Just two weeks until The 2nd Annual ‘ONE’ of My Favorite Cartoons Blogathon!


Do you have a favorite cartoon that you’d want to take with you to the proverbial desert island? Join our blogathon and tell everyone about it! Click on the above Betty Boop-based banner for the blogathon rules!

Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from Laurel & Hardy.


The following is my entry in the Things I Learned from the Movies Blogathon, being hosted Oct. 14-17, 2016 by Kristina and Ruth at, respectively, the blogs Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Click on the above banner, and read a variety of life lessons learned by bloggers through their study of cinema!







Last year around this time, bloggers and cartoon buffs came out of the woodwork to express their appreciation of animated films that they have enjoyed. It was a very popular blogathon, and one of its entrants suggested that I revive it in the future. So, here it is, and here are the rules (same as for last year).


  1. Here’s your opportunity to sound off about one of your favorite animated films! Does a particular cartoon make you laugh, cry, think, or just plain fill you with joy? Post a blog entry about it here, and share your enthusiasm with the world!
  2. Notice that I said it can be one of your favorite cartoons. This is not a contest in which you have to summon up superior evidence that your cartoon of choice is the greatest one ever made. Just write about the reasons why you like it.
  3. The cartoon you choose can be of any length (short subject, feature film, television special) from movies or TV. It can be in “traditional” hand-drawn format or CGI. If you choose to write about a TV cartoon series, you can write about either the reasons why you like the entire TV series so much, or you can focus on a particular episode of the series. As long as you write an entertaining and reasoned blog in support of your choice, it will be accepted here. Also, duplicate entries are acceptable at this blogathon.
  4. Please leave me a message in the “Comments” section below that includes the name and URL of your blog, and the name of the cartoon you choose to write about.
  5. Below are banners to advertise the blogathon. Once you have completed Step # 4, please grab a banner, display it on your blog, and link it back to this blog.
  6. The blogathon will take place from Fri., Nov. 11, through Sun., Nov. 13, 2016. Once you have posted your blogathon entry on one of those dates, please post its URL in the “Comments” section so that I can link our blog back to it. There are no assigned dates, so post your entry at any time during the three days of the ‘thon (although as I always say, the sooner the better!).

Have fun with your blog entry, and clearly show us why you adore the cartoon of your choice! Here are the entries so far:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – Mickey’s Garden (1935) and A Single Life (2014)

Once Upon a Screen – Swooner Crooner (1944)

BNoirDetour – Key Lime Pie (2007)

Film Music Central – My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood – Bambi (1942)

Reelweegiemidget Reviews – The Lego Movie (2014)

Cinema Shame – Perfect Blue (1997)

Caftan Woman – A Christmas Carol (Richard Williams, 1971)

Pop Culture Pundit – Frozen (2013)

Epileptic Moondancer – Akira (1988)

Wide Screen World – Hanna-Barbera’s World of Super Adventure (1980-84)

The Midnite Drive-In – Heavy Metal (1981)

Moon in Gemini – Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Silver Scenes – To Spring (1936)

Dell on Movies – The Brown Hornet (1979-84)










This blogathon is getting too silly for words…so it’s time to salute our remaining bloggers in


(Click on the appropriate day to read blogathon entries from Day 1 and Day 2. For today’s entries, click on the appropriate blogger’s name.)


lifesdailylessonsblog finds too many life lessons to count in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.


Reelweegiemidget Reviews finds fun in Eric Idle’s supported, er, supporting role in National Lampoon’s European Vacation.


And last but not least, The James Bond Social Media Project takes a look at John Cleese as Bond’s sardonic gadget man “R” in The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day.

And that’s the end! Thanks to our creative blog entrants for their fun contributions, and thanks for reading us for the past three days. Stay tuned later this evening for yet another blogathon announcement!




Unlike the Spanish Inquisition, everybody expects a blogathon recap — so let’s pounce right into


(Click here for Day 1’s entries if you missed them. To read Day 2’s entries, just click on the individual blog names highlighted below.)


Serendipitous Anachronisms starts things off with a bang (or at least the clacking of coconuts) with her critique of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.


Moon in Gemini reviews John Cleese and Michael Palin’s underrated A Fish Called Wanda follow-up, Fierce Creatures.


And finally, The Cinematic Frontier offers its thoughts on Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King, starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.

And we still have one day of not-so-silly blogging left to go. Keep us bookmarked for Day 3! Because after all, you’ve got a nice blog, and we’d hate to see anything happen to it…







THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) -A movie about disfigured people who don’t know their place


Have you ever gone to see a movie that has been raved up for years and then doubted your better judgment when you weren’t crazy about the movie? That’s what happened to me when I viewed the much-revered silent film version of The Phantom of the Opera for the first time.

