Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Comedies - Everett Jones ""

Friday, April 12, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - Everett Jones

I've said it before. Follow Everett on Letterboxd:
I've gotten many good film recs this way.
Here's his film discoveries of 2012 list:

A frothy, charming ‘30s comedy that I happened to catch one time on TCM, without ever having heard of it, and ended up watching to the end; you can also order the film from the Warner Archive. Leslie Howard, who can be stiff in dramatic roles, seems to relish his role as a hammy theatrical actor whose petty, bitchy backstage squabbles with co-star Bette Davis are not at all like the on-stage romantic image that fans like sheltered, upper-class Olivia De Havilland have fallen for. To do her fiancĂ© a favor, Howard agrees to romance Olivia for real and then drop her, thus nipping her crush in the bud and confirming what no-good rakes “everyone” knows actors to really be. I could claim to appreciate the script for its prescient theme, of the semipermeable membrane between actors’ on-stage (or on-screen) personas and their “real” selves, but really, no social significance comes attached to the enjoyment of this movie. Davis and Howard are dynamite, but the stand-out might be the underrated Olivia De Havilland, still in the phase of her career devoted to being Errol Flynn’s best girl, but already showing the talent that would take her through a long career.
Available via Warner Archive: HERE

Thelma Ritter may have been a great character actress- and if you need any proof she was, watch Pickup on South Street-but for a woman who only started acting in her ‘40s, and never stopped sounding like she came from Brooklyn, getting her name above the title was never going to be easy. True enough, the younger and prettier Gene Tierney and John Lund- as, respectively, her daughter-in-law and son-are officially the stars of this 1952 comedy, but there’s no doubt that this movie belongs to Thelma. The warm and believable working-class character she played in small roles in classics like Pickup on South Street, All About Eve, and Rear Window, gets pride of place here, in a story which has her roadside hamburger stand owner being mistaken for “the help” by her son’s blue-blooded wife. This isn’t a great movie, but it’s a pretty good one, beautifully made by the talented Mitchell Leisen (Easy Living, Midnight).
Available via Netflix Instant: HERE

It sounds like something one of the more hateful characters from Mad Men might have scribbled down on a cocktail napkin after a boozy lunch meeting, but, as with the other Richard Quine movies I’ve seen (Bell, Book and Candle; Strangers When We Meet), this Jack Lemmon vehicle is far bit better than it has any right to be. Despite the title, it’s less about the sexist, old-boys club attitudes that makes so many ‘60s comedies difficult to watch, and more about turning New York into a stylized, Frank Tashlin-like playground for Lemmon, as a newspaper comic strip artist who has to experience in real life all of the adventures he creates for his syndicated hero Bash Brannigan. Terry Thomas’s character, of Lemmon’s butler, plays as a kind of missing link between Jeeves and Smithers, with a dash of Dirk Bogarde in The Servant thrown in.
Available via Netflix Instant: HERE

THE BRAIN (1969)
A great discovery by and surprise from the boutique Olive Films DVD/Blu-ray label. It definitely takes its caper comedy cues from The Pink Panther, with David Niven more or less reprising his role from the original film, and in general belongs to the same genus as the other large-scale, lightweight, globetrotting extravaganzas that I seem to associate particularly strongly with midcentury moviemaking. It’s less ramshackle than some of the actual, later Pink Panther sequels, though, and tightly paced next to the epic bloat of things like Around the World in 80 Days and The Great Race. Fans of Skidoo should also enjoy The Brain’s more Disneyified, but equally clueless attempts at being hip and swinging; for me, the highlight was Niven explaining the master plan to his confederates by making a Yellow Submarine, Peter Max-inspired cartoon.

The filmography of Ted Kotcheff doesn't receive a lot of acclaim, maybe because it contains Weekend at Bernie's, but I've found over time that it also contains a fair number of gems, from the recently rediscovered Wake in Fright to North Dallas Forty and First Blood. This film, basically a culinary Theater of Blood, isn't the best of his credits, but it's an entertainingly of-its-time movie and about as light and pleasant as a supposed "black comedy" can get. Robert Morley is the highlight of the cast and the film, as a famous chef whose eating habits threaten to kill him before the story's villain can. George Segal, at the end of his great run during the '70s, looks like the decade has left him a bit the worse for wear, but Jacqueline Bisset, in the female lead, has charm enough for both of them.
Available via Warner Archive: HERE


Robert M. Lindsey said...

Already follow him.

Love Thelma Ritter so I'll be checking out The Mating Season soon.

Stacia said...

Adore Who's Killing the Great Chefs of Europe. Happened to catch it back in 19mumblemumble on cable and bought it as soon as I realized it was released by Warner Archives. Segal is a bit irritating; it's as though even he realizes the shtick that got him through the better part of the 1970s had worn thin. Everyone else is fabulous and the bizarre plot makes up for, well, anything the film might get wrong.