Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Movies are Magic!

Tis the Season to watch movies, happy vintage films from childhood past!

DVD CoverHeavenly Christmas Film Classics
6 rare films in an exclusive DVD that makes a nice Christmas gift!  
Special price to blog readers -- just $15, postage included!
Silent Night: Story of the Christmas Carol
(1953) 13 min., color. Beautifully told true story of how Franz Gruber created the iconic 1818 Christmas carol.
Christmas is Magic
(1953) 24 min. Robert Hutton plays a war vet with amnesia who is taken in by widow Frances Rafferty and her son on Christmas Eve.  You can watch the complete film below.
Star of Bethlehem
(1956) 12 min., color. The Nativity told using the silhouette animation style of Lotte Reiniger.
Three Young Kings
(1956) 28 min. Episode of “DuPont Theater.” In Latin America three boys follow a village tradition of carrying Christmas gifts to the mission church children dressed as the Three Wise Men. In the poor section of town they give the presents to the ragged children instead, causing a crisis in conscience over the true meaning of giving.
Star of Bethlehem
(1954) 26 min. Produced, directed by and starring James Mason. After Mason reads sections from the bible that lead up to the birth of Jesus, the Nativity is enacted starring a cast of children. A heartfelt, inventive and personal religious project by a Hollywood star.
Starlight Night
(1939) 30 min. Opulent British docu-drama about the creation of the famous Christmas carol centers on a stern father estranged from his daughter.
Order from Ron Hall -- fesfilms@aol.com -- or 952-470-2172

DVD Cover
Religious Films
I recently added a page of RELIGIOUS FILMS to my website and list them here.  Most of these have been available for some years.  However, in 2014 we plan to release many similar but much rarer films for the first time on video.  Details soon! 
Feature Films:
CONSTANTINE AND THE CROSS 
(1961, color) 120 min. Cornel Wilde. Somewhat fictionalized dramatic account of Late Roman Emperor Constantine, his rise to power, and his establishment of religious tolerance among Roman subjects.
DAVID AND GOLIATH 
(1960, color) 92 min. Orson Welles stars as King Saul. The story is adapted from the Old Testament: The Philistines declare war on the Israelites and wrench the Arch of the Allience from them. Saul, the king of Israel, listens meanwhile to the words of the prophets who tell him that the new king will be a young shepard called David. But still David has to fight the enemy in form of their mighty giant Goliath.
ESTHER AND THE KING 
(1960, color, Italy) 109 min. Joan Collins stars in the biblical story about Esther, an orphan raised by a relative named Mordecai, as she is chosen from all the maidens in the land to become queen. She must risk her life to save her people from a treacherous plan of the charmingly wicked prince Haman.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW 
(1964, Italy, subtitled) 130 min. Director Pier Paolo Pasolini's celebrated life of Christ story stars Enrique Irazoqui as Jesus. Filmed in the actual locations.
MARTIN LUTHER 
(1953) 106 min. The first motion picture portrayal of the incendiary beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. This excellent film brings to life Luther's growing realization that the religion, to which he had dedicated his life, was flawed. His character is shown to mature in believable stages, culminating in acts of ferocious courage.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
(1962, Italy/France, color) 89 min. The Jews of Jerusalem are driven out by their Syrian rulers. They gather their forces, and return to drive out their oppressors.
SAUL AND DAVID 
(1964, Spain/Italy, color) 113 min. The story of the relationship between David the slayer of Goliath and Saul the King of the Israelites.

