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American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2012 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 15

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Cavalcade of Comedy: The Paramount [and Sennett/Educational] Comedy Shorts

216 minutes, $24, Kino International, 2006, (http://www.kino.com/video/item.php?film_id=796)

 This generous package of fun contains 16 one- and two-reel shorts with sound. Made between 1929 and 1933, the shorts star many vaudevillians and a few silent screen comedian in their early talkies: Jack Benny in Broadway Romeo, Milton Berle in Poppin’ the Cork, Burns & Allen in Fit to Be Tied and 100% Service, Eddie Cantor in Getting a Ticket, Chester Conklin & Mack Swain in Cleaning Up, Bing Crosby on Sing, Bing, Sing, Karl Dane & George K. Arthur in A Put Up Job, Tom Howard in The African Dodger and Breaking Even, George Jessel in It Might Be Worse, Lulu McConnell in The Introduction of Mrs. Gibbs, Charles O’Donnell & Jack Blair in The Plasterers, Smith & Dale in What Price Pants?, Ben Turpin, Mack Swain & Franklin Pangborn in Lighthouse Love and Willie, West & McGinty in Plastered.

AVM Recommends:

The Busby Berkeley Collection: Footlight Parade (1933), 42nd Street (1933), Gold Diggers of 1933, Dames (1934), Gold Diggers of 1935 and a sixth DVD of shorts. All together, this package contains five feature length Busby Berkeley musicals and 20 shorts (comedies with Leon Errol, Bob Hope, etc., cartoons and documentaries). Price varies, so shop around. In his prime (the early 1930s at Warner Brothers), Busby directed and choreographed his films. His use of the camera was far ahead of what other directors at other studios did with their musicals, but Berkeley was more interested in moving the camera, the sets and choreographing props than employing top notch individual dancers. Instead, much as dance directors had done for decades, Busby marshaled his choruses of dancers in quasi-military drills that demanded little more than staying in unison and keeping props upright. Since Berkeley employed platoons of dancers, elaborate sets and astounding stage effects, the effect was often breath-taking. Warners musicals had pace, and the resident cast of Joan Blondell, Jimmy Cagney, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Guy Kibbee, Alice Brady, Frank McHugh and Hugh Herbert kept the peppy scripts snapping with sassy talk.

On line prices vary from $45 to $60 plus s/h. Shop around, but whatever you have to pay, it’s a bargain. The films are finely restored, and if you’ve never seen Busby Berkeley’s production numbers, you’re in for a campy, hallucinogenic treat.

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