Thursday, January 15, 2009

JOE E. BROWN: Bright Lights trailer, 1935

Joe E. Brown's extensive circus and burlesque training serve him well in this familiar but likeable yarn. Brown and Ann Dvorak stars as small-time vaudevillians Joe and Fay Wilson, presently employed by a seedy burlesque troupe. Also on tour with the Wilsons is society girl Peggy (Patricia Ellis), who's merely joined the troupe for a few laughs. Publicity agent Daniel Wheeler (William Gargan) offers Joe a big-time contract, but only if he will team up with Peggy. Surprisingly, Fay goes along with this, though she soon has reason to regret her generosity. The film's many intrigues give way to slapstick when Joe commandeers an airplane to expedite a reconciliation with his ever-loving spouse. The film's comic highlight is Joe E. Brown's "drunken mouse" routine, which later caused him courtroom trouble when comedian Bert Wheeler (of Wheeler & Woolsey) insisted that the bit was his personal property.

Joe E. Brown - Joe Wilson
Ann Dvorak - Fay Wilson
Patricia Ellis - Peggy
William Gargan - Daniel Wheeler
Joseph Cawthorn - Otto Schlemmer
Henry O'Neill - J.C. Anderson, Theatrical Producer
Arthur Treacher - Wilbur
Gordon Westcott - Wellington
Joseph Crehan - Airport Attendant
William Demarest - Detective
William "Wild Bill" Elliott - Actor in Roman Legion Costume
Clarence H. Wilson - Freight Agent


Anonymous said...

"Mousie" isn't the only thing Joe E. Brown stole, according to John Lahr in his great biography of his father, the wonderful comedian Bert Lahr.

The elder Lahr often complained that Brown "stole" his characterization from him--both had very generous mouths and small eyes and were ultimately physical comedians.

The studio chiefs of the early sound period found capable jouneyman actors like Brown a lot easier to deal with than they did the established stars of Broadway, who, like Lahr, fought for demands the moguls found presumptuous-- like being paid additional money if a film's shooting schedule stretched beyond their contract's limits...

So the moguls, in effect, constructed "virtual" characters with actors who resembled the Brodway stars but were less inimical to the studio system.

Hence Joe E. Brown for Lahr; Wheeler and Woolsey for Clark and McCullough, Hugh Herbert for Ed Wynn, etc...

That having been said, Brown, like Robert Woosey, was a polished comedy technician who is actually pretty funny to watch on screen, even if he lacks the anarchic energy necessary for a grater comic talent. the end of his career, he got to deliver the greatest movie punchline ever--the last line of "Some Like it Hot": "Nobody's Perfect!".....

Great stuff, Pat....Thanks

--Michael Karp

Anonymous said...

Very interesting thoughts on the comedians! Never thought of it that way, and it makes sense. Hmmm

-Greg Desanto