W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, ‘Duck Soup’ and The Three Stooges

posted by friendsoftheloews on April 10, 2008 at 3:48 pm

Just for Laughs
Classic Comedy Weekend

April 25 & 26
At the Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre
54 Journal Square, Jersey City, NJ 07306 Tel. (201) 798-6055 Fax. (201) 798-4020 Web. www.loewsjersey.org
A Not-For-Profit Arts Center

Classic Film Enjoyed The Classic Way — On the BIG Screen, In A Grand Movie Palace

Friday, April 25 at 8PM Duck Soup with the Marx Brothers. Starring Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo Marx, Margaret Dumont, Raquel Torres, Louis Calhern. Directed by Leo McCarey. (1933, 70mins., B&W. Predates Rating System, but is suitable for most audiences.)

Duck Soup is often called the definitive Marx Brothers movie, and widely admired as a virtually perfect comedic satire â€" a film in which every shot, every line and every gag worked. Groucho is the newly installed President of Freedonia â€" a small country in the Balkans that is at odds with its neighbors and about to go bankrupt. From this set-up, the Brothers proceeded to mercilessly skewer the very concept of government, politics, diplomacy, propaganda, finance, espionage, greed and â€" not least â€" war. The jokes, slap-stick gags, asides and double-entendres are virtually non-stop, bordering at times on the hallucinatory.

Yet, when the film premiered, it was a colossal flop with critics and audiences, and nearly ended the Marx Brothers' career. Theories about why this was so abound: The manic, near-surreal tone of the film is said to have been too much for most audiences in the 1930s to understand. The film’s no-holds-barred attack on authority may have offended some; Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, for one, is said to have been so insulted that he banned the film in his country. And the rise of Fascist dictators in Europe â€" Mussolini being one â€" may have made the film’s conceit simply unappealing to many. There may be truth in all of this, because when the Marx Brothers moved to MGM after being fired from Paramount, they tempered the pace of their humor, adopted more appealing personas, and stuck to somewhat more conventional story lines â€" with the result that their movies after Duck Soup were wildly popular. But Duck Soup is without doubt the best encapsulation of the unique, frenetic humor that made the Marx Brothers a smash hit on Broadway. And when the movie was rediscovered on college campuses in the 1960s, its subversive satire finally found appreciative audiences, and Duck Soup was at last recognized as pure genius.

PLUS — 2 classic Three Stooges Shorts before Duck Soup!

Admission to Duck Soup + the shorts is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, children & students with ID.

Saturday, April 26 at 4PM Our Relations with Laurel & Hardy. Starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Betty Healy, Daphne Pollard, James Finlayson, Alan Hale (1936, 74mins., B&W. Unrated, but suitable for all audiences.)

Laurel & Hardy, perhaps more than any other comedic partnership, inspired a genuine empathy with audiences. Beyond all the slapstick, there is something touching about the characters, which makes their humor all the more enjoyable. That’s why the team continues to make new fans some three-quarters of a century after their prime.

Our Relations proves that the only thing funnier than Laurel & Hardy is TWO sets of Laurel & Hardy. “The Boys” play two upstanding citizens who learn, out of the blue, that they each have twin brothers, both of whom were said to be “bad seeds” until their presumed untimely demises. But it soon turns out that both twins are very much alive, and have serendipitously arrived in the same town as Stan & Ollie. The inevitable mix-ups in identities start to occur, and things snowball from bad to worse as one set of Laurel & Hardy is chased by angry floozies, wives, cronies and gangsters who don’t realize there is a second set â€" all resulting in superior hilarity!

Based on a W.W. Jacobs' short story, Our Relations is perhaps the most plot-heavy of Laurel & Hardy’s features for Hal Roach Studios. It is also one of the team’s funniest, as well as most lavishly produced features. Our Relations is very rarely shown theatrically, so its presentation at the Loew’s is a rare chance to enjoy it on the Big Screen.

PLUS — 1 classic Three Stooges Short before Our Relations!

Admission to Our Relations + the short is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, children & students with ID.

