Monday, August 31, 2009

Hello, Harold Lloyd

Lloyd and Jobya Ralston in The Freshman.

I think I've mentioned in this blog before that sometimes I 'm loathed to dig into the work of an actor that I haven't seen before. It's usually not because I'm afraid I won't like it but, dang it, with my obsessive personality, I'm afraid it will add to an already over-burdened tivo queue. That didn't stop me from taping a couple of Harold Lloyd movies last week or from trotting them out during tea time with my family over the week-end. So yeah, hello, Harold Lloyd. Hello, new obsession. And good-bye to a few gigs of storage.

I think that Harold Lloyd's movies are so infectious because they combine acrobatic slapstick with a romantic comedy plot. It's not enough that Harold has to defy death hanging from a clock tower in Safety Last (1923) or become an unwitting football hero in The Freshman (1925). He has to get the girl as well and though it may seem like a small thing, it's really everything. This plotting makes Lloyd's movies seem more modern than other silent comedies.

Most people remember the famous building climbing sequence in Safety Last. It takes up the final third of the movie and is memorably spectacular. I actually enjoyed the proceeding two thirds of the film more, where Lloyd was a hapless department store clerk trying to impress his girl who mistakenly believes that he is the general manager. The film was sweet and consistently funny as Lloyd tries to dodge his manager and supervisor, still do his job and find ways to convince his sweetheart that he's in charge of the whole store. Safety Last was not only ground breaking because of its physical comedy, it was ground breaking because it was one of the first romantic comedies on film. The form has been around at least since the Greeks, but because of the requirements of dialog, it wasn't something that was very doable in the world of silent film. Lloyd's comedy is mostly visual, but there is a certain amount of verbal wit that is relayed through the inter-titles and aided by sound effects that were written into to the story.

One doesn't think much about the writing in a silent film, but Hal Roach who did the screenplay for Safety Last, does a great job of getting the story and jokes across with relatively few inter titles. It's an amazing exercise in efficiency and there are plenty of throwaway pieces of dialog that you can see the actors mouthing that aren't given title cards. It's a given that we don't really need them.

His films are also topical which gives them a less universal, more grounded feeling. Safety Last exploits the building climbing stunts that were popular in the 1920s (a fad which has come back with the popularity of Alain Robert) and The Freshman lampoons all things collegiate. In the later film, Lloyd plays a young man who goes to see a movie called "The College Hero" over and over, memorizing the dialog and studying the actions for use in his own freshman year. The hero of "The College Hero" is named Speedy and Lloyd's nickname at school soon becomes speedy as well. A few years later Lloyd made a movie entitled Speedy (1928). The overlapping of fictional and real-life in Lloyd's world is intense and his characters often have the first name "Harold" or the last name "Lloyd."

Harold Lloyd's movies look terrific for their age. This is due in part to the fact that Lloyd used a fair amount of his personal fortune to preserve his own films. We are left with 11 silent feature films and dozens of shorts, many of which look pristine and feel more contemporary than almost anything else (with perhaps the exception of some of Lon Cheney's work) in the era.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The stuff dreams are made of: maltese Falcon Boxed set

What's better than a boxed set of the Maltese Falcon (1941) with extras, a commentary and a documentary? That same boxed set with all three film versions of Dashiell Hammet's novel included. While I mostly blame Tonto for the recent influx of expensive DVDs into my house, I can't deny I do love the extras. This is a rare case in which the extras might be something I actually watch as much if not more than the 1941 version of the film.

The documentary is average, although I did learn that I've pronouncing "Dashiell" wrong all these years. (It should be "da sheel" not "Dash-el") For some reason Henry Rollins is a commentator in it. That guy must have made a deal with devil or something. Never before has a little talent in the arena of punk rock and spoken word been a qualification to comment as to whether Humphrey Bogart's portrayal of Sam Spade was the first anti-hero put on film. (He wasn't by the way. See the first two film versions of this story, if you don't believe me.) The commentary too is mind-numbingly pedestrian. Bogart biographer Eric Lax talks in a monotone throughout giving dry facts about the actors on screen. He adds a few nice pieces of trivia, that I wouldn't have known about otherwise such as a poster for an obscure Bogart movie that's in the background when Miles is shot, but otherwise I had to force myself to get through it.

