Friday, May 18, 2007

Wise Guys Prefer Brunettes

As promised yesterday, here is video number two, Wise Guys Prefer Brunettes (1926). This is another one of those curious little classic comedy crossroads that crop up every now and then when the planets align. Try this on for size: Ted Healy, king of stooges, directed by Stan Laurel. Back when I maintained, I came across Ted and Betty Healy's entry in a 1926 actors yearbook that promotes them as Hal Roach comedy stars. Presumably, Ted and Betty were snapped up by Roach while performing on the West Coast for roles in his All-Star series but, for whatever reasons, this lone comedy, sans Betty (or is she hidden among the co-eds?), resulted before the couple headed back out onto the vaudeville trail. Does anyone know what really happened here? Ted's bumptious and rather surreal personality comes across better than would be expected, especially in his introductory scenes where Laurel allows Ted plenty of latitude to ad-lib (H. M. Walker's titles even read as though he had been paying close attention to Ted's speech patterns), but it's hard to see exactly where he could have gone in silents. Despite second billing beneath Helene Chadwick, the real star of Wise Guys Prefer Brunettes is Jimmy Finlayson, playing his role as college dean to the hilt and beyond. A dramatic actress with a pretty impressive filmography stretching back to 1916, Helene Chadwick typifies the down-on-their-luck, recently-faded stars that Roach populated his All-Star comedies with in that she's simply not very good at comedy. Helene was three years divorced from director and WWI flying ace William Wellman who would go on to win an Oscar in 1937 for A Star is Born, in which Chadwick appears as an extra. It was her last film appearance. She died in 1940 from complications arising from a fall over a chair.

Part one

Part two

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