Saturday, April 26 at 8PM W.C. Fields DOUBLE FEATURE —
Never Give A Sucker An Even Break Staring W.C. Fields, Gloria Jean, Margaret Dumont, Leon Errol, Susan Miller, Franklin Pangborn. (1941, 71mins., B&W. Predates rating system, but is suitable for most audiences.)
followed by The Bank Dick Starring W. C. Fields, Cora Witherspoon, Una Merkel, Evelyn del Rio, Jessie Ralph, Franklin Pangborn. (1940, 74mins., B&W. Predates rating system but is suitable for most audiences.)

W.C. Fields is a pop icon, yet he was, by some reckoning, an improbable movie star â€" a cynical, eccentric, hard-drinking comedian with a bulbous nose. He created a character that muttered asides and put-downs in a sideways drawl, was far from heroic and sometimes bordered on being a scoundrel, didn’t mind side-stepping the truth and was willing to cheat, was henpecked and put-upon, and openly disliked children and even animals. And almost in spite of himself, he sometimes managed to come out on top. Yet if the Fields character wasn’t exactly likable, he was recognizable: a comic reflection of some of our own feelings, failings and hopes. So 60 years later, this screen persona is still part of our shared culture.

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break was Fields' last starring vehicle. The plot is noticeably disjointed — in part because the original screenplay written by Fields under one of his typically wacky pseudonyms, “Otis Criblecoblis”, was reworked by Universal — but the laughs are plenty as Fields mutters his typically priceless asides and tosses off perfectly timed double-entendres. It is an excellent example of the sort of nonsensical “nut” humor in vogue in 1941. Never Give A Sucker An Even Break is rarely shown on the big screen, and will be seen in Universal’s only surviving 35mm print.

The Bank Dick is, by many accounts, Fields' greatest film â€" the perfect distillation of his favorite comic themes and characterizations and a showcase of his timing and talent. Despite a scant 74-minute run time, The Bank Dick breezes through enough plot lines for ten lesser films, managing to build and double-back on itself to a very satisfying conclusion. Fields plays his typically henpecked husband, who through no account of his own is hailed as a hero, rewarded with a job as a bank guard, and proceeds to get involved in an embezzlement scheme that threatens ruination. As one of the innovators of early sound films, Fields loved to play with the sound of words. He got around the censors of his day with such bogus profanities as “Godfrey Daniel!” and “Mother of Pearl!” And he populated The Bank Dick with some wonderfully expressive names: J. Pinkerton Snoopington is a meddlesome bank examiner; J. Frothingham Waterbury, a confidence man; Filthy McNasty, a bank robber; and A. Pismo Clam, a movie director. Fields wrote the screenplay under the playful pen name “Mahatma Kane Jeeves”, a reference not only to the leader of peaceful resistance in India at the time but a play on what Fields said was a typical request of a butler in movies: “My hat, my cane, Jeeves.” Look for Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges playing a bartender.

Admission to the W.C. Fields DOUBLE FEATURE is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, children & students with ID.

COMBO Discounts are available for multiple screenings.

All titles will be screened in 35mm.

The Loew’s Is Easy To Get To: The Loew’s Jersey Theatre, at 54 Journal Square, Jersey City, NJ, is directly across JFK Boulevard from the JSQ PATH Center with trains to and from Lower and Midtown Manhattan and Newark’s Penn Station, is minutes from the NJ Turnpike & easily reached by car or mass transit from throughout the Metro Area.

Half-price off-street parking is available in Square Ramp Garage adjoining the Loew’s. Patrons present a coupon to garage attendant when they leave. Coupon is available at our box office.

What’s Special About Seeing A Movie At The Loew’s? The Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre is one of America’s grandest surviving Movie Palaces. We show movies the way they were meant to be seen: in a grandly ornate setting — on our BIG 50 ft wide screen! The Loew’s runs reel-to-reel, not platter, projection, which often allows us to screen an archival or studio vault print that is the best available copy of a movie title.

The Loew’s Jersey is managed by Friends of the Loew’s, Inc. as a non-profit, multi-discipline performing arts center.

For directions or more information: Call (201) 798-6055 or visit www.loewsjersey.org

Classic Film Weekends are presented by Friends of the Loew’s, Inc.

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