Mis-directed Movies With Our Gang And Joan Crawford Available At Last

The MGM Our Gangs (1938-1944) are not nearly as good as the Hal Roach talkie Our Gangs (1929-1938). In fact, Leonard Maltin calls the MGM shorts “unbearable” and nails the reason:

The MGM crew eventually turned the Our Gang comedies into ten-minute morality plays, stressing mother love, patriotism, pedestrian safety, and other American virtues in such a maudlin way that the studio’s Andy Hardy films seem anarchistic by comparison.

But at a quite bearable 67 cents per short, the entire MGM run on 5 DVD’s (total: $34.95) might just be worth considering.

The shorts will shortly be released through the WB Archive direct-sales program. The WB Archive exists to do precisely this sort of thing – make films with limited commercial potential available on DVD.

How limited is that potential? How many of the 305+ million Americans have been clamoring for the MGM Our Gangs?

Let’s take that a step further. How many want their very own copy of, for example, The Boob? Consider this thirty second clip from that Warner Archive title:

Now, in spite of that wildly entertaining clip, I’d still like to see this movie, a late silent (1926) about prohibition directed by Wild Bill Wellman.

Wellman’s own comments about the film don’t serve to make it much more tempting:

I had directed, or rather I misdirected, one picture at the Goldwyn Studios, the title of which escapes me, thank God. Oh, no, I just thought of it: The Boob. In it were George K. Arthur, Tony D’Algy, Charlie Murray, and a young star by the name of Lucille le Sueur, later to be known as Joan Crawford. The [studio] brass took one look at my first directional blooper and bounced me right out of the studio, and fate demoted me to an assistant director once again.

- A Short Time For Insanity, the autobiography of William Wellman

So, historically speaking, the film is important, in that it nearly destroyed Wellman’s career. Other facts of note: The Boob was considered a “lost film” for many years. Though the Archive doesn’t mention it, IMdB does: this is the movie that’s playing in the town where Buster Keaton encounters a hurricane in Steamboat Bill Jr., and the speakeasy set seen in The Boob was actually created for the silent 1925 Ben-Hur and was “re-dressed.”

That’s enough for me. I’m inviting friends over to see 1-2-3 Go! (1941), the MGM Our Gang about the formation of a safety society, and The Boob, the William Wellman movie that The Baltimore Sun called, upon its 1926 release, “… a piece of junk.”

Only because it was a family newspaper.

Our Gang (1938-1942) at the WB Archive.

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Laurel and Hardy by Jim Flora

Congratulations to my pals Irwin Chusid and Barbara Economon, who will be on hand tonight at The Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Seattle for an exhibition of Jim Flora’s original art, fine art prints, and Flora ephemera. The show runs through October 24. And congratulations to everyone who gets to see this show; I wish I could.

Jim Flora is best known for his incredible record album artwork, but in addition to his intense love of music, Flora also loved classic comedians and turned to them as subjects later in his life. Above is an unpublished 18″ by 24″ acrylic canvas of Stan and Babe; below, an unpublished 11″ by 14″ pen and ink drawing of Buster Keaton in “The General.” (Images © Jim Flora Art LLC)

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