Monday, May 05, 2008

Stanley, Roddy and Syd

by Geoff Collins

Pay attention, readers! We're delighted to present the Third Banana-est clip of all time, a sequence from a long-forgotten movie, featuring long-forgotten people; but it's dazzling. Cheer Up is a 1936 Quota Quickie, one of those cheap little British "fillers" churned out by the hundred in order to fulfill the terms of the Cinematograph Films Act, 1927, section 19. Most of these undemanding pictures are, it goes without saying, absolute rubbish - and Cheer Up is no classic - but we at the Banana are just about sad enough to wade through all that porridge to get to the juicy jammy bits.

We've met Stanley Lupino before. An entry in our Archive (December 2006) gives a bit of background information, as well as the Lupino Family Tree; but we now know that this Punch-like little West End star, Ida's dad, was born in 1893 and not '94; his impressive memorial in Lambeth Cemetery, Tooting, states that he was 49 when he died in 1942. I didn't need to make the Pilgrimage - although I still intend to do so - because there are some useful images on Stanley's final resting place looks somewhat neglected and the Lupino Family Tree appears to be growing right through the middle of it. Are there no Lupinos around today who could tidy up this hallowed spot? Sixty years ago there were dozens of 'em!

Stanley was frequently partnered on stage - but sadly only three times on film - by another small, quirky West End entertainer, Laddie Cliff. They worked so well together that when Laddie was unavailable, Stanley needed to find a Laddie-substitute, a bespectacled Second Banana to play his best friend. Here it's chubby Welsh character actor Roddy Hughes, a former Marlborough House schoolteacher who left his chosen profession for the joys of (amongst many other things) three years on tour as Hard-Boiled Herman in Rose Marie.

The cafe proprietor is played by the appropriately-named Syd Crossley. Syd always looked aggrieved and it's no wonder: in Hollywood he'd been cast opposite Stan Laurel as one of the tramps in the 1926 Duck Soup. We'll never know the full story but at the last minute he was replaced by Oliver Hardy. Syd plays bit parts in many American silents - he's the bartender in West of Hot Dog and the taxi driver in the chase sequence of Speedy - but he's most frequently to be found scowling his way through British talkies as exasperated waiters or policemen - or cafe proprietors. Maybe he was contemplating What Might Have Been: Laurel and Crossley. Here's a fascinating exercise: imagine all the great Laurel and Hardy scenes with Syd playing Ollie's part. No, forget it; it's just too sad and it's not actually that fascinating.

This scene from Cheer Up gives us one of Syd's rare beatific smiles, and it's a genuine one. He's supposed to be playing a gruff, unsympathetic character but he's obviously having a great time with Stanley and Roddy, and it shows.

Readers, we hope this will make you smile. It should do; this is what the Third Banana is all about. We give you: The Steak and Kidney Pudding Song.

As a postscript I would like to thank Alan and Jennie Clarke for their invaluable help in making this and many other rare clips available for your enjoyment.

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Blogger EOCostello said...

I like this website in general, but it's clips like this particular one that really make it. I've had this song running through my head for days, now.

3:12 PM  

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