The Wrong Miss Wright
In honor of Greg Hilbrich having slashed prices over at The Columbia Shorts Department, I'm posting The Wrong Miss Wright, Columbia's 1937 remake of Charley Chase's 1926 Hal Roach short Crazy Like a Fox. Chase's Columbias have something of a bad reputation which seems mostly based upon the erroneous assumptions that Charley, nearing the end of his life, was losing steam and that Columbia was handling him, as Harry Langdon would later put it, as "an animated suit of clothes". Nothing could be farther from the truth. Chase was not only in incredible form after his departure from Roach, the transition even seems to have energized him. His performance in The Wrong Miss Wright is arguably better than most of his final performances for Roach, which seem, frankly, tired. Columbia's comedy shorts department was also still in its pre-war prime and Chase, considered one of their greatest assets as a seasoned performer/director, was given Grade A treatment.. something he hadn't been receiving at Roach for a very long time. Most of Charley's Columbias show the care and attention given at the time to most of the department's top-flight talents in both their handsome production values and their character-appropriate scripts. But a few sadly indicate the future direction of the department with scripts that mistake frenetic action for comedy and grossly neglect the talents of the featured performer. As the department continued its gradual slide, The Wrong Miss Wright, itself a remake, would become budget-cutting fodder as it was remade twice into vehicles for Vera Vague. But in 1937 that was all yet to come, and in this short both Chase and Columbia were at the top of their forms. The gags for Crazy Like a Fox, in which Charley attempts to squirm his way out of an arranged marriage by feigning insanity, were thoughtfully reworked for sound. I can't think of another comedy that gets so much mileage out of a Punch and Judy swazzle, which I tend to believe was Charley's own inspiration.