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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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Recently Watched Shorts


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14 replies to this topic

#1 LawrenceA

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 04:39 PM

Taris (1931) - 10-minute French short from director Jean Vigo. Champion swimmer Jean Taris is shown swimming in a pool, demonstrating various strokes and techniques. And that's it. 

 

Vigo exhibits some playfulness in his rewinding of footage, and his underwater camerawork allows for greater view of the swimmer. Taris, wearing a sort of proto-speedo, is shown in detail, with Vigo's camera lingering on his form from many angles, which may ultimately have been the point of the film. Vigo, a cult figure in French film circles partially due to his untimely death at age 29, only made 3 shorts and 1 feature. This was the last one that I hadn't seen.   5/10

 

Source: FilmStruck.

 

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#2 LawrenceA

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 01:00 PM

The Hard Guy (1930) - Vitaphone Variety starring Spencer Tracy as a desperate, out-of-work husband and father. When he heads out with a gun in his pocket, his wife (Katherine Alexander) fears the worst. This 6-minute look at Depression-era anxiety is well-acted, but too brief to offer any real insight.  6/10

 

Source: Warners DVD, a bonus feature on the Little Caesar disc.

 

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#3 LawrenceA

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Posted 26 September 2017 - 03:07 PM

The Devil's Cabaret (1930) - Interesting pre-code color musical short from MGM. Fast-talking Howie (Edward Buzzell) has his hands full managing problems in Hell for his boss Satan (Charles Middleton). He also has to welcome a new batch of souls, which includes a musical number. Also featuring Mary Carlisle, Nelson McDowell, Vera Marshe, and Ann Dvorak. This crazy, funny short features a great-looking Satan design for Middleton, lots of pretty girls dancing in negligees, and good set work.   7/10

 

Source: Warners DVD, an extra on the 1931 Cimarron release.

 

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#4 LawrenceA

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 12:01 AM

A Propos de Nice (1930) - Silent satirical short from French director Jean Vigo, working in collaboration with Boris Kaufman. The film presents a travelogue-esque look at the French coastal city of Nice, with its wealthy vacationers and sunbathers, as well as the working class and poor hidden away in the back streets. Less a condemnation and more of a snarky poke in the eye, the movie juxtaposes images of slowly baking sun worshipers with those of alligators, the pompous and ostentatiously dressed aristocracy with the street cleaner picking up after them, and a raucous celebration and gaudy parade with a cemetery and a smokestack rendering all things to smoke and ash. 

 

Kaufman was the brother of famed Soviet director Dziga Vertov, and he shows some of the same cinematic inventiveness and an eye for the carefully chosen shot. This was the debut effort from Jean Vigo, who would go on to make two more shorts, and the classic 1934 feature L'Atalante, before dying at age 29 after a brief illness, destined to become a tragic hero and one of the great "what if's" in French cinematic history. On a sidenote, this was a difficult choice as to which thread to post this one under: Silents, Foreign, Documentary, or Shorts. I've chosen the last, obviously, but it fits into all of them.  7/10

 

Source: FilmStruck (streamed during Hurricane Irma, no less! What technology!)

 

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#5 LawrenceA

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Posted 02 August 2017 - 09:17 PM

I finished the first 3-disc set of Traveltalks, but I think that's going to be the end of my shortie marathon for a while. Too much of a good thing. I'll come back to the remaining sets when the mood strikes. For now, though, I'm going to restart my year-by-year feature movie watching. See you in the Silents!


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#6 LawrenceA

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Posted 02 August 2017 - 06:56 PM

I enjoyed the short on St. Augustine, Florida. I live about an hour away from there, and have visited there many times over the years. It was interesting to see it back in the 1930s.

 

I had to laugh at one of the shorts about Alaska that showed the cute and adorable mink and fox babies being raised, followed immediately by ladies posing with mink and fox skins draped over their shoulders.


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#7 LawrenceA

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Posted 02 August 2017 - 12:14 PM

I finished Vitaphone Varieties volume one. I enjoyed it overall, with a few time-wasters in the mix. I look forward to the other two (shorter) installments.

 

Now I've started FitzPatrick Traveltalks volume one. I've watched the first three, about Switzerland, Ireland, and Zeeland. I'm loving it so far.


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#8 Jlewis

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 09:49 PM

As wonderful as it was to get UN-edited Vitaphone shorts that test modern tastes in "correctness", I am still waiting to see Tom & Jerry's Mouse Cleaning and Robert Clampett's Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs make the authorized Warner DVD cut.