Church Films
Films by Family Films, Cathedral Films and similar religious groups to spread the Gospel.  These were shown primarily in churches or on Sunday morning TV.  Many were intentionally released into the public domain to find the widest possible audience.
ALL THAT I HAVE 
(1949, Family Films) Dr. Charles Greyson is a famous and wealthy former surgeon. His nephews take him to court to challenge his competency, due to his recent inexplicable gifts of large amounts of cash to the church. Message being that all that we are we owe to God, and the profits gained from our God-given abilities require care and thought before sharing.
THE LIFE OF CHRIST (aka. The Living Christ Series) 
(1951, color) 300 min. Cathedral Films. Each of the twelve 20-30 min. programs faithfully illustrate aspects of the teachings and the ministry of Jesus Christ, in chronological order, from the Nativity in Bethlehem, to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Last Supper. The Life of Christ gives historical context with maps and graphics, and the believable dialogue makes these Bible stories come alive. Robert Wilson gives a strong, sensitive performance as Jesus Christ.  Here is more info.
OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES 
(1955, color) 212 min. Concordia/Family Films series relates stories from the Old Testament: Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Ruth, Samuel, David, Solomon and Elijah.
PILGRIMAGE PLAY 
(1949,color) 92m. A Roland Reed Production tells the story of the life of Jesus Christ, starring Nelson Leigh as Jesus.
REACHING FROM HEAVEN 
(1948) 80 min. Drama with strong spiritual overtones that concerns itself with the eternal question, "Can the God whose hand formed the sun and the moon and the stars be concerned about the lives of little men?" In a small American town we meet one such "little man," a European immigrant long-separated from his wife by the war.
POWER OF THE RESURRECTION 
(1958, color) 60 min., Family Films.  A young man, facing torture and possibly death for his Christian beliefs, confesses his fears to Peter, who awaits a similar fate. Peter tells him of fear he felt in following Jesus' arrest in the Garden of Gethesamene, when he denied knowing him three times - and yet Jesus told him that he would be the rock upon which the Church was built. Peter goes on to relate the events of the passion week, including the Christ's crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.

The Gospel on Television
Mainstream TV shows with a religious theme that often showed around Christmas or Easter.
HILL NUMBER ONE 
(1951) 57 min. Family Theater Production. A respectful interpretation of what might have happened among Jesus's followers in the three days before Crucifixion. The story is told in the modern context of an US Army company stationed in Korea during the Korean War.
THE NATIVITY 
(1952) 59 min. Hurd Hatfield, Robert Shaw, Paul Tripp in dramatization of the birth of Jesus was produced for television by Studio One.
PICTURE OF THE MAGI 
25 min. In 1956 Communist-dominated Hungary young Aranka (Judy Morris) stumbles across the hideout of three ruthless blackmarket smugglers. When the girl discovers one of the men is named Melchoir (Walter Coy) she believes they are actually the Three Wise Men.
PONTIUS PILATE 
(1952) 59 min. Episode of Westinghouse Studio One TV series. Cast: Geraldine Fitzgerald, Cyril Ritchard, Francis Sullivan. The tale of Pontius Pilate, the Roman administrator of Judea and the man charged with trying and sentencing Jesus to death, in spite of his reservations.
A STAR SHALL RISE 
(1952) 29 min. Raymond Burr stars in the story of the birth of Jesus and the visit of the three wise men.

Crossroads
(1955-'57) Half-hour TV anthology series dramatizes the lives of clergymen of all faiths and the problems they face in both their professional and personal lives.
A Bell for O'Donnell  -- A reverend learns a lesson in forgiveness when is is swindled by a fast-talking con man (Edmond Lowe).
Cleanup -- A pastor (Vincent Price) exhorts his parishioners to take back their city from the gangsters and corrupt politicians who have taken it over.
Call for Help -- Richard Carlson plays a priest who works with troubled youths, when a gang fight leads to a fatal shooting.
Dig or Die, Brother Hyde -- A new preacher on the harsh Dakota frontier is severly tested. With Hugh Marlow.
God's Healing -- Vincent Price plays a priest who heals an old woman's embittered heart.
The Good Thief -- US Army chaplain (James Whitmore) is tortured by Red Chinese captors for ministering to his fellow prisoners of war.
The Judge -- Brian Donlevy does double duty in a lawless town as a preacher and a judge.
Mother O'Brien -- A police detective is torn between family and duty when his younger brother is involved in a petty crime.

A Christmas Mystery....
Christmas is Magic is one of the six films on our Heavenly Christmas Film Classics DVD release promoted at the top.  An extraordinary discovery was brought to our attention last Christmas by a customer the day before Christmas Eve -- a vision of the face of Jesus Christ appears several times.  The face of Jesus is clear to both Christians and non-believers alike in numerous scenes.

Because the Face appears more than once, it may have been an intentional although subliminal insertion by the film's producer, Sovereign Films.  Another theory is that it is an artifact of the 16mm to video transfer process.  Yet others may claim that we altered the film to attract publicity, and I can assure everyone that is not at all the case.  The DVD was released by Festival Films over three months ago and today is the first time I and my two partners became aware of this phenomena.

