My 5 favorite movie actors

Five Stars Blogathon

The following is my contribution to the third annual Five Stars Blogathon, being hosted by the blog Classic Film & TV Cafe on May 16, 2017. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ rapturous reviews of their five all-time favorite movie stars!

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Jodie Foster. Whenever I see Jodie Foster on the screen, I see a fiery woman who is very smart and who is frequently frustrated at having to deal with the less intelligent people in life. Since I often have that same viewpoint of suffering fools non-gladly, I cherish its portrayal on the screen.

Furthermore, she’s so intense that (a) you can’t take your eyes off of her, and (b) you believe every role she plays — whether it’s an underage hooker in over her head in Taxi Driver, the single mother of a brilliant but socially inept child in Little Man Tate, or a starry-eyed astronomer in Contact. In short, Foster makes intelligence sexy.

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Jane Russell. Jane Russell’s brash persona was of its time. She’d have never become a star in our sexually-explicit-yet-politically-correct era, where actresses can show off all the skin they want and then punch out any guy who looks at them as a sex object. Jane was what she was — built, brassy, and non-apologetic about all of it.

(One story goes that, on the set of the movie His Kind of Woman [1951], Russell, Vincent Price, and Robert Mitchum were being interviewed by a sob-sister reporter. As it happened, the trio were all sitting inside a room on the ledge of a second-story window, trying to catch a breeze. When the reporter asked how Russell could reconcile her Christianity with her worldly movie roles, Jane countered with, “Can’t I be a Christian and still have big tits?” Mitchum laughed so hard that Price had to grab hold of him to keep him from falling out the window.)

These days, any guy who deigns to admit that anything turns him on is branded a pervert. But I’ll be glad to say it — Russell’s take-it-or-leave-it attitude, combined with her fulsome physique, get me roiled up every time. Try watching the very first shot of her big number in the Bob Hope comedy Son of Paleface (1952) — with the camera panning up her long, glorious legs as va-va-voom music plays on the soundtrack — and see how nonchalant you remain.

Russell was also a decent actress, and even a good comedienne, when given the opportunity in gems such as SOP and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. At the risk of sounding completely sexist, they don’t make ‘em like Russell anymore — so let’s be grateful that some people had a camera pointed at her when they did.

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John Goodman. I first saw John Goodman in David Byrne’s offbeat comedy True Stories (1986). Goodman played Louis Fyne, a shy, overweight cleanroom technician who does a video advertising for a mate. The first thing that struck me was how stereotypical the role seemed. The second thing to strike me was how Goodman quietly transcended the role’s hoariness and really made you feel for this poor schmuck.

Right after that movie, Goodman went balls-out as a nutso escaped convict in the Coen Bros.’ comedy Raising Arizona (1987), and that cemented my love for the guy. After that, he had a huge string of roles where he could seemingly do no wrong — a former high-school quarterback in Everybody’s All-American, a cop who partnered with Al Pacino in Sea of Love, and of course, lovable working-class stiff Dan Connor on the sitcom “Roseanne.” It seemed as though Goodman began all of these roles by planting a tiny seed of truth within his character — so that, no matter how outrageous the situation got, you really believed in and felt for this guy.

Unfortunately, Goodman’s turn from mild-mannered character actor to major star resulted in him starring in some really embarrassing movies — King Ralph, The Babe, and the truly painful The Flintstones. But still, when Goodman is really into a worthy role, he still feels like someone you want to give a big bear-hug and buy him a beer.

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Charles Durning. In his earlier movies, Durning seemed intent on playing the man you love to hate — whether he was a corrupt cop in The Sting (1973), or the owner of a frog-leg fast-food chain who set his sights on Kermit the Frog as his chain’s spokesperson in The Muppet Movie (1979).

Then, in the 1980’s, it was as though a weight lifted off Durning’s shoulders, and he was suddenly doing roles that couldn’t help but endear him to you — the wily senator in the “Sidestep” number of Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), the widower won over by Dustin Hoffman’s man-disguised-as-a-woman in Tootsie (1982), and the laconic small-town doctor in Burt Reynolds’ late-80’s sitcom “Evening Shade.” He seemed to bask in his own charm, and the joy spread to his audience. I smiled every time he came on the screen.

