's a good 'un, really but if you can why don'tcha record it off the boob tube which is a lot better'n dishing out for the bargain-bin DVD price.


Anonymous said...

Nothing special? Yes, her role in this film is not great, but Betty Compson has always been a heart-throb for me. I was lucky enough to find an autographed photo of her once for a dollar at a flea market (from someone who did not know what he had...he asked me "ever heard of this Jack Mulhall...who is this Regis Toomey."), and I treasure it as much as I do my autographed photos of two other ladies I love, Iris Adrian and Lupe Velez! I LOVE Betty Compson.
Bill S.

Christopher Stigliano said...

Looks like I'm off your Christmas list next year!

Anonymous said...

actually, I should be looking for a SECOND autographed photo of Betty Compson to give you for Christmas next year! having her looking at your each day from your wall will win you over!