Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Unknown Brendel still

Here is one of two El Brendel stills that I have that are from an unknown project. The still is marked "El Brendel" on the back in "period" (meaning 20's/30's) ink and the still code is 8205-13. I believe the still is from a silent film (just because he looks so young in the photo) so that would have to be from one of the 8 films he made with Paramount in the late 20's. I have stills from all of his films from this time EXCEPT "Too Many Crooks" and "Rolled Stockings", so it may be from either of those.

He appears to be lighting a cigarette or cigar, which would be odd as he was not a smoker.

Can anyone help me identify this??

****UPDATED**** A request at slinetcomedians.com FINALLY gave me an answer from historian Steve Massa:

Hi Louis
I'm pretty sure your still is of the young Danny Kaye, and not El Brendel. It's from one of the Educational shorts that he shot in Astoria, NY, such as YOUR MONEY ON YOUR LIFE 1938 or CUPID TAKES A HOLIDAY 1938 where he plays the crazy Russian Nikolai Nikolaevich. The building behind him looks like the area around the studio.

Steve M.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

El von Stroheim

Here we have a photo of El portraying the "man you love to hate", Erich von Stroheim. This is an early 30's Fox promo photo and I have a few more of these where he is portraying different famous people, that I will post in the coming months.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday with Janet Gaynor

One of the reasons for starting this blog was certainly to try to create a greater appreciation for the much maligned comedian El Brendel, whom New York's Film Forum once referred to as "history’s most irritating comedian". Another reason was to show photos and memorabilia I have acquired of some of my favorite stars and this is the post to start it off.

These photos come from the 1932 Fox Production "Tess of the Storm Country" starring one of my faves Janet Gaynor and her frequent screen companion Charles Farrell. An absolutely STUNNING print of this film was shown at this years Capitolfest in Rome New York (which if you haven't been to yet, what have you been waiting for??).

Monday, September 15, 2008

"The Golden Calf" 1930

“The Golden Calf” is another one of those early 30’s Fox features that infuriatingly does not exist anymore, having turned to dust long ago. But the materials we do have available to us (reviews mostly), show our kid excel in this musical comedy.

“The Golden Calf” starred Jack Mulhall (Philip Homer) and El (Knute Olsen) as 2 artists living in Greenwich Village. The female lead is played by Sue Carol (Marybelle Cobb) and supported by the bubbly and fun Majorie White (Alice). Richard Keene (Tommy) and Paul Page (as Edwards) round out the cast. The film was directed by Millard Webb and was his only talkie for Fox Films. He would go on to direct 2 more productions after this before succumbing to and intestinal ailment on April 21st, 1935.

From the AFI film catalog, here is the synopsis:

“Marybelle Cobb, a plain and old fashioned girl, is secretary to a commercial illustrator Phillip Homer, with whom she is secretly in love. When Homer advertises for a girl with perfect leg measurements to be a model for a hosiery manufacturer’s advertising, Marybelle, with the aid of her friend Alice, decides to transform herself completely and apply for the job. She wins the much sought after appointment against considerable opposition. When Homer’s indifference turns to love, Marybelle confesses the deception and all ends well.”

Harrison’s Reports weekly from April 12th, 1930 goes even further:

“She is an old fashioned girl, and wears old fashioned clothes, until she hears her employer speaking deridingly of her looks” and after she has her beauty transformation “making her look like a million dollars, so beautiful, in fact, that even her own employer failed to recognize her.” Good clean fun, for sure.

An interview that appeared in the Appleton Post-Crescent on April 26th, 1930 we find out about some of the shenanigans that went on during the filming, mainly a scene with El taking a kick to the shin:

In the scene, Brendel persists in “talking out of turn” and Mulhall, to stop him, kicks him in the shin.

After a dozen rehearsals and as many retakes, Brendel’s right shin became very sore.

“Wait a minute,” he told Millard Webb, director, “I’ve got an idea.” The comedian got a thick strip of board, rolled up his trouser leg and tied it securely over his shin. “Now, kick as hard as you want to.”

He told Mulhall. “Make it pop, Jack,” Webb directed. “It will be funnier.”

The scene started and at the psychological moment Mulhall cut loose and with a good kick at El’s shin.

A wild yell from the comedian stopped the scene.

“What’s the matter, El?” Webb asked. “I thought you were prepared.”

“He kicked the other shin,” Brendel moaned.

The New York Times review on May 5th 1930 was certainly not glowing, but it did single out the performances of Marjorie White and El, stating “if it were possible to have more of singing of Marjorie White and of the comics of El Brendel, the photoplay would be more amusing”. The reviews for Jack Mulhall, who’s star was rapidly fading after his meteoric rise in the 20’s, were not very flattering, “Jack Mulhall appears as the employer and is no more than an audible version of the old Mr. Mulhall who used to take girls on Coney Island excursions in First National pictures”. OUCH!

Songs that appeared in the film include “You Gotta Be Modernistic”, “Maybe Someday”, and “Can I Help It If I’m In Love With You?”. Available stills from the production show the sets to be pretty elaborate and the costumes revealing, but I have yet to find one of actor Walter Catlett, who appeared billed as the master of ceremonies.

The film originally starting out called “The American Beauty Review”, and was based on a story called “The Golden Calf” that was published in Liberty Magazine on December 25th, 1926. Early press releases and many reviews (as well as IMDB) refer to this film as “Her Golden Calf”, but all of the post-release and reviews only mention “The…..” and until a film print turns up and tells us otherwise, “The…..” is what it stays.

In an article written for the release of “The Golden Calf”, (The Anniston Star Wednesday April 23rd, 1930) wrote about the character of the clown who in real life never gets the girl and is forever heartbroken, Brendel quipped:

“Not me,” says El, “I’m a happy guy all the time. I have a nice home, a charming wife, a couple of automobiles and money in the bank.”

And, in the early 30’s, a busy film career.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

El rides a bicycle!

I figure I'd post something fun and kinda unusual today as it's Sunday and how about something not too taxing?

These photos come from the early 30's and offer no information on the reverse except for "El Brendel-Fox". I have no idea why the photo department at Fox would have him pose with a bicycle as I find no mention of him enjoying riding a bike or any films from that period that had him on a bike.

Anyway, just have fun with these as we go into the last days of summer.