Christmas is Magic was the Christmas episode of an anthology TV series called Your Jeweler's Showcase.  It was first shown on television on Dec. 13, 1953, and may have been syndicated on 16mm prints for a few years.  Our source is an original 16mm syndication print.

A WW-2 war veteran (Robert Hutton) with amnesia gets off a train in a town he never heard of on Christmas Eve.  In the village square he meets a young widow (Frances Rafferty) whose husband was killed in the war and her 8-year-old son.  The son and man, who calls himself John Doe for lack of his real name, quickly bond and he goes home with them to wait for Santa to arrive.  The mother and son pray together in a moving scene not often found on television.  Later John Doe helps trim the tree while the widow helps him remember his past.  Miracles happen.

Robert Hutton and Frances Rafferty
If indeed a Face of Jesus Christ was inserted secretly into a 1953 television show, then why has it taken 59 years for anyone to notice?  I don't have an answer.  I do have a theory as to what might happen next in this wonderful age of the Internet when social media has the power to spread unusual news at the speed of light.  Word about this sighting of the Face of Jesus might attract many viewers to see for themselves.  Interest in unexpected images of Christ is always high.  While deciding yeah or nay, coincidence or intentional, or what it all might mean, viewers will experience a profoundly moving Christmas story about love and childhood and memories and renewal.  Was the Face from 1953 intended to focus world attention on Christmas is Magic on this Christmas week in 2012?  Stranger miracles have happened at Christmas time.

We urge you to watch the film from the beginning to end first to experience the full effect of the story, then explore the Face.  Still pictures do not capture the Face of Jesus Christ very well.  It is much more apparent in the youtube video just below.  Most will see it -- eyes, nose, nostrils, beard and hair in the traditional image of Christ as depicted on the Shroud of Turin and in religious paintings.  One can see faces in almost anything, but this has symmetry, does not disappear after a few frames and is, of course, a very special face.  Look closely at the fabric of Robert Hutton's tweed suit from 14:00 to 14:25.    Once you see the Face you will spot it in other scenes both before and after.  The indication of a face could be a coincidence or it could have been woven into the fabric on purpose.  You decide.  By all means, tell your friends!  Spread the mystery. Spread the word.  Spread the joy.  Foremost, enjoy the film!

And the merriest of all Christmases to every one of you!



Visit my websites at Festival Films and Lost and Rare.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

First BUCK ROGERS Film Re-Visited Once Again!


The first version of this article appeared in the Bijou Blog on May 16, 2008, and the second version in my blog on 9/11/2010.  At that time I re-uploaded the First Buck Rogers film to the Cafe Roxy Youtube channel where it has just been viewed more than 10,000 times.  You can view it below. The film is also included on the free Café Roxy Sampler disc. It is on that DVD last, so that you don't need to show it if your audience is not hip enough to enjoy "campy" fun.

Recent research uncovered these tickets required to see the Buck Rogers "Show."  I had always assumed the movie was shown free since it is so short and amateurish, but one actually had to pay. Since admission for children to get into the entire 1934 Chicago World's Fair was only a quarter, it seems doubtful they would have charged more than a dime for any midway attraction.

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In 1934 an obscure movie short called Buck Rogers in the 25th Century -- An Interplanetary Battle with the Tiger Men of Mars was released, but not in theaters. David Stelle accurately describes it in the IMDb: “A signal from Buddy Deering on Mars warns Earth that the Tiger Men of Mars and their cruel king have broken their treaty and are attacking. Buck Rogers and Wilma Deering go to rendezvous with the Earth battlefleet before setting off to fight the tigerships. Baldpated genius inventor Dr. Huer uses the ‘cosmic radiotelevision’ to watch the space battle. Which side will be victorious? The tigerships and their paralysis ray? Or our Earth forces, armed with the flash ray and Dr. Huer's new magnetic ray?”

You might well ask -- “What the heck is this anyway?” -- either before or after you watch it. One viewer at youtube thought it might be a recently photoshopped in-joke.  While not exactly a Hollywood movie, it is a jaw-dropping curiosity.

