Category Archives: Short Film

Teddy, The Rough Rider

Col. Theodore Roosevelt. Crop of Image:Theodor...

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Directed by Ray Enright
Produced by Gordon Hollingshead
Written by Charles L. Tedford
Starring Sidney Blackmer
Pierre Watkin
Cinematography Ray Rennahan
Editing by Everett Dodd
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date 24 February 1940
Running time 19 minutes
Country United States
Language English

I guess that it could well be considered un-Australian to watch a patriotic film about one of America’s greatest presidents on Australia Day, but that is just what I did yesterday. I found this short biopic on President Theodore Roosevelt from 1940 to be quite fascinating. There is no doubt from watching this short that Teddy was a great man and an interesting character and was someone who was loved by America and Americans.

This film gives a brief 20 minute overview of the great man’s public life. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it does skip his failure to return to the presidency in 1912. The film starts when he was NYC police commissioner, to when he became Assistant Secretary of the Navy, to his military career leading his Rough Riders in the fight in the Spanish-American War, to when he became vice-president and finally president after the assassination of President McKinley.

Sidney Blackmer is quite charismatic (but slightly annoying) as the great man, and whilst this film purports to being a biopic I can’t help thinking that it had another, underlying message. The film was released in 1940 and Europe was at war with itself, but the USA was to stay out of any war at any cost and another Roosevelt, FDR, was in the White House. When in the film Teddy talks about standing up for smaller nations against larger aggressors in the final scene, it could be taken that he is talking to the American people and telling hem that Britain and Europe needs their help. However it would take another 12 months and an act of Japanese aggression at Pearl Harbor before the sleeping American giant would awaken.

Teddy, The Rough Rider can be found as an extra on the Knute Rockne All American DVD.


A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas

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Created by Charles M. Schulz
Directed by Bill Melendez
Voices of Peter Robbins
Chris Shea
Tracy Stratford
Kathy Steinberg
Chris Doran
Geoffrey Ornstein
Karen Mendelson
Sally Dryer
Ann Altieri
Bill Melendez
Theme music composer Vince Guaraldi
Composer Vince Guaraldi
Country of origin USA
Language English

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a holiday tradition in the USA but it had been ages since I had seen it on TV here in Australia. It was the Peanuts Gang’s first television special, and the best one. The story is a little preachy and the religious message is a bit strong, but it’s honest and decries the increasing commercialism of Christmas.

The  animation is a little choppy but there are some scenes, such as the one where all the kids are dancing, which cannot help but raise a smile in the viewer. It also features Vince Guaraldi’s brilliant and catchy jazzy music which became such a key with the Peanuts series.


On the Loose

Directed by Hal Roach
Produced by Hal Roach
Starring Zasu Pitts & Thelma Todd
Distributed by MGM
Release date 1931
Country  United States
Language English

This is an interesting short film from 1931 that features a cameo appearance from Laurel & Hardy. Of course the real stars of the film are Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd.

The other day I was reading about the untimely death of Todd and the rumours surrounding it. Rumour has it that the gangster Lucky Luciano murdered her because she vocally opposed him setting up am illegal casino. The official line is that she committed suicide, but police bungled the investigation completely.

The other star of the picture, Zasu Pitts is also interesting. In the silent era she was a dramatic actress but was relegated to comedy roles in the talky era due to her highly distinctive voice. In fact Mae Questal modelled her characterisation of Olive Oyl on Zasu Pitts, and in watching this film you can see the origins of that.

Overall the film is quite amusing in that 1930s way an interesting to watch.


Tim Burton’s Hansel & Gretel

Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melb...

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Written by The Brothers Grimm
Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Julie Hickson & Rick Heinrichs
Original channel The Disney Channel
Original run October 31, 1983

This short early film by Tim Burton is being shown at ACMI as a part of the Tim Burton exhibition at Federation Square. I had never seen it before. It is a Burton-esque version of the Grimm’s fairy tale and has a few amusing moments. It runs for about 20 minutes and combines live-action with stop motion animation, although it is mostly live-action. Like most things Burton, it is slightly weird.


Vincent

The Nightmare Before Christmas

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Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Rick Heinrichs
Written by Tim Burton
Narrated by Vincent Price
Music by Ken Hilton
Cinematography Victor Abdalov
Studio Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by Touchstone Home Video
Buena Vista Distribution
Release date UK 1982
Running time 5 minutes 52 seconds
Country USA
Language English

I saw Vincent last week as a part of the Tim Burton exhibition that is currently on at ACMI in Federation Square, Melbourne. (I also have it on DVD as an extra on The Nightmare Before Christmas) It’s a great six-minute stop motion animated film that shows where Burton would be headed in his career. It features great narration from Vincent Price and the animation is very good.


Destino

The Persistence of Memory is one of the most f...

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Directed by Dominique Monféry
Produced by Baker Bloodworth & Roy E. Disney
Written by Salvador Dalí, John Hench & Donald W. Ernst
Music by Armando Dominguez
Music Adaptation: Michael Starobin
Editing by Jessica Ambinder-Rojas
Studio Disney Studios France
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
Release date USA: December 19, 2003
France:  June 1, 2003

Destino was a collaboration between Disney and Salvador Dali that commenced in 1945/46 but was unfinished. They had storyboarded it but due to financial difficulties and the war the project was cancelled. It was resurrected in 2000 by Roy Disney and finally premiered in 2003.