Having been raised on the '41 film, the Maltese Falcon (1931) was really a surprise and a pleasant one at that. With its focus on Sam Spade's sex life, it's naughty and funny as well as gritty. I can't picture Bogart ever being as breezy or as flippant as Ricardo Cortez is as he tidies his office after an afternoon rendezvous with a client, flirts with his secretary, takes a call from one of his girlfriends who happens to be married to his partner and makes goo goo eyes at Ruth Wonderly (Bebe Daniels) all before lunch. Daniels is a more street-wise, earthy femme fatale than Mary Astor. I've always respected Astor's acting, but Daniels is the kind of woman that seems like she could lead two or three guys to their doom and still make it to her lunch date without having to retouch her lipstick. Mary Astor projects a far more polished and high-class image, and when she says "I haven't lived a good life; I've been bad" you wonder if it isn't something to do with not matching her china pattern to the table cloth.

At the very least the sleeping arrangement make a lot more sense in the pre-code version. The famous detective wastes no time in shacking up with his client which gives him ample opportunity to search through her stuff to find the falcon as well as protecting her from Gutman's thug, Wilmer. In the '41 version we are expected to believe that Spade's faithful and sharp as a tack assistant, has a blind spot for Miss Wonderly and offers to put her up at her place as a favor to her boss. It's interesting to me that the adultery in all three of the film versions is toned down from the novel. The 31 version makes Iva Archer out to be tremendously unappealing and Sam is clearly regretful of his involvement with her. When Wonderly realizes that the negligee she found in her new lover's apartment belonged to the wife of the man she just murdered, she tears it off and takes a bath, scrubbing herself vigorously with a stiff brush. The film's producers made sure we understood that Ms. Wonderley had a conscience after all, and of course who were they to miss an opportunity to titillate the audience . In Satan Met a Lady, the affair happened before the Archers were married and in the '41 version Bogart breaks things off completely with Iva as soon as Miles is killed. In the novel, Spade is revolted by the his involvement but it is strongly implied that he will go back to her at the end. That was a conclusion that was too brutal even for the Pre-code era. The '31 film ends with Spade visiting Wonderly in jail, asking the prison matron to go easy on her and to send the bill for any little expenses she might incur to him at the DA's office. There is no famous line "the stuff that dreams are made of" and Sam Spade gets made assistant DA!

Satan Met a Lady (1936) is best known to film fans as the movie that precipitated Bette Davis breaking her contract with Warner Brothers. The film's reviews were colored by the chivalric feeling that critics had for Davis who they felt was above the material at hand. And perhaps she was, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the heck out of this quirky comedy. I am probably too big of a fan of screwball comedy, if such a thing is possible. I may be the only person who thinks a screwball bowlderization of The Maltese Falcon is a good idea. Critics, audiences and most of the people involved thought it was a disaster, but I couldn't help but admire the fact that this even got made. On top of that, it's actually quite funny.

The original New York Times review of Satan Met a Lady said that actors behave as if they expect the men in white coats to burst any moment and lock them up for attempting such a travesty. And really is that so different than the subtext of any screwball comedy? Is My Man Godfrey to be faulted for having the brass neck to put the homeless over the rich at a time when the country was nearly at war with itself? So what if a great book is made to look silly and liberties are taken with the plot? It is all in the service of comedy, which is not a noble sacrifice if you ask me. The question is then, is Satan Met a Lady any good as a comedy? I think it is. Warren William plays the Sam Spade stand-in Ted Shayne, the Satan of the title. He is far less tortured than the famous detective and inexplicably eccentric and even bizarre at times. He behaves like a person in a screwball comedy. Perhaps it is this knowing consciousness that they are in a comedy which put audiences off. I suppose the best comedies are those in which people play things straight in screwball situations. That holds to a point. Sooner or later things just get weird. Men in negligees stomp on dowagers' feet. It's bound to happen. Just as its bound to happen that a hard boiled detective will suddenly jump in the air grab onto the door frame and imitate King Kong.

