More Abbott and Costello f-ups, these from their first film "Buck Privates". As opposed to the previous posts bloops (see below), these are interesting in a different way. Lou is not yet a movie star and lacks the prerogative of instructing the script girl to save the blown takes that he finds amusing. He does, however, already use the 'slicing' gesture when he knows a take has gone down the drain. Yet a lot of the time his screw-ups don't really seem all the bad. I wonder if the directors he worked with (Arthur Lubin in this case) ever told him to just keep going and not to self-cut. We learn from this reel that "Oh, Jesus Christ" was Bud's go-to phrase for his frustration with his own meltdowns. I like hearing the director (Lubin) give them his version of a little pep-talk before certain takes: "Okay boys, a lot of tempo!" We do what we can...

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Here's a reel of blooper/outtakes from Abbott and Costello's 1949 offering "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (actually one of several of their 1949 offerings). Like most outtake reels, the mistakes themselves are less funny to us then they seem to have been to the performers but there are hidden items of interest in these reels that always keep me watching. Thanks to the existence of these snippets, we can actually get a sense of what being on a movie set seventy (or sometimes more) years ago was like. Certain customs have changed. The word 'action', used now to tell the actors to begin, seems not have been in use then. Instead the director calls "Camera!" Why is this? It's not to tell the cameraman to begin rolling as the camera is clearly already rolling. Why would the word for the machine that's capturing the scene itself be used for telling the actors to get to work? Sadly I have no answer for this.

We also see (at 9:25) the way in which playback is used to start the couples dancing on the dance floor and then cut off in order not to interfere with the dialogue track. This is still done, but again it bring us onto the set and strips the scene of artifice which, for some reason, makes my spine tingle. It's nice to see the real Bela Lugosi laughing in real life (at 8:25) but the most interesting thing of all is what happens after many of the blown takes (most of which are flubs by Lou). As he screws up a line or realizes he's lost his place in the scene, Lou turns to the camera and makes a "scissors" sign, telling them to cut. Then he looks off to somebody specific off camera and says "that one's for me". My guess is that its the script girl, who will note to the editors that Mr. Costello wants them to save that flub for his personal collection. Apparently Lou had one hell of a blooper reel that he probably used to entertain friends and lackeys with at his legendary Christmas parties.

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Here's a couple of minutes of film shot by somebody who was fixated on the then-prevalent neon signs in Times Square one night in 1961. My first inclination while watching this was to be impatient with the lack of street life on view but gradually I got sucked into the neon-ness of the whole thing. There are signs advertising the movies of the day ('Spartacus' and--more importantly--'Pepe' starring Cantinflas), ads for Johnnie Walker Scotch, a view of the soon-to-be-extinct Hotel Astor and a mesmerizing neon 'live-action' sketch from an airline called BOAC, which stood for 'British Overseas Airway Corporation' and which, by an act of parliament, was merged with another airline in 1971 to become the current day British Airways. Aren't you glad you asked?

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The Stardust. Betty Hutton. The Silver Slipper. Tony Martin. Wilbur Clarke's Desert Inn. Joe E. Lewis. Bugsy Siegel. Neon signs. A huge revolving neon slipper. Hot desert sidewalks. Thirst-inducing views. Bad swimming pools. Are we in hell? No. We're in Las Vegas in 1956, courtesy of the home movies of a nice chap named Ray Windstorm who at age 15 took a trip to then child-unfriendly resort with his parents, taking care to bring his 8mm camera and document the event. Nobody will ever convince me that the desert is anything but a horrific wasteland but at least its nice to see Vegas prior to the abominable 'family friendly' resort it's now become. And I'd never seen the 'Desert Inn' in live-action footage. I'd only known of it from the Noel Coward LP which I played until it was worn down to a nub, circa age ten/eleven/twelve. See below...

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I post old footage compilations of New York and LA quite a bit and after awhile the sources begin to dry up. So I was surprised and delighted when I stumbled upon the above three-minute reel of various New York sites, streets and stuff shot in the 1920s. I'd never seen it before and from the measly three-digit page views apparently only a few others have. We see great views of the El Train in action--shot at eye level from the tracks. We pass the Hippodrome, linger in Riverside Park, spend a nice afternoon in Central Park (the Bow Bridge is featured in a very romantic shot) and, finally, we wind up at Coney Island, with its oversized funhouse slides, beaches and attractions. I'm not crazy about the Sidney Bechet accompanying soundtrack--too 'dixie' and aggressive. I suggest turning down the sound and rolling the below instead. It's Gene Austen's 1927 recording of 'My Blue Heaven'. I prefer the wistful counterpoint to the images--so much more haunting and a way to point up one of the things that I always find fascinating in this documentations of the past; the people were watching have long vanished from this earth, their lives and complications having faded from all human consciousness. If that's too depressing for you then I've also posted the 1920 Paul Whiteman recording of 'Whispering'.

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