Hey Abbott!

abbottcostelloshow01Abbott and Costello never received the critical respect they deserved in the comedy world; they were considered too low-brow. Yet, for me back when I was in Junior High School, The Abbott and Costello Show, a mainstay on New York City’s WPIX-TV channel 11, along with The Honeymooners, was must-see TV. It’s lost in my own little file cabinet of mental history how many times I watched those episodes. I do know my mother never understood the repeated viewings as she would ask over and over again, “haven’t you seen this already?” Yes, was my answer, they’re funny. She would walk away shaking her head. Continue reading

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Favorite Comedies: The 40’s

Comedy films of the 1940’s were a fairly diverse group from social commentary, satire to slapstick. From the sophistication of Ernest Lubitsch to vaudeville based films of Abbott and Costello. I love it all. Abbott and Costello narrowly missed the list, as did so many others.  The 1940’s  was a rich period for comedy in films.  It wasn’t easy narrowing the list down to just ten. This is the fourth post in the series. You can read about them here. Continue reading

Favorite Comedies: The 20’s

If there ever was a golden age of comedy, it was the 1920’s. Three geniuses led the way: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. There were others of course, Harry Langdon, Laurel and Hardy, Snub Pollard, Mabel Normand, Larry Semon and Fatty Arbuckle among others. But it was the top three who reached the exhalted status of genius. Of the three, there was always a battle on who was the greatest. Lloyd always seemed to take the third spot. No disgrace considering the talent of the other two. Between Chaplin and Keaton, it’s always been a matter of individual taste. Chaplin was the sentimental artist with a social conscience. Keaton’s comedy was always more cerebral. I personally love both and have always went back and forth on who I thought was better. I have resigned myself to the fact that they both share the top spot.

 

You can read my first post in this series here.

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Favorite Comedies: The 1910’s

easyThis is the first in a series of monthly posts that will highlight my favorite comedies of each decade. Key word here is favorite and not necessarily the best.  Comedy is a highly subjective category. While many film lovers see Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot to be one of the best comedies, there are folks, well informed film lovers, who disagree.

I myself believe many of our modern day comedies rely too much on trashy jokes and not enough on sophisticated humor. A fart joke gets the laugh. Why bother with intelligent humor. Now, I have nothing against low-brow or bathroom humor, but how many times do we have to see Will Farrell take off his shirt, pants, or more (Old School, Blades of Glory, Talledega Nights, Anchorman, Step Brothers, Daddy’s Home)? Today’s audiences also have an intolerance for the buildup to the joke. Attention spans have diminished over the years. Television is partially to blame for this; the jokes have to come quick to get them all in a twenty minutes time frame.  Laurel and Hardy would never survive in today cinema world. It’s not that there are not good comedies today.  The Big Sick is one of my favorite films of 2017, and Judd Apatow has a pretty good record. However, overall they are far and in between. Continue reading

41. The Odd Couple (1970-5)

This is the first of five articles I am doing for the TV Count Down now in progress at Wonders in the Dark.

Wonders in the Dark

by John Greco

The Odd Couple was one of those shows that was never a huge hit during its original TV run. For five-seasons it ran on ABC and not once did it crack the Top 20 in the Neilson ratings. However, once the show was cancelled and put in syndication, it became a favorite, still running today on various cable stations and streaming services. The shows two stars made more money once the show went into syndication than they did during the original run.

The show was based on Neil Simon’s hit Broadway play [1] that opened in March of 1965 and ran for more than two years. Walter Matthau played Oscar Madison, the sloppy, gambling sports-writer for The New York Herald with Art Carney as the finicky television news writer, Felix Unger. [2]  The play won numerous Tony Awards including Best Play, Best Actor for Matthau, and Best…

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Chaplin, Brando and A Countess From Hong Kong

Hong4There was a lot of buzz about A Countess From Hong Kong when it was first announced. After all, it would be Charlie Chaplin’s first film in more than ten years. The buzz increased, even more, when it came out that Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren would star. What a combination! The Little Tramp, Stanley Kowalski and Italy’s greatest export since pizza and pasta. How could it miss? Continue reading

The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) William Keighley

dinner2What would happen if you took an arrogant, caustic and cynical New York City intellectual and transplanted him into the heartland of America? That was the premise of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s hit play, The Man Who Came to Dinner.  The play premiered on Broadway in October 1939 and ran for more than two years, 730 performances to be exact.[1] Legend has it Moss Hart came up with the idea after a visit from the prickly theater critic, New Yorker columnist, Alexander Woollcott, to his country home and began making one demand after another, including shutting off the heat and insisting on a bed time snack consisting of cookies and a milkshake.  Woollcott was a member of the famed Algonquin Round Table, a self-proclaimed group of witty and sometimes verbally vicious intellectuals trading barbs and witticisms. They met every day for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel. Among the members were Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman, Robert E. Sherwood, Heywood Broun, Ruth Hale (Broun’s wife) and Marc Connelly. There were other members, some officially part of the group and others who were unofficial occasional visitors. Continue reading