It has not been released onto DVD yet, although it could be an extra release with the forthcoming Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 release next year. It was supposed to have been a part of the Walt Disney Treasures line but that never came to fruition. It is quite interesting and very Dali-esque. Destino was a part of the National Gallery Of Victoria‘s 2009 Dali exhibition; Liquid Desires.


The Dentist

Directed by Leslie Pearce
Produced by Mack Sennett
Written by W.C. Fields
Starring W.C. Fields
Babe Kane
Arnold Gray
Elise Cavanna
Dorothy Granger
Cinematography John W. Boyle
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date September 9, 1932
Running time 22 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Dentist is an early talky by W. C. Fields. It’s a series of funny sketches joined together so that the film reaches the 20 minute mark. There is only a slight plot about Fields being a dentist who firstly plays golf, then returns to see a couple of patients in his surgery. There is also another plot with his daughter wanting to marry the iceman but Fields being against it. There are a couple of good chuckles to be had, especially when an errant golf ball from Fields hits another golfer on the head. (This is always funny!)


The Band Concert

“A Mickey Mouse Cartoon”

Characters
Mickey Mouse
Donald Duck
Goofy (in two possible rolls)
Clarabelle Cow
Horace Horsecollar
Peter Pig

Credits
Director : Wilfred Jackson
Animators
Johnny Cannon
Les Clark
Ugo D’Orsi
Frenchy de Tremaudan
Gerry Geronomi
Hustzi Horvath
Dick Heumer
Jack Kinney
Wolfgang Reitherman
Archie Robin
Louie Schmitt
Dick Williams
Roy Williams
Cy Young

Story and Layout
Hugh Hennesy & Terrell Stapp

Release date: February 23, 1935

Running Time: 9:18

The Band Concert was the first ever Mickey Mouse cartoon in colour and it is probably my favourite Mickey cartoon. Mickey here is a supporting player in his own cartoon, upstage by his co-star Donald Duck several times during the film. This was just Donald’s third or fourth film appearance and he truly shines and shows off his comic potential. The cartoon has wonderful timing and the music is great too. Some of the animation is very beautiful too.  I try to watch this film every couple of months, so I put my Mickey Mouse In Living Color dvd on just for this occasion.

(This Youtube clip is missing the opening titles!!!)

This is my final look at short films this week. They were such an important part of a movie going experience until 40-50 years ago but now it’s a rarity to see anything other than lame commercials before a main feature. Short films did find a new lease on life on TV, especially cartoons shorts and comedies by the Three Stooges and Laurel & Hardy in particular.


The Music Box

Directed by James Parrott
Produced by Hal Roach
Written by H.M. Walker
Starring Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy
Music by Harry Graham, Marvin Hatley & Leroy Shield
Cinematography Len Powers & Walter Lundin
Editing by Richard C. Currier
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) April 16, 1932 (1932-04-16)
Running time 30 minute

The Music Box is probably Laurel & Hardy‘s best known short film. This is the one where Stan and Ollie are moving guys who try to get a player piano up a set of stairs. After several painstaking attempts they finally get the piano into it’s new home, but not in one piece. There’s lots of clever slapstick and funny bits where you just have to wonder about the intelligence, or otherwise, of Stan & Ollie.

Like with a lot of Laurel & Hardy films many of the gags in this short film have been endlessly immitated, with mixed results, over the years, but this is where they all originated from.

It’s a shame that the wonderful fun of Laurel & Hardy seems to have gone out of favour in recent times. They don’t seem to have the same love these days as say the Three Stooges or the Marx Bros. I remember when Bill Collins (or was it Ivan Hutchinson) would show their feature films on a Sunday afternoon back in the 80s. It would be great to be able to see these films on TV again.


The Immigrant

Directed by Charles Chaplin & Edward Brewer (technical director)
Produced by John Jasper
Written by Charles Chaplin (scenario), Vincent Bryan (scenario) & Maverick Terrell (scenario)
Starring Charles Chaplin
Edna Purviance
Eric Campbell
Cinematography Roland H. Totheroh & George C. Zalibra
Editing by Charles Chaplin
Distributed by Mutual Film Corporation
Release date(s) June 17, 1917
Running time 20 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles

By 1917 Charlie Chaplin had starred in several successful short comedies, yet it was this film that shot him to superstardom. It features a tale of a poor immigrant who travels to America to seek his fortune through the boundless opportunity provided in the land of the free.

Charlie was still refining his art so this film feels a lot like the typical silent slapstick film of the early part of last century. The Tramp character had started to develop into a character, more than just a gag. Chaplin started to use emotion and pathos in his comedies at this time which helped to distinguish them from their contemporaries.

This short may not be as great as The Kid, City Lights, The Goldrush or Modern Times but it is funny and shows Chaplin just as he was before he became his most creative.