(Brief synopsis: Erik [Lon Chaney] has been hiding out in the bowels of the Paris Opera House for years because he is ashamed of his disfigured face. However, Erik has designs on an up-and-coming opera singer named Christine [Mary Philbin], and he will do anything to both further Christine’s opera career [rival singers be damned] and win Christine’s love despite his physical appearance.)

Fortunately, I have Fritzi, who runs the blogs Movies Silently, as my blogging “neighbor.” I quickly consulted her entry on Phantom (click here if you’d like to read it for yourself), and much to my relief, she pretty much agreed with me: The movie is good but not a masterpiece, Chaney does an amazing job with both his makeup and his acting, and Philbin is fluttery and just this side of over-the-top.

However, my major hangup with the movie is in one of its major plot points, which I would imagine is a carryover from the original novel. (MAJOR SPOILERS from this point on!)

The movie’s money shot is when Christine surreptitiously removes Erik’s mask (despite his previous command not to do so) and gets a full view of Erik’s face. This is the shot on which the rest of the movie hinges, and when the movie was first released, Chaney was careful not to take any publicity photos that would show him in full Phantom make-up so as to build the audience’s shock at the unveiling. Mission accomplished. It’s still a pretty powerful moment.



What really bothers me is that the moment is taken at face value. In other words, Christine uncovers Erik’s face, and this drama queen’s first reaction is basically, “Whew, he ugly! Gotta avoid him like the plague!”, as if she was a high-school cheerleader who just got asked to the prom by the class nerd.

Since I am of the era of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast — a movie wherein an initially monstrous figure is shown to be human like the rest of us — Christine’s attitude really puts me off. It’s later revealed that Erik, while a musical genius, is also an escaped prisoner from Devil’s Island. The movie showed Christine as having been fascinated by Erik at first. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to have Christine smitten with this man and his offbeat behavior and looks, only to find out later how dangerous he is? Instead, the story takes the easy route and instantly equates physical ugliness with supreme villainy.

I suppose movie buffs will chastize me for applying contemporary sexual politics to a 1925 movie. But it makes me think that when modern-day moviegoers scoff at silent film in general, it might not be only the antiquated technology they’re pooh-poohing. Maybe it has something to do with the way those movies look down their noses at the more underprivileged among us.





We won’t keep you in suspense any longer, as we know you must be grinding your teeth waiting to see


It’s appropriate that Terry Gilliam’s visage hovers over this recap, as his movies constitute the majority (3 out of 4) of Day 1’s blog entries. (Click on the appropriate blog’s name to link to their blogathon entry.)


The Midnite Drive-In has time to kill in more ways than one with their critique of Gilliam’s family-film fantasy Time Bandits.


Radiator Heaven cannot tell a lie — they enjoyed the otherworldly vision of Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.


BNoir Detour detected some sinister noir elements in Gilliam’s futuristic tale Brazil.


And finally, yours truly opted for a Baron Munchausen-like take on the life of Graham Chapman, as narrated by Chapman himself (with help from fellow Pythons), in the animated film A Liar’s Autobiography.

And there’s more to come, so keep us bookmarked for the next two days. As for the rest of you blogathon participants: It’s time to talk the talk and walk the silly walk!









My interview with Laurel & Hardy biographer Randy Skretvedt – October, 1987


With the publication of Randy Skretvedt’s epic “Ultimate Edition” of his book Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies, it’s time for another of my shout-out, name-dropping, bragging-rights stories.

I lived in Los Angeles for about a year three decades ago. During that time, I was wandering through a bookshop when I came across a Laurel & Hardy biography I’d never even heard of before (Skretvedt’s, of course). I bought it and read it from cover to cover several times, until you’d have thought its information was getting sponged in through my fingertips.

At the time, I was also writing for a small monthly entertainment publication. I used that as an excuse to write to Skretvedt (remember letter-writing?) to ask for an interview. He graciously accepted, and I met up with him a total of three times before I left L.A. (On one occasion, he took me to a lavish meeting of Way Out West, the L.A. “Tent” [fan club] of The International Laurel & Hardy Appreciation Society, a/k/a “Sons of the Desert.”)

From the time he attended junior college, Skretvedt has been documenting every bit of Laurel & Hardy history he can find, and we readers are the lucky recipients of his obsession (particularly with his “Ultimate Edition” — read my review of it here.) As you can tell in my interview with Skretvedt below, he’s one of the nicest people you could imagine, just as willing to share his generous knowledge of L&H’s work in person as he is on paper.


Steve Bailey: What is it you particularly like about Laurel and Hardy?

Randy Skretvedt: The two characters are so interesting, and they have much more depth than other film comedians. They said something about human relationships without making it explicit. They can’t live with each other, and they can’t live without each other. They’re two innocents in a hostile world, and they’re the only allies they’ve got.