But his biggest role, because it was real life, was as a deservedly decorated World War II veteran. For many years, he served as a spokesman on PBS’ Memorial Day concerts, recounting stories of fellow soldiers who never made it back home. With each passing year, you could see the toll it took on Durning to perform this task, but he carried on with it grandly. This culminated in what I think was his finest hour — his Emmy-nominated guest turn on “CSI,” where he played a WWII veteran who was, after several decades, still wracked with guilt over the death of a fellow soldier.

Like John Goodman at his best, Durning had such an authentic Everyman quality that you couldn’t help but be won over by him.

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Stan Laurel. I am a classic-comedy buff, and I mulled over this final choice for ages. There are many comedians from that era who transcended their low-comedy origins and became larger than life — Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Groucho Marx, and W.C. Fields, to name a few. I picked Stan Laurel out of this group because he developed such an endearing characterization in partnership with Oliver Hardy, you felt you could believe in simple-but-charming Stanley even if Ollie wasn’t there with him.

(Witness the minute or so at the end of the Laurel & Hardy comedy The Flying Deuces [1939], where Stanley is a lonely vagabond traversing the countryside. It’s just enough of a solo turn that you wish he could have done an entire movie of that character by himself.)

Laurel started out in vaudeville with Charlie Chaplin, and his early movie work consisted of Chaplin-like gags minus Chaplin’s plausibility or heart. When Laurel was first teamed with Hardy, he was hesitant about it, because he had established himself as a writer-director and preferred to work behind the camera. But then he created the character that endeared him to generations of movie fans.

Stanley’s likable dumbness is probably his saving grace as well. When Ollie lords it over him, he seems to convince himself that it’s his friend’s way of looking out for him. And if you doubt Laurel’s depth of performance, watch the final 10 minutes of the L&H comedy A Chump at Oxford (1940), where he becomes a completely different person: a condescending British genius who turns the tables on Ollie and makes him feel like the dummy for a change.

Laurel & Hardy buffs will tell you there’s a reason they continue watching those movies long after they’ve memorized the gags. It’s that extra touch of movie magic, much of it provided by Laurel as the uncredited writer-director-editor of those movies. What’s not to love?

Announcing the 3rd Annual “SEX! (now that I have your attention) BLOGATHON)”

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It’s time for our yearly foray into risque business that we call the…

SEX! (now that I have your attention) BLOGATHON

Held every year to usher in the summer season, we ask for blog entries about movies that suggestively depict sex through dialogue and imagery. (Think pre-1960’s, especially movies that had to submit to the Production Code. And if you’re stuck for ideas, click here and here for links to entries from our past SEX! blogathons.)

Here are the rules for our sizzling summer ‘thon:

Your blog entry can be about any single movie, as long as it fits the following criteria.

1. You need to write about an entire movie that you find sexy, not just a single scene. The upside-down kiss in the 2001 Spider-Man movie was undeniably sexy, but unless you can make a case for the entire movie being a turn-on, please don’t write about it.

2. The movie you choose can be from any era (even silent), but it needs to be a movie that subtly suggests sex. No writhing, naked bodies, and no explicit dialogue about how much one person wants to go to bed with another.

That’s not to say that your choice can’t be a modern movie with adult dialogue. If you can make a solid case for something like, say, Body Heat (which was a modern homage to 1940’s-style movie sex), I’ll accept it.

3. Explain why you think the movie is sexy. Your explanation does not have to be lurid or explicit, just a simple description of why the movie “does something” for you.

How Do I Join the Blogathon?

In the “Comments” section at the bottom of this blog, please leave your name, the URL of your blog, and the movie you are choosing to blog about. At the end of this blog entry are banners for the ‘thon. Grab a banner, display it on your blog, and link it back to this blog.

The blogathon will take place from Friday, June 16, through Sunday, June 18, 2017. When the opening date of the blogathon arrives, leave a comment here with a link to your post, and I will display it in the list of entries (which I will continually update up to the beginning of the ‘thon, so keep checking back!).

I will not be assigning particular dates to any blog posts. As long as you get your entry in by the end of the day on June 18, I will be satisfied. (That said, the earlier the better!) Duplicate entries about the same movie are welcome as well.

Again, be sure to leave me a comment and grab a banner, and have fun with your blog entry!

Here is the list of blog entries to date, in chronological order:

Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews – Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Movie Movie Blog Blog – The Gang’s All Here (1943)

BNoirDetour – The Big Sleep (1946)

ThoughtsAllSorts – Duel in the Sun (1946)

Lifesdailylessonsblog – The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

Love Letters to Old Hollywood – The Pirate (1948)

Blog of the Darned – A Guide for the Married Man (1967)

Moon in Gemini – Like Water for Chocolate (1992)

Realweegiemidget Reviews – Lost in Translation (2003)

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First-place winner in NUTS IN MAY: A LAUREL & HARDY BLOGATHON (WITH PRIZES!)

