JamesStewartFan95

Second Bananas

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Great topic!  I love your selection of Donald O'Connor-- though keep in mind that over at Universal, his home studio, he was not a second banana. Only during this loanout to MGM where he was third-billed.

 

When I think of second bananas, I think of the thankless jobs played by the comic relief guys in all those Republic westerns. Look at how Gabby Hayes played second banana to Roy Rogers in countless pictures. Or Andy Devine. And Smiley Burnette was always the second banana to Gene Autry, and so was Pat Buttram and Sterling Holloway. Those men are unsung heroes.

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Something ironic I wanted to mention in this thread--

 

Phil Silvers usually played a second banana in studios' A films. But he is (appropriately) the star in the independently produced comedy TOP BANANA.

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My personal favorite would be Eve Arden. Sometimes her seconday characters outshone everyone else on screen. She had that rare ability to make her co-stars perhaps seem funnier than they actually may have been, which made her a go-to person for second banana roles. Even when required to do the virtually impossible, such as her Russian "comrade" in "The Doughgirls", she gave it her all. And she held up well in drama, dishing up wisecracks and a shoulder to cry on in "Mildred Pierce", as well as her late career tour-de-force in "Anatomy of a Murder", my favorite of all her roles.

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Dougie, I agree about the wonderful Eve Arden.  She could do it all.  In Hollywood there is even a term known as "the Eve Arden type".  That says  lot for her.  I don't have a favorite role, but I did enjoy her Russian in "The Doughgirls".  In her autobiography, she says that her performance in that movie led to her being offered a seven-year contract with the studio.

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One of my favorite second bananas is Eugene Pallette.

 

He had only to move across the screen and start to speak.

 

He'd always grap my attention.

 

He was just inherently funny.

 

Was he even trying?

 

Or just being himself?

 

Did he ever come close to a starring role?

 

I hope so.

 

Pallette,%20Eugene%20%28Lady%20Eve,%20Th

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Great topic!  I love your selection of Donald O'Connor-- though keep in mind that over at Universal, his home studio, he was not a second banana. Only during this loanout to MGM where he was third-billed.

 

When I think of second bananas, I think of the thankless jobs played by the comic relief guys in all those Republic westerns. Look at how Gabby Hayes played second banana to Roy Rogers in countless pictures. Or Andy Devine. And Smiley Burnette was always the second banana to Gene Autry, and so was Pat Buttram and Sterling Holloway. Those men are unsung heroes.

Donald O'Connor was certainly A STAR at his home studio, Universal-International.

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Donald O'Connor was certainly A STAR at his home studio, Universal-International.

 

Universal was still using him in Sandra Dee pictures in the 60s. He had become a supporting player by that point, but he still had cachet. 

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Universal was still using him in Sandra Dee pictures in the 60s. He had become a supporting player by that point, but he still had cachet. 

I was fortunate enough to see him in the sequel to "Bye Bye Birdie", which was called "Bring Back Birdie" on Broadway with Chita Rivera.

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I was fortunate enough to see him in the sequel to "Bye Bye Birdie", which was called "Bring Back Birdie" on Broadway with Chita Rivera.

 

I'm sure you had a great time watching them perform.

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During the 1950's, Joan Blondell had a nice late career as a second banana. I loved her trying to keep Jayne Mansfield's Rita Marlowe from going off the rails in "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?". And especially her great sympatico comic byplay with Katharine Hepburn in "Desk Set". TCM just showed "The Opposite Sex", in which she probably had the least showy role, but she held her own with some pretty flashy women. She always makes me smile in those roles as women who were past their prime but still had character and the wit to express it.

 

P.S. "The Opposite Sex" just reminded me of Charlotte Greenwood and what a great second banana she was, especially when paired with someone like Edward Everett Horton (a stellar second banana himself) in those 20th Century-Fox Technicolor musicals.

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Dougie, you're absolutely right about Joan Blondell and the later years in her career.  She also received her only Oscar nomination during this period for "The Blue Veil".

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Dougie, you're absolutely right about Joan Blondell and the later years in her career.  She also received her only Oscar nomination during this period for "The Blue Veil".

Don't know "The Blue Veil" but I'll look for it. I'm assuming it's not a comedy if she was nominated. TCM recently showed "Angel Baby", which was pretty trashy, but Joan also had a decent dramatic role in that.

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Don't know "The Blue Veil" but I'll look for it. I'm assuming it's not a comedy if she was nominated. TCM recently showed "Angel Baby", which was pretty trashy, but Joan also had a decent dramatic role in that.

 

THE BLUE VEIL is a melodrama starring Jane Wyman. It is near impossible to find, unless you can locate it with an international vendor. For years the film has been tangled up in litigation (rights issues). It's never been released on home video and has never aired on TCM.

 

In a May 1987 cliffhanger of Falcon Crest, Jane Wyman's character was revealed to be the mother of David Selby's character. For a flashback of the birth scene, they used a black-and-white clip from THE BLUE VEIL. It was Wyman's favorite film and she was probably able to pull strings to borrow the footage. This scene is the only thing from the movie that seems to be available to watch.

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I also have been waiting for years to see "The Blue Veil" again.  I hope someday they can work out the problems on this.  I didn't realize that it was Jane Wyman's favorite.  She is wonderful in it and this gave her a well-deserved Oscar nomination.  I remember when I was much younger being moved to tears while watching it.  A great cast and a very involving plot.

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A couple of years ago there was a full copy of The Blue Veil up on YouTube. It was from a VHS recording off of a TV showing, complete with the occasional station identifiers on screen. The same copy is apparently the source for a number of bootleg tapes and DVD's floating around the second-hand market.

 

I was lucky enough to see it on YouTube, for which I am grateful, to mark it off of the Oscar list. I think it was taken down since then, though. 

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Eric Blore and Edward Everett Horton are two that come to mind. They had great comedic talents, and were particularly good in The Gay Divorcee (1934) and Top Hat (1935) 

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