Monday, August 24, 2009

3:10 to Yuma (1957)

This was one of many darker-toned westerns that came out after the success of High Noon. On the surface it's entirely derivative of that masterpiece down to the conceit of a clock-dependent conflict looming on the horizon, town-folk who'd rather save their own hides than render justice and a seemingly unstoppable gang of ruthless criminals. There is even a pervasive and maddeningly catchy theme song, similar to Tex Ritter's "Ballad of High Noon." Despite the similarities this picture has an original feel to it and is worth watching for one performance in particular--Glen Ford as the villain Ben Wade. He is completely evil, either killing or having his gang kill on his behalf in a ruthless, thoughtless way, but he also has a wide streak of nobility that makes his character almost likeable.

The film begins as Dan Evans (Van Heflin) and his sons witness a brutal stage coach robbery in which Wade and his gang gun down a driver. Evans is outnumbered and must watch helplessly and allow Wade to set his horses free in the desert. He goes home and finds his wife (Leora Dana) largely unsympathetic to the reasoning that he was completely outgunned in the situation. She convinces him to go to town to borrow money for their ranch which is in desperate need of irrigation.

While in town, Evans assists the local sheriff in arresting Wade (though his gang get away). Wade has stayed behind in order to seduce the local barmaid (Felicia Farr) who is so thoroughly bored by her life and so instantly in thrall to Wade that a bad choice in men, is just one more mistake in a string of calamities that brought her this far. There is also a hint in the script that she might be consumptive so there is certain grim determination to get some small pleasure out of her joyless existence. All this comes through in a few very brief scenes and here Ford and Farr are both excellent. It is the first hint that this killer, who was so menacing and seemingly without conscience, is not without a soul.

In order to get the needed money for his ranch, Evans agrees to be deputized and deliver Wade to the station in Contention to take the 3:10 to Yuma. In doing so, he must allow Wade to spend part of the evening with his family and there is a creepy scene in which Wade starts to work his charm on Mrs. Evans who seems like she's been romantically neglected. Wade uses the cracks in the Evans marriage as well as the family's money trouble to spend the next 40 minutes of the film trying to tempt Evans into accepting a bribe and let him free. This mostly takes place in the sun-drenched bridal suite of the Hotel Contention. If that's not symbolic enough for you, then I don't now what is, because in a strange way these two are locked into the forced intimacy of a bad marriage and watching every tense moment of this squirming tete a tete is as unnerving as it is absorbing.

The tension remains high as the audience waits for the inevitable showdown. At the last minute all the deputies pull out of the deal and Evans is left to face down the gang alone. The finale isn't quite as taught or perfect as the ending of High Noon, but the conclusion of the film is far more satisfying. Wade allows himself to be captured. Though he admits its not such a sacrifice--he's broken out of Yuma prison before-- he does it for no other reason than it seems the right thing to do as he feels he owes his life to Evans. As the train passes Mrs. Evans on the road and the sky opens up in a miraculous rain storm.

The story goes that Glen Ford was offered the part of the hero in the movie, but decided instead to play the villain. It's no wonder he did. It's a far more interesting role and Ford was definitely up to the challenge of creating this layered character who ultimately redeems himself. The rest of the cast is strong as well, especially Van Heflin and Leora Dana who manage to convey the necessary anxious tone without becoming shrill or tiresome.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Murder! (1930) Picspam

There is an awesome website called "1000 frames of Hitchcock" that is part of the extensive Hitchcock Wiki. The site does just what it sounds like it does: they post 1000 frames from every Hitchcock film. The people who are doing this must really love Hitch. Doing a picspam of 60 frames is a huge amount of work, let alone 1000. It was worth the effort though, as the result reveals Hitchcock's greatness in a unique and powerful way. You can select just about any frame at random and find an artfully composed, striking image. He really was an artist hiding out in the world of popular entertainment.

