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Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Adventures of Plushie Laurel and Hardy: Part 2

I’ve taken Stan and Babe more places now. You think a 24-year-old graduate student wouldn’t take plushies all sorts of places to pose them and whatnot, but I do. Quite a lot, actually.

For their previous adventures, you can read part 1 here.

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The boys have become good friends with my cat (the famous Murphy). He likes sniffing their hair.

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I take NJ Transit into the city for my commute to grad school…and now so do they. Sometimes.

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Just to prove we were in Manhattan, here’s a commemorative photo.

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One of my classmates who’s friends with me on Tumblr posed with the boys, too.

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A few weeks later, I took the 6 train up to 96th to walk over to the Jewish Museum for the Chagall exhibit. My co-workers and I were headed over there for a work field trip because we work at a historic site that has some Chagall stained glass windows. Guess who came with me so they could see the Pelham 123 train.

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That was followed up by me actually having class, so they were very tired by the end of the day. So, frankly, was I.

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Sometimes they also come to work with me and keep me company when I get bored because nobody’s visiting. It’s nice to have pals around.

I’m also learning to sew properly so that I can eventually make them some friends, so we’ll see how that goes. It’s been an interesting learning process, but now that I’ve been taking sewing stuffed toys a little more seriously than I did on my previous attempts as an undergraduate I’m actually learning a thing or two about how it’s done, which means I’m improving slowly but steadily. Fingers crossed!

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Anita Garvin and Marion Byron, Accidental Tumblr Celebrities

I was perusing Tumblr the other night (which I do pretty much every night) and I came across a photo on my dashboard of two very familiar-looking young ladies.

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The source post linked to a German photo archive, where the image was pulled from a scan of a film magazine, and Tumblr reblogged the image left and right not knowing who these two girls were.

When they appeared on my dash, though, I recognized them instantly as Anita Garvin and Marion Byron.

Hal Roach attempted several times to create all-female double acts to duplicate the success that Laurel and Hardy were having, and they actually worked pretty well but they’re mostly lost to history today. Garvin (best known as Stan’s wife in Blotto) and Byron (Buster Keaton’s love interest in Steamboat Bill, Jr.) were his first attempt, and although they only made three shorts together they were a hit, leading Hal Roach to team up Thelma Todd and ZaSu Pitts later on.

The photo here of the two girls is reportedly from 1928, which is around the time Hal Roach decided to team them up – and indeed, I was able to find a screencap from the most famous of their shorts together, A Pair of Tights (released 1929), in which they’re wearing these outfits:

Image courtesy of SilentEra.com. Click through to the source.

Image courtesy of SilentEra.com. Click through to the source.

So there you are, Anita Garvin and Marion Byron made the big time on Tumblr without being recognized. I think it’s time we changed that and gave them the credit they deserve for being as funny as they were!

Here’s a clip from A Pair of Tights – ignore the irritating voiceover from the documentary that this clip was included in and enjoy Marion and her ice cream.

(You can pick up the DVD set including two of their shorts here – from Germany. Thanks again, Germany, you’re killing it!)

Happy Birthday, Mabel Normand!

Today is my hero’s birthday, so you can be sure I’m celebrating as soon as I’m home from work tonight.

with a Bugatti - sepia

Mabel was a pioneer in every sense of the word. She was a young woman who succeeded admirably in the field of screen comedy. Besides being brilliantly funny, she also loved cars and owned several (and starred in at least one comedy short that allowed her to race a Bentley). She had a massive personal library. She was kind and charitable and did her best to help everyone she could. She broke ground in so many ways and paved the way for countless comediennes to follow.

Here’s a post I wrote on her back in late June, just so you can get a look at her work for yourself and see how phenomenal she was (I’ve embedded video in there so you can watch her yourself).

Thanks for inspiring me, Mabel – you’re just the best!

If Ghostbusters Was Filmed In The 1920s…

In between graduate school and my 80-year-old grandmother moving in with my family, things have been rather insane as of late. That being said, I’m not going to forget my duties as a historian and recast a modern comedy film for the Great Silent Recasting Blogathon!

Deciding on a film was the most difficult part. I had some ideas for a silent It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, but that film was released in late 1963 and therefore just misses the 1965 cut. I sat down and thought about my favorite post-1965 comedy films and then remembered that for Halloween I’d actually drawn a Comedian Heaven picture with four comedians who’d actually all appeared in silents – and all for Hal Roach Studios at one point.

This is what I drew:

GhostbustersIgnore the bad visual pun of Buster Keaton as a ghost in the background.

The whole thing started because one day I realized that Harold Lloyd would have made an absolutely perfect Dr. Egon Spengler. It ended up expanding when I remembered that upon the arrival of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Ray actually says, “I couldn’t help it,” a line often squeaked out by a Mr. Stan Laurel in moments of desperation. Since Stan and Ollie have to stay together at all costs, Ollie filled in as Venkman, and Charley Chase rounded out the group as latecomer Winston Zeddemore.

Were such a film to actually be made at Hal Roach Studios during the silent era, it would have to be after 1927 to have Stan and Ollie officially teamed up as Laurel and Hardy but before 1929, when the studio converted to sound productions. Harold Lloyd would also have to be coaxed back to work with producer Hal Roach one last time, as he’d moved on and was working independently by the late 1920s. Leo McCarey would be present to direct, so he wouldn’t have to be dragged back from anywhere.

To round out the cast, we need a couple of love interests, a villain, and an antagonist or two. Dana Barrett, Venkman’s love interest, would probably be played well by Thelma Todd, who was alternating between Paramount and First National in the late 1920s but was at Hal Roach Studios by 1929, as she appears in Unaccustomed As We Are with Stan and Ollie (their first talking film). Thelma’s certainly adept at playing comedic romantic leads (as her work with the Marx Brothers shows), so we’ll have her play Dana. For Janine Melnitz, the Ghostbusters’ secretary who eventually ends up dating Egon, I thought it would be particularly cute to bring Harold Lloyd’s real-life wife Mildred Davis out of retirement (she briefly did return to the screen in 1927) and have her fill the role because Harold, as mentioned above, is the perfect Egon.

With those two cast, we need to find someone to play Dana’s awkward neighbor Louis Tully. Considering Rick Moranis’s small size, Charlie Hall might be a nice fit height-wise. For the opposing forces, antagonistic lawyer Walter Peck would be played to perfection by Edgar Kennedy, the mayor could be played by the great James Finlayson just because the idea of Fin as the mayor of New York is hilarious, and Gozer’s physical form could be portrayed by – who else? – Mae Busch.

It could work, I suppose, if those nuclear streams used technology that was available at the time – special magnets, for example, or perhaps vacuums. What’s more important is trying to figure out how Hal Roach Studios could pull off the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.