Me and My Pal

from the blog Caftan Woman

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Steve of MovieMovieBlogBlog is hosting Nuts in May: A Laurel and Hardy Blogathon. The very idea fills me with joy, and clicking HERE for all the contributions will double that feeling.

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Mr. Hardy on his wedding day.

If ever I employ a butler I shall insist he be referred to as “Hives”. Hives (Frank Terry), the butler, brings his master, Mr. Hardy, his morning toast and congratulates him on a fine day for his noon nuptials. Mr. Hardy graciously accepts the good wishes and listens to a radio announcer (Frank Terry) extol the upcoming society wedding of up and coming executive, the same Mr. Hardy, to the daughter of oil magnate Peter Cucumber (James Finlayson). Mr. Hardy is pleased with the publicity. However, when the announcer continues by quoting the bridegroom’s lifelong friend Mr. Laurel, Mr. Hardy becomes annoyed. Anyone with a pretense to good sense would feel the same.

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Mr. Laurel bearing gifts.

Enter the bridegroom’s bosom pal; purchaser of flowers, keeper of the ring, and bearer of the perfect wedding gift. Mr. Laurel, distressed by Mr. Hardy’s envisioned future of foregoing nights on the town, has thoughtful provided him with a jigsaw puzzle. Mr. Hardy, rightfully so, considers this gift to be a nonstarter. It would not be worth taking the time to explain this to Mr. Laurel as the inestimable Hives has ordered the cab to rush the participants to the ceremony.

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Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy are distracted.

Mr. Laurel, whose grasp of time is as tenuous as his grasp of wedding gifts, has become distracted by the jigsaw puzzle. Mr. Hardy as well is drawn into the whirlpool of swirling colours and the search for straight-edged pieces. It is the way of jigsaw puzzles that they seize the mind and soul of all who come within sight of their tantalizing mysteries.

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Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy attempting a task greater than themselves.

Nonetheless, a wedding is in the offing and Mr. Hardy’s presence is required. Many of us can attest to the difficulties that may be encountered when entering a cab. Think of those difficulties multiplied by the helpful presence of Mr. Laurel. Mr. Hardy eventually takes his seat in the back of the cab, but he is not unscathed. The trip, however, is delayed when Mr. Laurel is sent back into the house to discover what has become of the errant cabbie. Mr. Laurel finds the hired driver immersed in the jigsaw puzzle. Once again Mr. Laurel becomes entangled in the game.

There is nothing for Mr. Hardy to do at this point but try to rouse those jigsaw puzzle addicts to action. Mr. Hardy, alas, also becomes embroiled in the obsession. Perhaps the arrival of a telegram will shake the dust off the puzzle participants. Perhaps we were hoping for too much. The telegram, which must be of some importance, isn’t even read.

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Peter Cucumber on the march.

Meanwhile back at the manse, Peter Cucumber, oil magnate and father of the bride, is getting annoyed. The guests have been waiting, the bride has been weeping and Mr. Laurel has sent a memorial wreath as his flowery contribution. Peter Cucumber has plans for that wreath and he heads over to Mr. Hardy’s residence determined to get the wedding underway or know the reason why.

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A cop, a cabbie, a butler, a bridegroom and a best man. Don’t they have somewhere they need to be?

Things at the Hardy household have but one focus this day and it is not a wedding. The jigsaw puzzle has taken over and is now the fascination of Mr. Hardy, Mr. Laurel, the cabbie, the inestimable Hives and a police officer. A police officer? Yes. The cabbie had parked by a fire hydrant and his engrossment in the puzzle is such that he doesn’t even mind a ticket.

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The police are summoned to quell a riot in a quiet suburban neighbourhood.

Peter Cucumber, oil magnate, arrives on the scene and he is the first person to do so without becoming entranced by the jigsaw puzzle. It is just as well because the puzzle has been completed, minus one final missing piece. It is the missing piece that now stands in the way of the Cucumber-Hardy wedding. The police officer insists that everyone must be searched in an effort to discover the mislaid treasure.

Objections are expressed regarding the search and, naturally, these objections lead to a free-for-all. A brawl of epic proportions occurs which involves more police officers. These new enforcers of the law who have arrived on the scene are less interested in jigsaw puzzles than their comrade in blue. Hence, the brawlers are escorted to the local hoosegow with the exception of the well hidden Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy.