I've gone through "1000 Frames" and selected my favorites from the 1930 film Murder! which I recently watched for the first time. I put my comments on the film as captions to the pictures. Rather than make my blog impossibly hard to load, I've put this in my live journal. You can see the whole thing here.

A note on other picspams: I still have not finished the Big Chill Picspam. All the captures are done and processed, but I haven't had a chance to put it together. I have yet another picspam of the Bull Murray film Razor's Edge, which I'm also going to try to post soon as well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Two from Pat O'Brien

Today I'm going to talk about another pre-code star, Pat O'Brien. Don't worry, I promise this won't turn into Pat-athon. Though he may be best remembered for playing the coach in the iconic Ronald Reagan film, "Knute Rockne," O'Brien had a career of playing fast-talking, street-wise types in the early thirties. After playing Hildy Johnson in the 1931 production of The Front Page, O'Brien was cast as another newspaper man in The Final Edition (1932). Sam Bradshaw (O'Brien) is a tough-minded editor who wants to clean up the city and get all the headlines for his rag and he uses the feminine charms of his star reporter, Anne Woodman, (Mae Clark), to seduce the guy who murdered a crusading lawyer and stole the evidence against a crime syndicate. Is this sounding to anyone like His Girl Friday, yet? Yeah, well it gets better. Woodman and Bradshaw have a stormy, on again off again romance that is damaged by his devotion to his paper and his failure to commit. I can't help but think that Howard Hawks saw this movie and thought that with a bit less drama and more farce it would make a great screwball comedy.

Final Edition, however is nowhere near the caliber of that later, greater film. There is lots of snappy patter between O'Brien and Clark, but most of it fizzles out. Clark just can't seem to hold her own on screen with O'Brien. She is adorable and effective in the scenes where she's seducing the murderer, and in this section the film actually is quite tense and well-put together. To compare it again to His Girl Friday: imagine if the Earl Williams scenes at the jail with Rosalind Russell were the best part of the movie. What if you couldn't wait for Hildy and Walter to quit fighting so you could get back to the plot? It's unthinkable, but that's what's going on in Final Edition. Mae Clark isn't a bad actress, she just isn't right for this part. She needs a moxy transfusion, STAT.

Moxy is not at all lacking in Virtue (1932) also starring O'Brien and Carole Lombard. This woman invented the saavy, wise-cracking comic heroine and Virtue is a great example of how she did it. The second half of the film is a somewhat tedious melodrama, but the first half when O'Brien and Lombard meet just crackles the way I wished Final Edition would. Mae (Lombard) is a prostitute being run out of town, when she gets off the train and hijacks Jimmy Doyle's (O'Brien) cab. Doyle believes he is a street-wise fella who has women all figured out. He proceeds to imagine that Mae is a stenographer out of work and that she really wants a pack of cigarettes when she asks him to pull over at the corner drugstore. The situation is ripe for comic reversal and Mae ditches out on paying the fare. She later tries to make reparations and the pair fall in love trading insults. It's a match made in heaven till Doyle finds out about her former career. Things take a gradual turn into soap opera and the rest of the film is as forgettable as the first half is great. As a showcase on which to hang acting talent, I suppose Virtue has it's er, virtues. Given the wide range of emotions required by the leads, if nothing else, it proved that this pair could really act.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eye Candy of the Day: The Mind Reader (1933)

Warren William and a bevy of beauties in The Mind Reader (1933). I haven't seen this movie but something tells me that Johnny Carson had to have based his "Great Carnack" character on this guy. Just click on the photo and look at the expression on Wiiam's face--that's pure "Carnack," baby. All he needs is Ed McMahon in the background repeating everything he says and chuckling heartily.

