Saturday, November 05, 2005

Pendelton and Healy

I'm not quite sure how happy Ted Healy would've been with this billing, but it does sound better than Healy and Pendelton. Nat Pendelton, the big, beefy comic foil and sometimes heavy, and King of Stooges, Ted Healy were both under contract to the Cartier of studios, MGM at the same time. They appeared in 4 films together as a team, popping in and out of B unit murder mysteries (and one A unit feature, Reckless w/Harlow and William Powell), and relieving us with their high-larry-ass highjinx. If you watch the films, Lazy River, Here Comes The Band, Death on the Diamond, and Murder in the Fleet, you'll find this duo dishing out what seems to be semi-spontaneous bits of business as the leading man and woman actually solve the crimes. They were always cast as friendly rivals, sniping at each other as they usually opt for the same girl.

Now, I can't honestly say that I think they were any threat to Laurel and Hardy, or Wheeler and Woolsey, but they were both charismatic and very amusing performers, whether separately, or together. Upon seeing these films for the first time on the only station I can seem tolerate these days, TCM, I wondered if it was no ordinary coincidence that MGM put these two contract players together. They tried it with Keaton and Durante. They also tried it with Karl Dane and George Arthur (until sound put the Kibosh on that duo due to Dane's thick accent. He ended up selling hotdogs outside the studio gates, and then, not surprisingly, shooting himself to death surrounded by artifacts from his moribund career.). Healy had only recently split with his Stooges, and it would have made sense for the studio to try to figure the best way to use his talents. Pendelton must have seemed a good partner for the newly solo Healy. He could do the dumb act, and he could play and he was proficient with a wisecrack. Pendelton even inherited an interesting place in comedy team history, he actually gets killed in Death on the Diamond! Now, I know that other comedy teams do cartoon-y deaths. Oliver Hardy in Flying Deuces, for instance....or Lou Costello in The Time of Their Lives, but Pendelton wasn't coming back as a horse, or to comically haunt a house, he was dead. Dead like a doornail. Like culture in this country....DEAD! Cool.

So, there you have it. We're left with only questions to accompany the reels of film. What if Healy hadn't died (as opposed to Pendelton, who only died in a movie)? Would there have been a series of B films starring this mondo obscuro pair? Would Columbia have picked them up for a shorts series? Perhaps Universal would have used them as comedy relief in the Richard Arlen action films, or Warners could have made them up in the Frank McHugh and Allen Jenkins mold. Who knows?

Anyway you slice it it still comes up conjecture. They were two funny guys. I would have liked to have seen more of them.

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Blogger Aaron Neathery said...

I haven't seen it, but didn't MGM also try teaming Ted with Leo Carrillo in "The Winning Ticket"?

Healy and Pendelton work well together, but in the three films in which I've seen them, they're too equal to act as a functioning comedy team. Now if Pendelton were playing his idiot character from, say, "Scared To Death",and Healy took the lead, I could easily see them starring in a string of Monogram features.

And speaking of poverty-row, I finally saw all three of Harry Langdon's PRC and Monogram starring features. Believe it or don't, Harry Langdon and Charley Rogers were attempting to establish themselves as a poverty-row Laurel and Hardy! I'll blog about this soon.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Nicko said...

I'm afraid I don't agree with your assessment of Pendelton and Healy's team status. I thought they brought a pre-Hope and Crosby rivalry concept to their appearances. Their one upmanship is a perfect basis for a team, because in the films in which they appear they are usually working for a common cause. The rivalry only makes it a good deal more fun.

They were certainly in a supporting capacity, but definitely as a team.

3:18 PM  

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