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Mr. Hardy’s day did not turn out as expected.

It looks like the wedding is off. It looks like Mr. Hardy’s career trajectory as an executive has taken a turn. Oh, and remember that telegram? It looks like a fortune was lost. Never put your trust in horse collar futures, or your closest pal, Mr. Laurel.

Second-place winner in NUTS IN MAY: A LAUREL & HARDY BLOGATHON (WITH PRIZES!)

Liberty

from the blog Serendipitous Anachronisms

Hello, darling readers, today’s post is part of the Nuts in May Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog, a fantastic event dedicated to the comedy of Laurel and Hardy. I love Laurel and Hardy, so naturally, I had to sign up!

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Today, I share one of my favorite films of all times, Liberty, which stars Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. On top of being brilliant comedians, they were also excellent actors. And what makes Laurel and Hardy truly unique as comedy team is the genuine affection they have for one another, despite their ever-mounting frustration, they bicker like siblings, you know they will always support one another, no matter what.

It is this unique blend of affection that inspired Samuel Beckett’s classic play Waiting for Godot and Laurel and Hardy often influence the play’s production design.

I realize that many people consider silent films an acquired taste, but when people say they don’t like silent films, I say, “Watch Liberty,” because Liberty is awesome!

Our film opens with an overly stiff and stale salute to liberty, but don’t let this opening stop you, just sit through it, and buckle up, and get ready for the funniest silent film of all time.

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Stanley and Oliver are in yet “another fine mess,” this time they have broken out of prison! Their gang shows up in a getaway car, and they bring a change of clothing, and the trouble begins.

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In the rushed change, they accidentally trade pants.

At this point, they are dropped off from the getaway car and are on the run, when they notice they are wearing the wrongs pants. Stanley’s pants are ten sizes too big, and Ollies pants are ten sizes too small.

They decide to exchange pants, but where to go?

What follows is a hysterical sequence of increasing humiliation as the two men try to swap pants in the backs of alleys, and hidden behind corners…  Even a fish market, where Stanley accidentally picks up a crab in his trousers!

Now imagine, being on the run, trying to look inconspicuous and a crab pinches you. When you are on the run, fresh out of prison, the last thing you want is police attention. And the crab pinches Stanley again, and again and again!

The first thing anyone is going to want to do is to get those pants off, right? Back to square one, where does one take off one’s pants in the middle of downtown Los Angeles?

Finally, they find the perfect spot for the exchange, an elevator on a construction site.

And this is where Liberty transforms from amusing to horrifying, and we find Stanley, Oliver, and the very “pinchy” crab, together on a scaffolding, on top of a skyscraper.

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And in case you imagine that the shot above is some studio effect, it is not! Laurel and Hardy are on the roof of the Western Costume Building located at 939 South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles; the scaffolding is an actual three-story high set on the roof of that 150-foot building!

OH. MY. GOD!

What makes this scene even more terrifying is knowing that, like myself, poor Stan Laurel was afraid of heights. According to the Laurel and Hardy Museum blog, Stan began having a panic attack while shooting the scene. I totally understand I have panic attacks just watching the scene.

According to Wes Gehringer’s book Laurel & Hardy: Bio-bibliography:

“During the skyscraper production of Liberty (1929), Hardy attempted to relieve the high-rise anxiety of Laurel by demonstrating the effectiveness of the safety platform some fifteen-twenty feet below their scaffold set. He jumped down to the platform– which he crashed through, falling an additional twenty feet to the ground. Somehow he escaped serious injury. Though the film was eventually finished, Hardy’s good deed could not have been much comfort to Laurel” (Gehringer 230).

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The stomach dropping stunts from ladders to beams, elevate our heroes to abject terror as they struggle with a fear of heights, a frightening landscape, and a less than friendly crab, oh yes, and evading the police.

So if you are going to watch only one silent film in your lifetime, please promise me, dear readers you will watch Liberty

My understanding is there will be prizes, including my favorite Laurel and Hardy dolls! Good luck to all my fellow bloggers, and thanks to Steve from Movie Movie Blog Blog for hosting this event!

Ciao for now, dearies!

Third-place winner in NUTS IN MAY: A LAUREL & HARDY BLOGATHON (WITH PRIZES!)

