Sunday, July 10, 2016

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Hollywood

Year 8, Day 192 - 7/10/16 - Movie #2,393

BEFORE:  My first dilemma tonight concerns the title of the film, as I tend to disallow all possessives, especially where such people as Tyler Perry and Lee Daniels are concerned.  I don't care what deals filmmakers work out with studios, I won't acknowledge anyone's name becoming part of the title.  The title is the title, and I think this goes back to Disney trying to co-opt properties like "Tarzan" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". 

Things get a little more confusing with the use of the word "in" - the poster for Thursday's film similarly reads "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Buck Privates".  Well, of course, the title of the movie should just be reduced to "Buck Privates".  But if I don't allow Bud and Lou's names into tonight's title, then the name of this film would just be "Hollywood", and that doesn't make much sense at all, because their characters are going to physically IN Hollywood, so I guess tonight I have to fall back on what the IMDB uses as the title. 

Things are bound to get even more confusing next week with the Cheech and Chong films...

THE PLOT: When two bumbling barbers act as agents for a talented but unknown singer, they stage a phony murder in order to get him a plum role.

AFTER: If you remember the old song "Riders on the Storm" by The Doors, Jim Morrison sang, "Like a dog without a bone, an actor out on loan," implying that being an actor loaned out from one studio to the other was not a thing you would want to be.  As it was for Abbott and Costello, who were under contract with Universal (home of all those great movie monsters, like Dracula and the Wolfman) but were loaned out to MGM for three movies, and I'm watching them all in a row.  First came "Rio Rita", then tomorrow's film, and finally there was today's film.  I'm watching the third one second only because "Lost in a Harem" provides an actor link to the next film. 

This time, Bud and Lou play barbers at a Hollywood studio - they're supposedly friends, but Bud's really fleecing Lou by "training" him the tonsorial arts at a snail's pace.  So when Lou finally feels ready to shave his first customer, naturally it's a comedy of errors.  Thankfully Bud showed him how to use the non-sharp side of the razor. 

But overhearing the studio executives making deals leads them to believe they can be agents - all you need to do is answer the phones, right?  And then you agree to whatever the other party wants, and you get 10 percent!  Oh, if only it were that easy.  But this also leads them to their first client, a young singer who's been kicking around the studio for a few months and is close to giving up. 

But they crash their car into the one beloning to the head of the studio, so they think the studio cops are chasing them around to throw them out, even though they're trying to track them down to sign their client for a picture.  After a double-cross they decide to discredit the lead actor on the picture, so their client can take his place in the next big musical romance film. 

Look, I'll allow that a screenwriter can't know everything about everything - if he has to write a scene about war games or the jobs on a naval vessel, my first suggestion would be to do some research, but if that's not possible, obviously he's got to fill the story with something.  But for a movie about making movies, there's no excuse for not getting things exactly right.  Now, would a Hollywood director stage a large-scale musical number that could only be filmed in ONE take?  And then blow up the set immediately after, so that there would be no chance for re-takes or pick-up shots?  No, he wouldn't. 

Most of the film concerns the big chase through the studio back-lot, and this allows for many comic instances involving fake doors, and Lou being mistaken for a prop dummy on a Western, and even getting dressed up as part of a pair of conjoined twins (back then it was "Siamese twins") in a side-show.  But you know that just leads me to another NITPICK POINT, because I don't think conjoined twins are usually connected at the lower back, yet that's what the script requires, because one man happens to be chasing the other.

Also starring Bob Haymes, Frances Rafferty, Jean Porter, Carleton G. Young, Donald MacBride (last seen in "The Thin Man Goes Home"), Mike Mazurki (ditto), Warner Anderson, Rags Ragland, with cameos from Lucille Ball, Dean Stockwell (last seen in "Song of the Thin Man").

RATING: 4 out of 10 tuition payments

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