It anyone knows where I can get a copy of The Mind Reader I'd be grateful to know. It looks awesome, doesn't it?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Arizona (1940)

Guess what I needed to snap me out of my fevered Herbert Marshall blogathon is frenzied Warren William blogathon. Watching Gold Diggers the other day started it off. Next up: Arizona, a western starring Jean Arthur, William Holden and Warren William. Jean Arthur plays Phoebe Titus, a pie-making, stage coach-driving, fast-shooting, other-wise hyphenated lady in leather pants, and the only American woman in Arizona territory. After selling a pie to drifter Peter Mucie (Holden) she determines that he's the man for her, but he has other ideas, namely running off and sitting under a shade tree in California. Meanwhile the Civil War happens and Jefferson Carteret (William) arrives in his dude's beaver top hat to carpet bag the whole territory into his control, while using an unscrupulous local thug as a front for his dirty dealings. By the time Muncie returns to claim his woman, she is already head of her own freighting company and owner of a ranch so big it takes two days to ride across. With the help of government contracts the couple save enough money to buy the largest herd of cattle that's been seen in the territory, but the night before Muncie is to set off for Nebraska to buy the cows, Carteret hires some local hooligans to rob Phoebe's house. Then he loans her own money back to her at 6% interest and plans to foreclose on her as soon as Muncie is sufficiently far afield. In the word's of Carteret, "that's how it's did, puddin' head."

Jean Arthur is always fun and her spunkiness lends itself well to the script that requires a woman of almost supernatural energy to sell the audience on the somewhat far-fetched tale. William Holden doesn't really seem like William Holden. I kept checking IMDB during the movie to make sure, yes, this was William Holden. Maybe he's just younger than I'm used to seeing him. Warren William makes a colorful scoundrel who stops just short of tying the heroine to the railroad tracks (I guess there were no trains in Arizona yet) in his quest to get the better of her. As the most interesting guy in the movie, I was nonetheless rooting for a romance between the two, at least until he started shooting people in the back. It was nice to see such a strong female character and even though she gets married off at the end, there's little indication that she's going to retire to a life entirely devoted to pie making. As she and her husband leave for their honeymoon, one of the town folk notes that she's made of iron from head to toe.

Arizona is a bit overlong, at two hours and ten minutes, but it is nicely filmed by Wesley Ruggles and has the benefit of the director's experience with both westerns and romcoms. The action sequences are all very good and the cow herding scenes are really quite spectacular, especially when Muncie decides to stampede the cattle into a band of attacking Indians.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933, duh!)

Warren William sets aside his usual wolf character to play an honest, crusty upper crust type who rolls over and begs for show girl Joan Blondell.

One of the most astonishing things about having a blog is that I'm still finding movies all the time that amaze me. Enter, The Gold Diggers of 1933. Wow. What a picture. It's funny, sexy, the songs as catchy as a virus on an airplane and the choreography is something you really have to see to quite believe. To top it off, the closing number, Remember my Forgotten Man is socially relevant and still genuinely moving 76 years after it was recorded.

The reassuringly predictable plot follows the ups and downs of a group of showgirls who've been put out of work by the Great Depression. Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler and Ginger Rogers get cast in a Ned Spark's musical revue about the Depression"Forgotten Melody" which lacks only a bankroll to get off the ground. Miraculously fresh music, voice talent and a fat wad of cash are be found in a neighboring tenement apartment where "Boston blue blood" is masquerading as a starving composer (Dick Powell). After Powell makes his Broadway debut, the papers leak his identity and his brother (Warrren William) scoots down to Manhattan to cut off his income and try to block his engagement to showgirl, Polly Perkins (Ruby Keeler). He brings along the family lawyer Fanuel "Fanny" Peabody (Guy Kibbee) for moral support. The pair get side-tracked in the man trap that is the Polly's apartment, and after being pelted with lingerie for a few hours, they begin their own daliances with two of the three remaining "gold diggers." Farcical mix-ups, drunken misbehavior and more "fanny" jokes than I can possibly relate in one blog post ensue.

