Why are blooper reels--which are never really all that funny--still so fascinating? Because they demonstrate that in every performance there exists a woefully thin line which seperates complete confidence from utter absurdity. Whenever we non-performers hear a perfectly delivered line or announcement, we can't help but wonder how the speaker/actor managed to get something so right that we non-pro's--under any circumstances--would find challenging. The answer--as provided by blooper reels--is that sheer dumb luck is mostly what is requried. Bloopers are proof that the most assured and polished of professionals are only a milli-inch away from rank amateurism. Indeed, if not for the miracle of editing, most professional actors would be exposed as the fraudulent amateurs they in fact are. At least that's how it feels after seeing a decent selection of bloopers...

Apparently, there was something called the "Warners Club"-an organization of actors, producers and crew under contract at Warner Brothers, who used to put together a ten minute reel of bloopers every year--exclusively bloopers commited by Warner Brothers actors in Warner Brothers movies. (To be screened where? On what occassion? I have no clue, but I bet it was a hell of a party.) These reels survive and have begun to appear as DVD extras on any number of Warner Brothers classic movie re-issues. I just found the below on youtube and must confess that, while hearing famous people go up on their lines and then spit meaningless invective isn't really all that funny, it is nevertheless eminently watchable and certainly beats most of the currently available programming on television. I think part of the fascination is in seeing precisely how the actors in questions lose face and deal with their problems: James Cagney pretends to find it funny, but you can see he's quite irritated with himself. Edward G. Robinson is jocular and unconcerned--he seems to find his own screwing up something of a release valve. Best of all is John Garfield who seems to have decided intentionally to say something inappropriate. Bogart, to my eye, is not happy with either his own gaffes or his co-stars: this allows us to see Bogart as possibly a good deal less secure than his screen persona would indicate.

More bloopers--and a detailed look at the life of blooper-king Kermit Shaeffer--to follow...


  1. Fascinating! I have to start looking more closely at DVD extras. What gets me is the contrast--or lack of it--between the actor in character and then the actor going up on his or her lines. Sometimes it's quite fluid, as with Davis and Garfield, and with others it's as though they suddenly drop their trousers. Profanity came quite naturally, didn't it? but not obscenity, at least not the ones that made the reel. It's also a hoot to see Cagney take his hands off the wheel while the truck is still "moving." Talk about breaking the fourth wall.

  2. Yes--Bogart is the one for me who is the most telling. I see a much more uptight and impatient fellow than his cool persona (not yet really in place yet--Maltese Falcon etc. was still five years away) suggests. The Cagney driving thing is, indeed, very funny exposing as it does--for a brief moment--the mechanism behind the machine.

  3. much later but -- yes, absolutely Bogart comes across as a perfectionist and rather fussy, as does Cagney to me, although he's at more pains to conceal it. The Bogart clip is much more in line with Louise Brooks's take on him in Lulu in Hollywood than with the Bogey of later legend.