Thursday, December 26, 2013

Penny Wisdom

Tonight at 11:49 PM, following Billy Liar (10:00 PM, 99 min), is the short Penny Wisdom. This is one of those shorts I'm not certain if I've seen before, since I've seen so many of them that all blend together, and because it's more or less a remake of an earlier short.

It's a Pete Smith short, whcih means you're not going to get dialog from the characters, but snarky commentary from Smith instead, and humor which may or may not be to your liking. The plot, such as it is, involves an upper-class wife whose cook quits on her on the very day that hubby is bringing home the boss for an important dinner. At least nobody dropped the aspic or rushed off to Florida, leaving our hosewife two guests short. Actually, this woman isn't quite a housewife, in that she's useless around the house. What's a woman to do in such a situation? Why, call a newspaper cooking columnist. Gone are the days when you could get her recipes by sending in a self-addressed, stamped envelope care of your local newspaper; at any rate, for the purposes of this short, the columnist actually comes over to help out our wife in distress, showing her how to cook some nice stuff that's not too difficult.

From everything I've read, food photography in general is difficult. Sure, in these days of cell-phone cameras, it's easy enough to take a picture of what's on your plate. But it's difficult to photograph food and make it look good. If you've ever watched a TV cooking show and tried to follow the recipes, you'll probably know that the finished product in your own kitchen never looks quite like what the professional chef on TV is able to whip up quickly. It must have been even more difficult for the folks making this short at MGM, since they were doing it in Technicolor, which had those ridiculously bulky cameras back in the late 1930s.

Penny Wisdom is much the same story as a short called Menu, made four years earlier in two-strip Technicolor. I'm pretty certain I've seen that one, although I might be mixing the two up. Penny Wisdom apparently got a DVD release on one of the sets of The Prisoner of Zenda, but it's also available on Youtube.

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