I can also appreciate how well the films are structured. I like how carefully they’ve timed everything, and how they’ve set up the scene so your eye is led to exactly what it should be looking at. they have a limited bag of tricks, but they’re very inventive in the ways they use the same gags over and over. And the slow tempo of their films works well, because Stan and Ollie’s minds don’t work very fast.

SB: How long did it take you to compile and write the book, from the time you actually decided you were going to write it?

RS: Some of the interview material goes back to 1974. But when I finally said, “Nobody’s done it right, I’m gonna do a book,” that was in 1979, when I was in junior college.

SB: How did Laurel and Hardy’s contemporaries feel when this kid came to interview them?

RS: That’s a good question. I think a lot of them were surprised that I was so interested. It’s a little unusual for someone to be so crazy about something that went on in 1927. But if you do your homework before the interview, that helps break down barriers, rather than just asking, “Gee, were they really fun to work with?” But most of them loved the Hal Roach Studios [where Laurel and Hardy made films from 1927 to 1940] so much, they almost got misty-eyed when they talked about it.

SB: Why did it take Hal Roach and others so long to regard Laurel and Hardy as a team? As you point out in your book, they’d make one movie where they were a bonafide team, and then a movie where they both starred but never appeared together.

RS: Leo McCarey [a Roach director who went on to direct the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup and Cary Grant’s An Affair to Remember, among many others] was the first one to say, “Laurel and Hardy, together. Great idea!” But even Stan Laurel wasn’t terribly receptive to the idea when McCarey first suggested it, because he preferred working behind the scenes.

SB: You quote Hal Roach many times as saying Stan was great on gags but terrible on story construction.

RS: Hal Roach was a creative filmmaker, and the one who insisted that more emphasis be placed on storyline and characters — a major contribution to film comedy. But I don’t think he was always the man to construct the story. [Frequent Laurel and Hardy director] George Marshall said, “We’d be in the writers’ sessions, and Roach would stop in from a business meeting to say, ‘Hey, fellas, I just got a great idea for a story. Laurel and Hardy are sailors. You know what I mean?'” Then he’d walk out, and the gag writers would stare at each other and say, “Do you know what he means?”

SB: Why didn’t Stan Laurel ever take screen credit for the writing, directing, and editing he did for their films?

RS: He wasn’t concerned about getting credit, but he did make certain he got control. And it was kind of an unwritten law on the lot, anyway, that Stan was the guy in charge. If Stan didn’t feel a certain bit of business was right, the director was not about to say, “I’m the director, so you do it anyway!”

In 1938, Hal Roach said, “When you create a picture, you want it to look like it has importance. And if you labeled everything that Stan Laurel did, his name would be on there about ten times.” But Laurel never considered himself the auteur of the films, even if he unconsciously was. And I think that hurt their careers later on, because it wasn’t trumpeted in the press that Stan was the primary shaper of the films.

SB: Why did Laurel and Hardy go to 20th Century-Fox and M-G-M in the 1940’s, where they were forced into bad movies over which they had no control?

RS: Stan had many story disagreements with Roach. When Fox hired them, they said, “We’ve got writers, we’ve got editors. We just want Laurel and Hardy for their box-office value.” I think Laurel and Hardy were naive in not realizing conditions were going to be so different at another studio. They were obviously not aware of how regimented the procedures had become.

SB: What do you think of the colorized versions of the Laurel and Hardy movies?

RS: I saw the colorized Music Box [Laurel and Hardy’s Oscar-winning 1932 short subject] the other night, and the color has gotten to the point where it’s not too bad, as long as they don’t leave huge chunks of black-and-white in it, as they often do.

But then they tamper with the films in other ways. They add music where there was none before, and they cut parts of them so they can get new copyrights. And I’m a purist — if there wasn’t any music in the original, don’t put music in there now. It’s not as if all the critics who saw The Music Box said, “I think the film would be ten times better with music in it.” And I think black-and-white fits Laurel and Hardy’s films better. They’re set in the Depression, they have a grimly realistic tone to them, and I think black-and-white helps to accommodate that.

SB: If you were talking to someone completely unfamiliar with Laurel and Hardy’s work, which movie would you tell them about?

RS: There’s a short they did called You’re Darn Tootin’ (1928). At the beginning of it, Laurel and Hardy have jobs and a home. Systematically throughout the film, they lose it all until, at the end, they’re standing on the street in their underwear. All they have left is their friendship, and they go off together. That’s their statement: The world will crumble around us and we will utterly fail at everything we try, but we’ll still have each other. That’s a pretty profound statement to come from a two-reeler that was shot in 10 days.