The first Buck Rogers film was shown to the public during the second year, 1934 edition, of the Chicago World's Fair. The Century of Progress International Exposition was held in Chicago in 1933 and 1934 to celebrate the city's centennial. The theme of the fair was technological innovation. Its motto was "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms" and its architectural symbol was the Sky Ride, a transporter bridge perpendicular to the shore on which one could ride from one end of the fair to the other. After a winter break, the 1934 Fair ran from May 26 through Oct. 31 and included a new Island Midway area that faced Lake Michigan. The "Buck Rogers Show," as it was called on admission tickets, was located on the Enchanted Island playground for children, at #125 on the left hand section of the 1934 Fair Map. It is unknown whether this film was the entire show, or if fans were treated to some live action event as well for their dime. It is certain that after watching the movie, visitors could purchase the very same toy spaceships and ray guns they had just seen. Pretty tricky, huh?

Buck first appeared as Anthony Rogers in an issue of the pulp magazine Amazing Stories in August, 1928. John F. Dille, president of the National Newspaper Service syndicate, saw the potential of the futuristic adventure and arranged for the author, Philip Francis Nowlan, to turn it into a comic strip for Dille's syndicate. The strip was re-named "Buck Rogers," inspired by the name of cowboy star Buck Jones, and that name was used for the character from then on. Dille assigned staff artist Lt. Dick Calkins (shown here) to the project, and he successfully drew the strip for the next 18 years.


The 1934 film on a zero budget resembles a “home movie” hastily thrown together with lots of spirit but little skill by amateurs. It was in fact produced by the John F. Dille Co. and filmed in the studios of the Action Film Company of Chicago. Dick Calkins appears briefly at his drawing board.

The actor playing Buck is John Dille, Jr., the son of the strip’s owner! While Junior looks the part, his, um acting, um, speaks for itself. The actress playing Wilma Deering was Junior’s girlfriend when the film was being shot. Their onscreen chemistry hints at the length of the relationship. The listless delivery of her last line -- “Oh, Buck, wasn’t that a battle!” -- is priceless. Dr. Huer is played by Harlan Tarbell, a stage magician and illustrator, who also “directed” the film but never directed or acted in any other film. His baldpate make-up positively flops around on his head. The sets and special effects are equally impressive. This camp classic must be seen to be believed, so we won’t give away more of the fun!

1934 Chicago Midway where Buck Rogers could be seen!
The film may well have thrilled fair goers, particularly young kids who had never seen anything quite like it. The futuristic serials The Phantom Empire, Undersea Kingdom and Flash Gordon did not hit movie screens until 1935 and 1936, while the Buck Rogers serial with Buster Crabbe came later in 1939. Also keep in mind that Buck’s fans in 1934 avidly listened to his weekly radio exploits. The narrated space battle sounds much like a radio show and is actually more exciting, though far less funny, with your eyes closed! If the spaceships in the big battle look like toy models, that’s exactly what they are, and darned good ones we all wish we had today. To top it off, the show neatly fit into the futuristic theme of the Century of Progress.

There is no indication this first Buck Rogers film was ever shown in movie theaters, where even matinee audiences might have found it laughably amateurish. The June 1936 issue of the trade magazine “Toys and Novelties” reports that the film had a second life by being shown in department stores to promote Buck Rogers merchandise. More Buck toys were sold in the 1930s than Mickey Mouse, with countless games, puzzles, figurines, Big Little Books, ray guns, spaceships and even a full costume for boys. Toy stores devoted entire sections and Christmas displays to Buck and the film doubtless attracted even more customers.

A granddaughter of John Dille discovered a 35mm print of this forgotten film in her basement around 1983 and donated it to UCLA, who struck a new print. It was unleashed on the modern world at the 1984 Cinecon convention in San Francisco. The auditorium rocked with laughter. UCLA gave me contact info to the granddaughter, who sent me a VHS copy and I reviewed the film for "Movie Collector's World" in 1984.

The 1935 © notice must have been added for department store showings, since it was definitely first shown at the 1934 World's Fair.  Despite this copyright notice, the film was never registered with the Library of Congress and so is in the public domain for all the world to enjoy.


Then blast off to my website at Festival Films and request the Free Roxy Sampler DVD.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Blazing WESTERNS!

I have found increasing interest in (public domain) westerns this year, so much that I created a second Matinee Series called "Blazing Westerns."  I feel the films are slightly better than in the first "Sagebrush Saga" series.  I will give links to both pages below.

The serial that unites the 12 week series of features and shorts is "Zorro Rides Again" from 1937, starring John Carroll as a dashing modern-day Zorro who encounters trucks, planes and skyscrapers as he helps complete a railroad line to Mexico.  The fast riding and stunts feature Yakima Canutt behind the mask, while Republic's two best serial directors took turns behind the camera -- William Witney and John English.  One of the best chapter endings has Zorro's foot caught between train tracks, with escape seemingly impossible, as a speeding locomotive runs him down.

