Sunday, May 20, 2012

RKO Sports

Toward the end of the road, RKO must have gotten desperate to do something for success. I can't think of any other reason why they came up with some of the shorts they did in the 1950s. With the advent of television, a lot of what the studios had been doing as either B-movies or shorts were more suitable for the 22-minutes plus commercials in a half-hour format on TV. The Bowery Boys petered out by 1956; James Fitzpatrick did his last Traveltalks short around 1954; and even the animation departments were about to undergo major restructuring. And yet RKO came out with some its most curious shorts.

Today, TCM is showing a couple of those shorts, both released under the theme "RKO-Pathe Sportscope". (There was another series called "RKO Screenliners", which put out such fun stuff as Teenagers on Trial, which I've briefly mentioned in the past. In fact, one of the "Screenliners" that I haven't seen before, Black Cats and Broomsticks, is coming up just after Bell, Book, and Candle around 3:15 PM.) First, at about 1:20 PM, just after The Seven Year Itch, you can watch Headpin Hints, in which a pair of professional bowlers teach us how to make those difficult spares. It's easy to forget, I suppose, that bowling was quite a bit more popular back in the day, with a lot of people taking part in bowling leagues. A lot of that's gone by the wayside now that there are a lot more social options out there.

The second short is Four-Minute Fever, just after The Far Country, a little after 5:15 PM. This one is about the race to run four-minute miles. Roger Bannister was the first to do so in 1954, and this short was released in 1956, so it gives us highlights of several races, including one at the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver that had all the "best" milers in the world. (Where are all the Kenyans?) This short also, rather humorously, seems to focus on whether an American will ever run a four-minute mile. We'll get there eventually, I suppose.

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