Sunday, February 10, 2008

Charley's Aunt

Four words: Jack Benny in drag. That will either sell you on this one or make you run in the opposite direction. The movie is based on a play that was old when the movie was made, but the play is still being revived. There must be something about men in drag that appeals to a lot of audiences.

As for me, I thought this was pretty funny in places, not so much in others. One of the funny things is that Benny, who tries on a British accent for about two words of every ten in the first scene soon tries it for only about one word in a hundred. Some of the physical comedy works very well, too, and of course the idea that anyone would be fooled, even for a second, into thinking Benny is female is amusing. That Edmund Gwen, sprightly as ever, falls for him is also funny, if hard to believe.

Laird Cregar plays the father of James Ellison and remarks about what good shape he (Cregar) is in for a man of fifty. And no wonder. Cregar was about twenty-five at the time, several years older than his "son." Cregar's very good in the part, too. Then there's Kay Francis, who's lovely.

This is very old-fashioned stuff, but then I'm an Old Guy. I enjoyed it.

9 comments:

Fred Blosser said...

Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy seem to have the corner on drag comedies these days -- maybe one of them will remake it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I saw this done live once with Michael Sheen (recently played Tony Blair in Elizabeth) in Manchester, England and it was very funny. I'll have to try this verion.

Bill Crider said...

Fred, that's a scary thought.

jjs said...

Men in womens' clothing as a comedy-inciter is a very curious laugh-making phenomenon. It is in fact amusing in itself. Assuming the men are really "men." This can de determined by the degree of the absence of femininity. The more absent it is, the funnier it is, since men and women are, by the design of creation SO different, one tryiing to be the other creates comedy. More comedy is created by a man "being" a woman than is created by a woman "being" a man. At least to men. The vast majority of comedians who dress as women for comedy purposes are clearly "into" the wearing of womens' clothing and acting "female" - which is impossible for a man to do, just as it is impossible for a woman to act "male" - and the comedy factor is diminished in reverse proportion to the level of personal enjoyment by the comedian in his imitating a female. The less the actor is genuinely "into" being the other sex, the funnier it is. This, at least in the realm of Real Show Business, is rarely the case. Thank you. There is no charge for this free comedy lecture.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks for the free comedy lecture. All I know is that when Milton Berle put on a dress on that old Texaco show of his, my mother was helpless with laughter.

jjs said...

Funny you should mention that. I was reading Cecily my free comedy lecture and i said that i never "got" milton berle in drag. Milton berle was annoying enough as it was. in a dress - which he seemed to wear a lot - he was even more annoying. but my father thought it was just swell. i think my mother's opinion of berle was similar to my own.

Benjie said...

My only experience with this one was when the HS I taught at put it on. It was a great choice for novice actors, I'll bet Uncle Milty could really do the part justice.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I'm with JJ on Milty. I can think of only two men who were funny in drag--Jamie Farr on M*A*S*H and Benny Hill.

Todd Mason said...

I must admit, I've never understood the appeal of drag queen Paris Hilton, either.

Nor, really, the inherent hilarity of a man in a dress. Often, drag isn't just a drag, but an insult, as when high school football teams parade before their peers as the cheerleaders...or as in Nora Ephron's essay. Though, of course, JJ is pretty far away from my view of such matters...I tend to think that people pretty much run similar ranges, even among the sexes...and "transgender" folks such as Kate Bornstein often seem to ultimately realize the same thing.

Given all that, I bet I might well like Jack Benny in CHARLEY'S AUNT, but less than I liked him in TO BE OR NOT TO BE or THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT, and maybe no more than in the disappointing...REALLY disappointing...LOVE THY NEIGHBOR.