Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Grab Bag: Eddie Cantor ""

Monday, April 22, 2013

Warner Archive Grab Bag: Eddie Cantor

WHOOPEE(1930; Thornton Freeland)
A 2-Strip Technicolor musical comedy film based on a hit Florenz Ziegfeld stage production. You can sort of feel the stage basis for it in the enjoyable opening dance number, but the Busby Berkeley choreography throughout(this was his first film outing) helps elevate things. Not too much plot to speak of, but that's alright. Though I've certainly been aware of Eddie Cantor for some time, this was my maiden voyage with one of his films. It's funny to say, but while watching Cantor, I was reminded a bit of Jim Parson's character on The Big Bang Theory. Hear me out. It just felt like there were some similar gestures and cadence or something. It really reasonable to me for a second like Parsons could possibly channeling a little bit of Cantor into the Sheldon Cooper character, but call me crazy if you like. Regardless, it's easy to see the appeal and influence Cantor had/has via his nebbishy comic persona. Clearly he was an a comic voice that Woody Allen paid attention to. There's even a scene wherein Cantor and another man comically compare ailments and scars(a la the famous scene in JAWS).
The Cantor scenes in the film are by far the best and I of course felt myself longing to see him again when the movie got bogged down it's more stodgy dialogue/sing-y parts. Very similar to the feeling I get when a Marx Bros movie diverges from their lunacy into scenes with the understandably less-interesting leads
. The movie does have some likeable musical sequences contained within and it features the immortal, titular tune  "Makin' Whoopee" as well. Definitely also has some very dated racist bits here including a lot of material having to do with Native Americans and an unfortunate extended sequence and musical number with Cantor in blackface. At least Sheriff Bob(Jack Rutherford) reminds me of Bruce Campbell(must be the chin) so that helped when he was on screen. Overall though, and worthwhile enough entrance into the world of the great Eddie.

WHOOPEE is available via Warner Archive as an MOD DVD: HERE

KID MILLIONS(1934; Roy Del Ruth)
Roy Del Ruth is a director I've taken a keen interest in in the last year or so. He had a great little run of films from 1932-33 with BLESSED EVENT, EMPLOYEES ENTRANCE and THE MIND READER(BLESSED and READER are available from Warner Archive now, & EMPLOYEE'S is coming soon). These three really impressed me. Some of their appeal may have to do with their leading actors(Lee Tracy in the case of BLESSED EVENT and Warren William in the other two), but clearly Del Ruth is elevating the material in some way. He also has an unsung holiday classic in his filmography with IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE(highly recommended as well). KID MILLIONS is no exception as he brings some dynamism and style to this, kicking it up a notch.
Eddie Cantor is joined in the cast here by the lovely and charming Ann Sothern(who Del Ruth would work with later in MAISIE GETS HER MAN) and the always boisterous chanteuse Ethel Merman. Cantor's character, Eddie Wilson Jr. must travel from Brooklyn to Egypt(pronounced EGG-yip by some) to claim the 77 million dollar fortune his late father has left to him. Unfortunately, there are a few other folks also looking to get their hands on the dough, any way they can chisel it. This film was a touch in the vein of Buster Keaton for me, not only in that Cantor himself resembles Keaton a little bit, but also the man-child character he plays here reminds of something Keaton might have taken on. STEAMBOAT BILL JR.-ish maybe. One unfortunate thing though - the film contains yet another Cantor blackface musical number that I really could have done without(even if it is an Irving Berlin tune). On the bright side, Ann Sothern is as gorgeous as I've ever seen her in this movie, completely and totally adorable. Also, watch for a truly wonderful Willy Wonka-esque musical setpiece towards the end.

KID MILLIONS is available via Warner Archive as an MOD DVD: HERE

1 comment:

Marc Edward Heuck said...

I've long wondered if Stephen De Rosa's recurring appearances as Eddie Cantor in HBO's "BOARDWALK EMPIRE" would kindle new curiosity in his movies. While I had an Old Time Radio phase in middle school, Cantor was one of those figures I learned about primarily through LOONEY TUNES cartoon jokes ("That's Eddie Cantor again, still pestering me to deliver a boy!")