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#9 LawrenceA

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 09:48 PM

I just finished another short that was a blackface comedy bit, this time featuring Slim Timblin. It was a church service, with the majority of the other performers, but not all, actual black people. It's funny/sad to think what must have been going on the minds of those people while they watched the 2 or 3 white dudes in blackface act like idiots. At least they got paid (probably).

 

I tried looking up Timblin on Wikipedia, but he didn't have an entry. When I Googled him, I found this old newspaper article:

 

https://www.newspape...s_slim_timblin/


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#10 LawrenceA

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 09:32 PM

Again, I think that 4-disc set you are watching is intended for a genuine Vitaphone fanatic. Just as we have genuine fanatics of 1980s slasher films and overlong Bollywood musicals.

 

Well, I wasn't complaining about the set. It's what I expected, and there's a large enough variety in the material, from filmed nightclub acts to vaudeville routines, singers and musicians, and even a billiards trick-shot artist (with mistakes and all). I enjoy these types of things for their historical insight, and the evolution of filmed entertainment. 


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#11 Jlewis

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 09:27 PM

Yeah, that Bert Swor thing was...regrettable. But I expected a blackface number or two. So far the biggest shock was finding out that Jay C Flippen, who I know from his many character actor parts as a burly, gruff-voiced authority figure, apparently started out as a singer and comedian.

 

I read up on Bert. He was still doing blackface in stage performances as late as 1949 or '50... or so I read in some Billboard magazine online. The article even criticized him for his act, because it was no longer relevant post WW2.

 

Yet many of these actors meant no harm (at least in their own minds) in the same way we view them today. It was all a hold-over from an earlier time and, while minstrel shows initially mocked the "colored" slaves in the mid-19th century, later shows of the early 20th were more of salutes to "black" music and "black" rural comedy. (If the black face was removed, you basically got Hee Haw.) Had Elvis Presley been around in the 1910s and '20s, his music would likely be sung in blackface since Al Jolson often had to. Even many black performers like Bert Williams (famous for the 1906 hit "Nobody" and also appearing in some short silent comedies a decade later) also "blacked up" even though he didn't have to. Let's also not forget Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire all doing it on screen right through war years as well. It humored me how Holiday Inn always got edited for TV.

 

What I think happened with "colorful sermon" Bert is that he got old and stuck to the same routines. He only half realized how offensive it was. Granted, I don't think he was progressive to begin with. Yet sometimes those performers surprise you when you read about them, because they often would "hang out" with people of a different race more often than most other Caucasian performers of the era.

 

Oh yeah... Jason Robards Senior didn't enjoy as much a career as his son did. That little drama on the ship was essentially a filmed "play". Fox Movietone did many "talkie" shorts between 1927 and 1929 that were often stage-bound acts, both drama and comedy. They made a few good ones with Robert Benchley and Clark & McCullough though.

 

Again, I think that 4-disc set you are watching is intended for a genuine Vitaphone fanatic. Just as we have genuine fanatics of 1980s slasher films and overlong Bollywood musicals.



#12 LawrenceA

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 02:09 PM

Most of these shorts are between 7-10 minutes long, but the last one was 20 minutes. "Gossip", which seems to be a play fragment. 

 

There have been a few more "regrettable moments", with lyrics about "darkies" and one comedy bit showing how "the coloreds get their morning exercise", which was a silly soft-shoe dance.

 

Jason Robards Sr. showed up in one of the other few serious shorts, set on a ship at sea. Henry Walthall got to ham it up in another bit that started as a corny-but-serious playlet which segued into a corny-but-comical bit.


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#13 LawrenceA

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 11:42 AM

Let us all know how "colorful" you find Bert Swor in A Colorful Sermon. That one required a second viewing just to be sure I wasn't dreaming. Actually I did enjoy maybe a third of them, particularly those that were very "gay".

 

Yeah, that Bert Swor thing was...regrettable. But I expected a blackface number or two. So far the biggest shock was finding out that Jay C Flippen, who I know from his many character actor parts as a burly, gruff-voiced authority figure, apparently started out as a singer and comedian.



#14 Jlewis

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 06:33 AM

Oh yeah, I had go see which one you were referring to. That one is not for Vitaphone beginners as I already warned here: http://forums.tcm.co...ties/?p=1336412 The 6 disc Vitaphone Cavalcade of Musical Comedy Shorts is more "virgin" friendly.

 

Let us all know how "colorful" you find Bert Swor in A Colorful Sermon. That one required a second viewing just to be sure I wasn't dreaming. Actually I did enjoy maybe a third of them, particularly those that were very "gay".


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#15 LawrenceA

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 10:53 PM

I'm finally starting my marathon of short subjects, beginning with the 4-disc first installment of Vitaphone Varieties. If I see one worth commenting on, I'll do so. So far it's just been very creaky music and comedy, as expected


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