Warren William and Joan Blondell have some fun scenes that are far more about sex than romance. Even when he's playing a nice guy he comes off a bit as a bit of a wolf, though one that Blondell's Carol the "Cheap and Vulgar" showgirl is gaga over. William's comedy is made all the better by his method of playing everything entirely straight. In one scene he rants that he and Fanny have to stay in New York, because he's "this close" to figuring out what makes this Polly Perkins tick.

Powell and Keeler do the bulk of the singing and dancing but whenever Ginger Rogers is on screen, she is so completely head and shoulders above the other performers, that you wonder why director Mervyn LeRoy bother to feature Keeler to such a great degree. Keeler's singing and dancing aren't bad, but she's no Ginger. Sadly, Ginger's big number, "Sing You a Torch Song" got cut and is put in the film as a fairly weak performance by Powell at the Piano.

Now, I have a confession to make. I'd never actually watched a Busby Berkeley musical all the way through before . I had only seen clips of his human kaleidoscope numbers, which is like judging It Happened One Night from the hitchiking scene that always gets shown on TV. To think that until yesterday, I only thought of Busby Berkley in terms of his signature moves. He is so much more, a mad genius whose numbers move like stream of consciousness through one surreal sight gag to the next. Take Pettin in the Park, for example. The action begins with the principal couple and moves out to see a whole range of diverse couples from the very young to the very old, black, white, rich and poor enjoying love in the great outdoors. One couple have a baby in a baby carriage and as the camera zooms in we see that he is actually little person actor Billy Barty who jumps from the perambulator to wreak havoc on the set. It begins to rain on the couples and the women run behind a backlit scrim to change. Midway through Barty pulls the curtain up exposing them. Their new costume is a metallic body suit that acts as chastity belt much to the disappointment of the male dancers in the number. Luckily Barty provides Dick Powell with a can-opener at the end of the song. And that's just one minute in one song. Oh, to be Busby Berkeley and to be able to realize your every fever dream so completely on screen.

Bonus Eye Candy of the Day: Ginger Rogers in a money bikini!

We're in the Money is probably the best-known sequence from the movie. The film opens with this wonderfully ironic comment on the Great Depression. Just as Busby Berkeley's choreography starts to hit his stride with the surreal weirdness, in this case Ginger Rogers singing in pig latin, while the coin that covers her, um, bikini area rotates in time to the music, the Sheriff bursts in and shuts down the show due to bankruptcy.

There is something a little bit "Springtime for Hitler" about the play within the movie, "Forgotten Melody" and its difficult to tell whether Ned Sparks description of the penultimate number, in which he shouts, "The Wailing! The Wailing" is meant to be funny or serious. It's mindboggling to imagine the narrative structure of a play that could support both "Pettin in the Park" and the expressionistic masterpiece, "Remember my Forgotten Man" which features striking vignettes of women in poverty. One image of a woman holding a baby is eerily similar to Dorothea Lange's famous Migrant Mother taken in 1936. Of course, it's no more wonderful than a movie that's been as breathlessly silly as this one has up to this point that can suddenly switch gears and deliver the tone of dignity that "Remember my Forgotten Man" deserves.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Secrets of a Secretary (1931)

Claudette Colbert and Herbert Marshall in Secrets of a Secretary. Thanks to Trouble in Paradise for the image.