A second mini-serial in episodes 2-3-4 is the first 3 episodes of The Lone Ranger TV series starring Clayton Moore from 1949.  This tells the origin story about how the Ranger's outfit was ambushed, he was found and nursed back to health by Tonto, then acquired his horse Silver and eventually captured the bad guys that killed his buddies.

Five of the twelve features in Blazing Westerns series are in color.  The first and last are Trucolor Roy Rogers films -- "Springtime in the Sierras" and "Under California Stars" from 1947 and 1948 and both with Jane Frazee as leading lady and Andy Devine as the main sidekick.  Roy's future TV comic sidekick, Pat Brady, is prominently featured as one of the Sons of the Pioneers singing group.  Many of Roy's late-40s color westerns no longer exist in color, only 3 public domain ones survive in color, and "Springtime" was only restored recently not only in color but uncut at 75 minutes.  Here's a review from Imdb:

Springtime In The Sierras finds Roy Rogers trying to help Harry Cheshire who is animal lover and conservationist against out of season poachers. Cheshire runs an animal shelter and hospital from his place in the mountains where he also has a crusade against those who poach. Cheshire is convinced that there is an organized gang of poachers operating in his woods. His investigation proves right and he's killed for his troubles. That brings Roy into the picture big time.

Roy has two women in this film good girl Jane Frazee whose brother Harold Landon is mixed up with the poachers and Joan Lorring who heads the poachers along with her number one aide, perennial western villain Roy Barcroft. In the climax Roy and Roy mix it up along side a dandy chick fight with Jane and Joan. I also have to say that Lorring is one evil villain in this film.

Andy Devine who did several Rogers films in the Forties is in this one in his usual befuddled state. Andy was a good ally to have, but he was kind of slow and there isn't a Roy Rogers film in it where he doesn't to have Roy patiently explain the situation. Of course it's a plot device to make sure the Saturday afternoon kids understood exactly what was happening, still it made Andy look stupid. 

As someone who is not particularly fond of hunting other than as a means for food and regulated at that, I have a soft spot in my heart for this particular film. I wish I had seen a full length version, but what I saw was cut down for television back in the day.


The other three color films are "Daniel Boone: Trail Blazer" from 1956 with Bruce Bennett and Lon Chaney Jr., and big budget "A" westerns "Rage at Dawn" (1955) in which Randolph Scott tracks down the Reno Brothers gang, and the railroad construction story "Union Pacific" (1953) starring Sterling Hayden.  Daniel Boone program includes an episode of the 1956 TV series "Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans" in which Lon Chaney also plays an Indian.  "Union Pacific" has an episode of Republic's 1954 "Stories of the Century" TV series which is also about a railroad investigator.

"Ghost Town Gold" (1936) is the second film in Republic's popular Three Mesquiteers series and the first with ventriloquist Max Terhune rounding out the trio with Ray Crash Corrigan and Bob Livingston.  We learn how Max won his dummy Elmer in a rigged carnival game.  In "Trailing Double Trouble" (1940) the 3 Range Busters take care of a baby and search for its mother.  This series copied the 3 Mesquiteers with Crash Corrigan and Max Terhune (now called Alibi instead of Lullaby) joined by John "Dusty" King.

Other features in the Blazing Westerns series are Gene Autry's "The Old Corral" (1936) with the Sons of the Pioneers (Gene and Roy Rogers actually have a fist fight!), two of John Wayne's 1934 Lone Star westerns: "The Star Packer" and "Blue Steel," and a third Roy Rogers "Song of Texas" (1943).  "Trouble in Texas" (1937) stars Tex Ritter and Rita Hayworth when she was still billed as Rita Cansino.  Rita is an undercover federal agent and Tex is after the same bad guys who killed his brother.  Lots of authentic rodeo action.  In this scene Rita dances, followed by a face-off between Tex and Yakima Canutt.


