Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Jack Buchanan?

I'm looking forward to the TCM premiere of Berkeley Square tonight at 9:45 PM; it's a movie I've never seen before. Thankfully they've put it at a time where most movie buffs who would want to see it will have the opportunity without recording. The same can't be said about the short Jack Buchanan and his Glee Quartet, which is airing around 3:45 AM.

Jack Buchanan plays himself, filling in for the missing fourth member of the "Glee Quartet" which is supposed to be a song and dance act. The joke in this short is that Buchanan can't dance in time with the rest of the quartet. It does take talent to miss your mark on cue (even if that sounds like an oxymoron), but it's unfortunately the type of talent that looks like it doesn't take talent when it comes to not being able to dance or singing off-key. This may not be something for everybody, but it's an interesting curio.

In fact, TCM seens to show quite a fair number of Vitaphone shorts from around this period. Hollywood was looking for new talent at the beginning of the sound era, and shorts were a good way to give talent an inexpensive test: if the short bombs, nobody will remember it. And presumably, there are people who would have enjoyed acts like this; after all, vaudeville was long popular. What I find more interesting, though, is the simple fact that all these Vitaphone shorts are around. These get a regular airing on TCM, but for whatever reason, there don't seem to be very many shorts from the early 1930s from MGM that show up on TCM. Oh, there's a lot of stuff from later, once Pete Smith and John Nesbitt and James A. Fitzpatrick got going with their various short film series. But the early 1930s? Not so much, I think, apart from the Dogville shorts.

Interestingly, IMDb seems to be acting up right now. I tried to use their advanced search to find MGM shorts from the early 1930s, and IMDb returned a bunch of Disney shorts. My first guess was that although Disney produced them, MGM distributed them, what with Loew's owning all the theaters. But the one I checked said it was distributed by United Artists.

And then there's RKO, whose shorts outside of the Pathé screenliners from the 1950s don't seem to show up at all.

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