austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Fussing and feuding and a-fighting

Further items from the Watching During WiiFit files: 1934's Kentucky Kernels, starting Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, a comic pair that's been so fantastically forgotten Mystery Science Theater 3000 only rarely made references to them. There's some references to them in cartoons --- guy in Harold Lloyd-y glasses with a distinctive ``Whoa-oh!'' yelp of surprise is the marker --- but otherwise, well, Woolsey died in 1938 so it's probably not that surprising nobody's seen movies with them recently.

A lot of their dialogue is Marx Brothers-style chaotic nonsense conversations and double-entendre lines, and Kentucky Kernels is a fine example of that. In this movie --- incidentally featuring Margaret Dumont as The Margaret Dumont character ---- are fine examples like:

  • Woolsey: ``You know I was disappointed in love once, but did I kill myself? No. Or did I? Well, it doesn't matter.''
  • Woolsey: ``Good morning, Mrs Baxter, you look perfectly charming this morning.'' Dumont: ``Oh, do you really think so?'' Woolsey: ``No, but I had to say something. And I always say it with flowers.'' (He takes a rose out of his jacket and gives it to her.) Dumont: ``Only one rose?'' Woolsey: ``Well, you know me; I don't talk much.''
  • Lucille La Verne (looking over the kid): ``Now that's what I call a boy.'' Wheeler: ``That's what everybody calls a boy.''
  • Mary Carlisle (Wheeler's romantic interest): ``I'm telling you for the last time that you can't kiss me.'' Wheeler: ``I'm glad that's the last time. I knew you'd finally give in.'' ``But Father doesn't like kissing.'' ``I'm not going to kiss your father.''
  • Woolsey: ``Miss Hannah, you know you dance exactly like a heifer. I mean a zephyr.''
  • Woolsey (singing the big romantic song to a donkey): ``One little kiss, I've set my trap for, I'd be a sap for, one teeny little weeny little ... '' [ Looking to the camera ] ``I'm the one with the glasses.''
  • Wheeler: ``I think the colonel's voice is a little harsh.'' Woolsey: ``Naw. It's just changing.''
  • Wheeler: ``You mean you want that girl to marry me right away?'' Noah Beery: ``Yes, sir.'' Wheeler: ``Well, I think we oughta run around with each other for about a year. I believe in long engagements.''
  • Wheeler: ``The Wakefields and the Milfords are fighting it out at the Milford home. we need help.'' Roger Gray: ``We'll be right with ya, brother. There's nothing we like better than a good fight. Have a drink. That's the best moonshine made around here.'' Wheeler: ``Yeah? When'd you make it?'' Gray: ``This morning.'' Wheeler: ``Well, I'll have a drink later. After the battle it'll be pre-war stuff.''

There is a plot imposed on the actors, I suppose out of a fear that giving them seven reels to just hang out would be too dangerous. In this case the hook is Wheeler and Woolsey are watching a kid (``Spanky'' McFarland of Our Gang shorts) who's inherited a mansion in a remote Kentucky village, and what do you know but he's also inherited a feud and you can pretty much write the rest of the story from there. Well, almost; important to the plot is that the kid can't resist breaking glass. Now you can write the whole story. It gives them some decent scenes to hang gags on, particularly as Woolsey's set up as a magician (which is relevant for about two scenes), at least.

But the benefits that offers are pretty much wiped out when you notice in the credits an actor billed as ``Sleep 'n' Eat''. You'll never in a million billion trillion years guess whether he (Willie Best) suffers from a melanin shortage in his skin, or what his character is there for. Best performs well enough, but his character being forced to cringe for the white schmucks is uncomfortable and knowing it's coming in future scenes drags down ones where he's seen in neutral roles.

Still, there's a lot of talented people doing funny stuff in the film, and in the final sequence as Wheeler and Woolsey try to evade the whole Wakefield clan shooting at them there's several ingenious sequences, several of which surprise me by failing in novel directions so that it doesn't compare too directly with the climax of Duck Soup. It's just ... boy, why did they have to weigh things down with a story when they could have just had a bunch of scenes riffing on Kentucky Mansion Foolishness instead?

Trivia: On 24 May 1853 Louis Pasteur informed J B Biot of his discovery using a telegram that would take only one hour and 12.50 francs to transmit: ``Transforming tartaric acid into racemic acid - STOP - Please inform Dumas, Sénarmont - STOP - L Pasteur''. Source: Louis Pasteur, Patrice Debré, Translated by Elborg Forster. (This was one of the key discoveries in understanding left- and right-handed molecules.)

Currently Reading: American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880 - 1964, William Manchester.


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