Happy Birthday, Harpo Marx!
Today marks the 126th anniversary of the birth of the great Harpo Marx.
Born Adolph—he later changed his name to Arthur—Harpo was said by all who knew him to be the kindest and gentlest of men. When we first became fans of the Marx Brothers, it was Groucho to whom we were drawn, but over the years, the delightful film work of Harpo—and the very endearing stories of his life and career—have made Harpo a very close second favorite. If Groucho stills leads, it’s only by a nose.
Happy birthday, Harpo, wherever you may be!
Yawnzapoppin’ with Olsen and Johnson
We’re two-thirds of the way through Gold Dust Gertie, our first Olsen and Johnson movie, and we have to admit we’re underwhelmed. We’d been led to believe they were an over-the-top duo of the same school as the Marx Brothers, but from what we’ve seen, it’s difficult to believe they could ever have been featured in a long-running Broadway revue called Hellzapoppin’. Nothing’s popping in this 1931 feature.
Without prior knowledge, one would be hard-pressed to even recognize Ole and Chic as a comedy team; they come off as mere middling actors cast as a pair of put-upon husbands.
Here’s hoping this is their weakest effort, and that we’ve better things to look forward to from these two, if ever we can convince ourselves to give them another try.
Update: In the picture’s final ten minutes, we’re finally presented with some wackiness: A chase scene featuring motorboats, but unfortunately, it relies on speeded-up film, an effect that is never, ever funny.
In Their Own Words: Happy Birthday, Dick Powell!
Few Hollywood stars have ever remade themselves quite so successfully as Dick Powell, whose 110th birthday is today. He began his career as a buoyant boy singer, first on record and then in movie musicals, before, beginning with his turn as Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet (1944), turning to tough guy roles in a series of films noir.
As evidenced by his quote below, Powell went on to became a successful director and producer. And to top it all off, he was married to Joan Blondell! (June Allyson, too.) Quite a versatile and varied life and career did our Mr. Powell enjoy.
Happy birthday, Mr. Powell, wherever you may be.
In Their Words: Happy Birthday, Claude Rains!
The great Claude Rains was born 125 years ago today in London. Few actors in cinematic history were more reliable in consistently delivering memorable performances. We’re not sure we can name a bad one from Mr. Rains.
If you wish to watch one of his pictures today to celebrate his birthday, there are dozens of worthy options, but you can certainly not go wrong by choosing either Casablanca, The Invisible Man, or Notorious.
Happy birthday, Mr. Rains, wherever you may be!
Hardboiled Before Hammett, Chandler
Were the works of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler informed and inspired by a real-life African-American detective named Sam Marlowe? This Los Angeles Times story explores that intriguing possibility.
Old Father Time checked, so there'd be no doubt,
Called on the north wind to come on out,
Then cupped his hands, so proudly to shout,
"La-de-da, de-da-de-da, 'tis Autumn!"
The trees say they're tired, they bore too much fruit,
Charmed all the wayside, there's no dispute,
Now shedding leaves, they don't give a hoot!
La-de-da, de-da-de-dum, 'tis Autumn!
Then the birds got together
To chirp about the weather,
After makin' their decision
with birdie-like precision,
Turned about and made a bee-line to the south.
Oh, holding you close is really no crime,
Ask the birds, the trees, and Old Father Time,
It's just to help the mercury climb.
La-de-da, de-da-de-da, 'tis Autumn!
Lyrics and music by Henry Nemo, 1941