The Music Box

from the blog The Movie Rat

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Whenever I’ve been offered the opportunity to write about Laurel and Hardy, I’ve jumped at it. This is not just because they were a staple of my childhood as I mentioned here:

I love Laurel and Hardy. I’m not sure how many of their features I’ve seen. I do fondly recall watching their shorts on weekends growing up.

However, that and the fact that The Music Box became a sort of white whale for me for years does factor in. The fact that Laurel and Hardy was just something I found on TV, usually thanks to TCM, lead to me seeing many of their shorts without knowing their names. The Internet, my studying films, and revisiting some had men eventually find The Music Box by title.

In my youth I knew them as O Gordo e o Magro first, the Portuguese name for the pair which translates to The Fat Man and The Thin Man. I learned their names in English, and watched them here, I even recall coming across plastic toys of them in Brazil.

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That dyed-in-the-wool fandom has me wandering back to them on occasion as my gyre of movie-watching wends its way through history, be it their silent, more often their short talkies or their features I come back to this duo often.

Sometimes this is by design and others it is by chance. When writing on the topic of non-competitive Oscars, I ran into Stan Laurel, whom was awarded one (Oliver Hardy was not) for:

his creative pioneering in the field of cinema comedy. Stan Laurel was not present at the awards ceremony. Presenter Danny Kaye accepted the award on his behalf.

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When trying to select a way for me to discuss the War to End All Wars on Film Laurel and Hardy were the only way I could find to get myself a comfortable toehold.

A silent, solo turn by Ollie in The Show, and their film Brats was one of my favorite discoveries of 2012, were two other times they came up just on my blog. So, you can clearly see an omnipresence there in my life and times.

However, the most persistent memory of them of all so far as I’m concerned is The Music Box. It’s one I may have lost track of for a time because I think of it the way Friends names episodes “The One with the Piano Movers.” This is likely their most iconic bit. It’s not a wonder the synopsis cites Sisyphus because the task at hand is just as hopeless and fraught with peril but far funnier with these two involved.

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Humor is subjective, but since I saw it this has been one of the handful of funniest things I’ve ever seen. Enjoy!

The winners of NUTS IN MAY: A LAUREL & HARDY BLOGATHON (WITH PRIZES!)

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First, let me thank all five participants in this blogathon. All of these entries are delightful to read, and they really capture the cheery, blithe spirit of Laurel & Hardy’s comedy.

I promised that I would post the first- , second- , and third-place winners’ entries here at my blog, and I will do so later today. In the meantime, here is a listing of all of the winners, as well as links to their blog entries. Click on each movie title to read each blogger’s entry.

If you are one of the winners, please email me at socialmediaspecialist61@gmail.com. (If you’re having trouble reading that, put these altogether as one word: social media specialist @ gmail.com) In your email, please include both the name of your blog, and the name and street address where you would like your prize to be sent.

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Fifth place –

Prize: A copy of John McCabe’s 1975 coffee-table book Laurel & Hardy

Awarded to: Realweegiemidget Reviews

Blog entry: A Chump at Oxford (1940)

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Fourth place –

Prize: A copy of Glenn Mitchell’s 1995 paperback book The Laurel & Hardy Encyclopedia

Awarded to: thoughtsallsorts

Blog entry: The Live Ghost (1934)

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Third place –

Prize: The Kino Video/Lobster Films 2004 DVD of Laurel & Hardy’s 1939 film The Flying Deuces

Awarded to: The Movie Rat

Blog entry: The Music Box (1932)

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Second place –

Prize: “70th anniversary” Laurel & Hardy dolls

Awarded to: Serendipitous Anachronisms

Blog entry:  Liberty (1929)

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First place –

Prize: A copy of Randy Skretvedt’s hardbound book Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies – The Ultimate Edition

Awarded to: Caftan Woman

Blog entry: Me and My Pal (1933)

 

Again, thanks to all participants, and please email me the requested info ASAP. I’ll do my best to get my prizes out to you in the next few days.

NUTS IN MAY: A LAUREL & HARDY BLOGATHON (WITH PRIZES!) is here!

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I’m still waiting on one final entry before I announce the prize winners. In the meantime, I encourage you to read the other blog entries that have been posted. All of them capture the spirit of their respective Laurel & Hardy movies quite nicely!

Serendipitous Anachronisms – Liberty (1929)

CaftanWoman – Me and My Pal (1933)

thoughtsallsorts – The Live Ghost (1934)

Realweegiemidget Reviews – A Chump at Oxford (1940)