Wednesday, May 30, 2007

At the Races

Before he became radio's most unlikely hit, Edgar Bergen made a series of thirteen one-reelers for Vitaphone. This, At the Races (1934), is the eighth. Edgar's ventriloquy technique never really improved much beyond this (arguably his peak as he was still in vaudeville). He always kept the habit of ducking his head in close to Charlie in order to obscure his lips. Nevertheless, the real keys to Bergen's success are all evident in this short; sharp timing, good gags, solid characterization, and as much innuendo as he could get away with. The snappy opening titlecard would suggest that this print is a post-1936 reissue as Charlie's famous monocle and tux hadn't yet made their appearance in 1934. Eleanore King, Edgar's date, would go on to star in the 1938 roadshow classic Birth of a Baby (directed by former Mack Sennett rival Al Christie).

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