July 10th, 2010

krazy koati

You don't know how young you are

From the Movies Watched While WiiFit Exercising file: Gildersleeve on Broadway, another effort to bring old-time radio stars to the silver screen by taking them out of the contexts that made their shows beloved. The Great Gildersleeve is often credited as the first spinoff, as the character originated on proto-sitcom Fibber McGee and Molly; it's also sometimes credited as the first real sitcom, with what would become the standard trappings of a strong plot line, rare fourth-wall-breaking, and a single yet often-befuddled father-figure raising a clutch of vaguely related kids.

In ...on Broadway Gildersleeve leaves his new fiancee Matilda for New York City and a druggists' convention to help pharmacist Mister Peavey lobby for his supplier to stay in business, and also to talk with neice Marjorie's boyfriend who's been lax in writing to her. One thing, another, and soon Gildersleeve is being chased by golddigger Francine and ditzy (widowed) pharmecudical company owner Mrs Chandler while Matilda follows him suspiciously and ... well, at 65 minutes the story continues just long enough for the amount of plot and the amount by which we know exactly how this plot will turn out. Harold Peary as Gildersleeve, who's the guy Warner Brothers cartoons were ripping off when they had a deep giggling laugh, is wonderful just to listen to, as is Richard LeGrand as Mister Peavey, who's the guy Warner Brothers cartoons were ripping off with that elderly voice going ``Well, now, I wouldn't say that''.

The real force of nature this film, though, is Billie Burke as Mrs Chandler. Burke was Glinda the Good Witch in the only Wizard of Oz movie anyone ever remembers, and was probably the most dispensable of the cast that anyone could name, but the part still let some of the ditzy-baffling nature of her stage character show through. Here, though, she's ramped up, put at high speed and really let loose. She's fine in Wizard but here she's magnificent, one of those whimsy-faefolk characters that surrounds the world with enough confusion that there's no arguing with it; you simply have to go along. Let's put it this way: there was a point I suspected some of the plot threads would be resolved by Mrs Chandler remembering that she wasn't a widow after all, she just hadn't noticed her husband in a while, and while they didn't go that route, Burke could have sold it as plausible, easily.

In total, this is a good film for watching while stepping onto and off of a plastic board repeatedly.

(I realized later, alongside some other films I loaded on the Tivo, that apparently Turner Classic Movies was having itself a little ``movies starring The Wizard Of Oz cast'' marathon.)

Trivia: Lillian Randolph, who played Birdie the maid on The Great Gildersleeve, also portrayed the maid on The Billie Burke Show. (There was perhaps a bit of typecasting, to provide the lines to read between.) Source: On The Air: The Encyclopedia Of Old-Time Radio, John Dunning.

Currently Reading: Wondrous Contrivances: Technology At The Threshold, Merritt Ierley.