Claudette Colbert plays, Helen Blake, the secretary in question, whose secrets include: an ill-advised marriage to an fortune-hunter who left her to become a gigolo the moment he found out her father was broke, the fact that her employer is cheating on her fiancee, that she is in love with said fiancee and he is in love with her. It gets even more complicated when its revealed that her employer's lover is none other than her not-quite ex. Herbert Marshall plays the fiancee, an English Lord Danforth who gets stood up so much that he falls in love with the secretary whose job it is to continually inform him that her boss has been detained by some mysterious engagement or another. The film is unusually frank, even for pre-code and one sequence inter-cut Lord Danforth and Helen enjoying an innocent dinner while Helen's boss, Sylvia Merritt visits her lover's seedy hotel room.

Later that night, Helen and Lord Danforth decide to go dancing at the club where her ex now works. There's a great moment when Helen realizes the cheesy crooner in the floor show is her husband. Lord Danforth sneers at the gigolo, laughing about the kind of man who would do such things and the kind of woman who would be taken in by him. The irony is that his fiancee was with the guy hours earlier and of course, Helen, looks particularly miserable as she reveals that he's her husband. I have a perverse love of these kinds of scenes in movies and especially when they happen to Herbert Marshall. He always underplays, and its wonderful to watch him squirm quietly as he processes this plot complication and attempts to find something to say to Helen that will make him seem less of an ass.

Mary Boland plays Sylvia Merritt's socially obsessed mother and though she gets little screen time, as always, she makes it count, providing the film's only comic relief. It's a sad commentary on the lack of longevity for female actresses, that though she was only ten years older than the romantic lead in this film, she ends up playing his mother-in-law to be.

Secrets of a Secretary depicts a woman working, earning her living and freeing herself of relationship mistakes. Her job is somewhat humiliating given that a few years earlier she was herself attending the types of parties for which she now sends out RSVPs on behalf of someone else. She describes herself as "an upper servant" and it reminds me of the fact that the boss falling for his secretary is merely an updating of the old "master of the house falls for his governess" plot. Though there is that fairytale aspect to the story, there isn't the feeling that the heroine can't manage by herself. Indeed, it is only after she deliberately makes herself prime suspect in her husband's murder in order to preserve Lord Danforth from scandal, that she really needs the guy's help.

Tonto and Friends on Metropolitan

Tonto: Jenny Nipper in media room watching Herbert Marshall movies. Tarzan ask Jenny Nipper if she join Tonto and friends for Metropolitan.

Tarzan: Tarzan try. Jenny Nipper tell Tarzan "no thanks" she busy putting in tags on all old blog entries, which means can now scroll down blog and find all our entries by clicking on label "Tonto and Friends." Tarzan think Jenny Nipper little bananas right now. Best leave alone.

Tonto: Frankenstein on vacation in Boundary Waters with Bride. Friend of Tonto, Sloth from The Goonies sit in for Frankenstein.

Sloth: Sloth love Chunk!

Tarzan: Tarzan surprised Tonto no go on vacation with Frankenstein.

Tonto: Paddling canoe not vacation to Tonto. Too much like work. How come Tarzan not go?

Tarzan: It not enough Tarzan raised by apes? Spend first 30 years of life in jungle? Tarzan like stay home with comfortable bed and no mosquitoes. Tarzan have enough mosquitoes in jungle. Tarzan hungry. Tarzan go kitchen before blogging. Tonto and friends want anything?

Sloth: Baby Ruth!!!

Tonto: Metropolitan (1990) first film of director Whit Stillman, the first in so-called "Yuppy Trilogy," Metropolitan (1990). Criterion Collection released pretty new DVD with many extras. Tonto love DVD extras. Tonto make Jenny Nipper buy many DVDs just for extras. Jenny Nipper say Tonto get job if want so many Criterion discs. Tonto say, stoic side-kick business not as good as used to be. Jenny Nipper say--

Tarzan ( returning from kitchen): No Babyruth, but Tarzan find box of macaroons Jenny Nipper hide behind whole wheat crackers.

Sloth: Macaroooooons!

Tarzan: Tarzan not as bored with Metropolitan as he expect. Tarzan think talky Whit Stillman movie more interesting than most other movie where nothing happens.

