Sunday, March 23, 2008

The original Dogville

Dogway Melody title card

As I intimated yesterday, the introduction of talking pictures resulted in the studios having to adjust their picture-making techniques: when they didn't the result was very stagey. One way the studios experimented at the beginning of the talking picture era was in the making of short subjects. New talent and techniques could be tried, and if things didn't go well (and there are some creaky early talkie shorts out there!), you didn't go to anywhere near as much expense as you would have had you made a feature.

One of the most interesting series of shorts was the Dogville series. From 1929 to 1931, MGM produced a series of nine two-reelers parodying popular films of the day, with the premise that all of the cast members were, as the name implies, dogs. The title card above, from Dogway Melody, is an obvious spoof of the popular musical The Broadway Melody. Other titles included College Hounds, a sendup of the popular college football movies of the day; and So Quiet on the Canine Front, which was a remake of sorts of All Quiet on the Western Front. Looking back nearly 80 years, it's easy to suggest that these poor dogs are being abused, but even today, there are lots of people who like to dress up their dogs, and, as we've seen from "Stupid Pet Tricks" on David Letterman's show, people will still train their dogs to do all sorts of odd things.

Anyhow, I mention the Dogville shorts because TCM is airing one of them soon: Trader Hound is coming up after Harriet Craig and before the film it spoofs, Trader Horn, on March 24. Harriet Craig airs at 6:00 PM ET, with Trader Horn kicking off prime time at 8:00 PM ET. TCM's online schedule lists the start time as 7:44 PM ET, but Harriet Craig only runs about 95 minutes, so if you're looking to see this, you may want to watch from about 7:35 PM.

At least some of the Dogway shorts are available as extras on DVDs of other movies; the Dogway Melody is naturally a short on the Broadway Melody DVD.

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