In the Good Old Summertime
Hollywood’s second take on the play Parfumerie by Miklós László, the first being The Shop Around the Corner. This time it’s a musical set in Chicago. (Oddly enough, it takes place almost entirely in the good old winter time.) It’s not bad, but it can’t really compete with the original. However, it has the singing of Judy Garland, which makes up for any shortcomings. When I haven’t seen one of her movies for a while, I am always freshly astonished at the power of her voice. If the world gets a voice like that every 50 years, it is a lucky world indeed.
It also features one of Hollywood’s great character actors, Mr. S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall. I wondered what sort of a man would want himself to be listed as Cuddles in the credits of a film. According to Wiki, not Cuddles himself, it seems. He didn’t like it. Which makes it sort of nasty, in my book, to list him that way, even if it was what everybody called him. He’s most famous as Carl the headwaiter in Casablanca.
The film is accompanied by two little Technicolor time capsules: “Chicago the Beautiful,” and “Night Life in Chicago.” These are examples of a thing that is now as extinct as the wooly mammoth: the travelogue. I remember seeing some of the last of these, when they played with a cartoon and a newsreel. They are pretty lame, but provide a fascinating look into the times and places where they were made. These were by the king of the travelogue, James A. FitzPatrick, “The Voice of the Globe.” The IMDb lists 207 documentaries under his name, most of them under 10 minutes long. He made them for MGM under the label of “Fitzpatrick Traveltalks” and for Paramount as “VistaVision Visits.” I’m glad somebody’s saving them. Think what they’ll look like in 100 years. Buster Keaton is here, too, sadly. He plays the boss’s incompetent nephew. What a come-down for one of the great comic actors of all time, to get 6th billing in a bit part.