Tonto: Tonto want to model self after Nick Smith from now on. Tonto go online and buy detachable collars already. Am looking for dinner jacket from A.T. Harris. Then Tonto will go find wedding receptions that people forgot to invite him to.

Tarzan: Tarzan take issue with Nick Smith view of titled aristocracy as scum of the Earth. Nick Smith just jealous of Rick Von Slonaker's success with Serena Slocum and Cynthia. Besides, Tarzan is titled aristocracy. Tarzan Earl of Greystoke.

Tonto: Whatever happened with that anyway?

Tarzan: Being titled aristocrat not necessarily pay so good nowadays. Tarzan return to jungle, till blog gig come along. Like Mary Crawford say in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, "a poor honorable is no catch."

Tonto: Tarzan bring up interesting point. Is Metropolitan an adaptation of Mansfield Park? Stillman make many references to the book.

Tarzan: Not exactly an adaptation. More like homage.

Tonto: If it is adaptation then many characters are split into multiple parts. Fanny, for example is both quiet, upstanding Audrey Rouget and outsider, "radical" Tom Townsend. Tom's cluelessness to Serena's manipulative and shallow nature mirror Edward's blindness to same qualiites in Mary Crawford.

Tarzan: And Tom is disinherited in much the same way that Edward looses living do to careless spending of older brother. I see many similarities, but no Henry Crawford. He maybe split between Nick Smith and Rick Von Slonaker?

Tonto: That make no sense. Henry Crawford punches self out, then?

Tarzan: Like Tarzan said. More like homage, than adaptation.

Tonto: Tonto surprised Tarzan like such talky movie.

Tarzan: Tarzan sit through any movie, no matter how talky if there promise girls take clothes off. Tarzan like strip poker scene.

Tonto: "Playing strip poker with an exhibitionist somehow looses the challenge." Great line. Tonto know how Nick Smith feel. Tarzan live in loin cloth.

Tarzan: So now Tarzan exhibitionist? At least Tarzan was raised to wear loin cloth. Tonto take every opportunity to be shirtless. Shirtless vacuuming. Shirtless deepfat frying.

Tonto: Tonto learn to wear apron from now on.

Sloth: Sloth loves Fourierism!!!

Tonto: Sloth bring up good point. How many people follow obscure 19th century socialist after watching movie.

Tarzan: Tarzan google "Fourier." Put t-shirt on Zazzle say, "Good luck with your Fourierism."

Tonto: Tonto not sure if that ironic or not. On one hand, Zazzle successful corporate model to skim money off everyday people's need to thwart copyright laws. On other hand, it open, free creative outlet that offer opportunity to earn small amount of money for clever idea. Have Tonto sold many shirts?

Tarzan: Enough to buy loincloth with built in briefs.

Tonto: Tonto and friends one hundred percent behind built-in briefs. Tonto approve of Zazzle.

Sloth: Hey you guys!!!!!!! Sloth want say about movie. Movie gooood! Sloth love Metropolitan! Sloth want watch rest of Whit Stillman trilogy.

Tonto: We watch DVD extras first. Who up for commentary track? (sound of crickets chirping)

Guys? Tonto? Sloth? Anyone?

Jenny the nipper: Hey Tonto. Where is everyone? I thought you guys were blogging Metroplotian?

Tonto: Sloth and Tarzan run away when Tarzan want to watch commentary track.

Jenny the Nipper: I know how you feel Tarzan. Try spending a week and half watching every Herbert Marshall movie you can find. I've never heard so many crickets chirping.

Tonto: How Herbert Marshall blogathon going?

Jenny: Oh, it's great did you know he had a wooden leg?

Tonto: No, really. Fascinating. Tonto think he leave something on stove. (Tonto leaves)

(sound of crickets chirping)

Jenny: sigh. Oh well, guess it's just you and me, Herbie. (Starts "Secrets of a Secretary", flops down in comfy chair, smiles quietly to herself.)