Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Big Broadcast of 1938 and International House

I went again to the Stanford Theatre, one of my favorite places to go. This time I went to see "The Big Broadcast of 1938" and "International House".

Both films feature the great W.C. Fields, but "Broadcast" is probably best known now for the feature film debut of Bob Hope and the song "Thanks for the Memory" which became Bob's theme song.

W.C. does a great bit on a pool table and on the golf course. There are other things going on like a crazy flip-over dance with Martha Raye and a storyline for Bob where he's in alimony prison for his three ex-wives and is now on the arm of ever lovely Dorothy Lamour. In the end, Bob goes back to one of his exes turning down Dorothy!

The main storyline is a big broadcast aboard a ship about a ship race between the Gigantic and the Colossal, but not that it matters. There is so much going on and its so incongruous that you really just have to sit back and enjoy the set pieces and not the film as a whole.

But "Broadcast" seems totally coherent in comparison to "International House". This bit of insanity takes places in Wu-Hu, China, a name which prompts the following dialogue exchange between W.C. Fields, the effeminate Franklin Pangborn and an unnamed lady.

Fields: Where am I?

Lady: Wu-Hu!

Fields: Woo-hoo to you, too. Now where am I?

Pangborn: (more insistent) Wu-Hu!

Fields: (obviously not wanting to be propositioned by a man, casually tosses away his boutonniere.) Don't let the posie fool you!

Fields flies in a crazy helicopter-type contraption and ends up in Wu-Hu, but the main thrust of this story if there is one is showcasing various musical acts such as Cab Calloway and Baby Rose Marie (later of "The Dick Van Dyke Show") on an invention pre-dating television.

George Burns and Gracie Allen exchange some lame Vaudevillian jokes and a doctor and nurse and Bela Lugosi is even here as a Russian General.

The story at times sometimes moves at a snail's pace, and the dialogue is generally unfunny, but it's great to see all these old timers once again. I am not alone in this assessment, as the reviews from the time as printed in "The Films of W.C. Fields" parrot my views.

In other words, it was considered bad back in 1933.

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