The Blazing Westerns! series is designed to be shown in small, vintage movie theaters as Saturday Matinees or evening fare.  They also fit well with creative programming by small, indie TV stations.  The old westerns still pack a whale of a punch, real action by stuntmen rather than special effects and solid family values.  Check out our two series at Blazing Westerns and the original Sagebrush Sagas.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Discovering Edgar Kennedy

Edgar explains Kickstarter to his Hal Roach pals.
The Edgar Kennedy Restoration Project has gone to Kickstarter to seek crowd funding to produce a Pilot Episode of "The Edgar Kennedy Show."  Please visit to show your support and also pass the link along to any friends who share your interest in classic comedy.  The story is told from a different perspective in this Press Release.

It has been a joy to delve so deeply into the long film legacy of Mr. Kennedy, and I hope to continue until we reawaken worldwide interest in enjoying his films, particularly the nearly forgotten body of his 103 RKO shorts.  

The process of discovering Edgar Kennedy has led me to think back on a lifetime of viewing vintage films.  When did I first notice Edgar and in which films?  So the rest of these notes are about me and old films rather than an ad to go check out Edgar on Kickstarter, but before I forget, please do that using the link at the end....

I’m certain the first time I ever saw Edgar was in the Universal serial “The Great Alaskan Mystery,” one chapter a week in a summer park series in the tiny Wisconsin town of Deerfield.  I was 8 or younger at the time.  Of course I did not know Edgar Kennedy from the hero, Milburn Stone.  Edgar was just the hero’s pal who survived a sinking ship, a glacier turning over, a crashing plane, a shack blowing up and a plunge down a mine shaft.  Edgar did not play a comic sidekick like Smiley Burnette, but a likable good-guy with character.  

TV programming in the 1950s depended on the whims of local stations, and they never showed Laurel and Hardy or Our Gang in the Madison area when I was young.  Unbelievable!  Minneapolis was flooded with Hal Roach shorts and New York saw Edgar’s RKO shorts in a 1970s show called “Reel Camp.”  Not in Wisconsin.  We got The Three Stooges, B westerns, some serials and Paramount features, and I’m not complaining about those.  So outside of “The Great Alaskan Mystery” I had only noticed Edgar in “Duck Soup” by the time I entered high school.  

My interest in silent films began with “Silents Please” on TV in 1960 and I soon found Blackhawk Films.  The first film I ever bought was the 8mm “Leave ‘Em Laughing” with Laurel and Hardy and, quite by coincidence, good old Edgar, though the Boys got all the laughs.  We moved to Madison for my high school and college years, which opened up film society showings at the University of Wisconsin.  Among my most memorable viewings ever, a film class ran “When Comedy Was King” one evening and opened it up to the campus.  The packed lecture hall held more than 400 who laughed until they fell off their chairs.  I mainly recall the “Big Business” finale with Laurel and Hardy, but an earlier highlight was the ice cream mayhem with Edgar from “A Pair of Tights.”

My introduction to Edgar Kennedy’s “Slow Burn” came in 1967 on the cover of Leonard Maltin’s fanzine “Film Fan Monthly” and in the article inside.  Leonard’s 1972 “The Great Movie Shorts” had a brief synopsis of all 103 Edgar “Average Man” shorts.  I could read about the RKO comedy shorts but had no way to view very many until nearly 30 years later.  The first one that made an impression was “Feather Your Nest” that I saw on “Matinee at the Bijou” on PBS in the early 80s.  Edgar must find a chicken that has swallowed an engagement ring, but a wily chicken farmer and yard full of white birds conspire against him.

I caught up on Laurel and Hardy when I moved to Minneapolis in 1969 where they were still on TV.  I watched most Our Gang shorts for the first time when I bought a 16mm collection from a TV station.  Edgar shines in supporting roles in many late silent and early talkie Hal Roach shorts with Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang, Charley Chase, Thelma Todd and The Boyfriends.  But let’s face the truth, Edgar was second banana in these films.  Jimmy Finlayson and Charlie Hall got more laughs, and Kennedy the Cop was easily replaced by Tiny Sandford.  The comic genius of Edgar Kennedy only blossomed in the sound era when he turned 40 and struck out on his own.

Fortunately, someone envisioned Edgar in a new kind of comedy, a domestic situational comedy that mixed family problems with slapstick.  That man was writer, director and Edgar’s good friend Harry Sweet.  Harry borrowed Edgar from Roach to make “Next Door Neighbors” for Pathé in 1931 and quickly followed with “Rough House Rhythm” released by the newly-formed RKO Radio Pictures.  In “Rhythm” Edgar was married to ditzy blonde Florence Lake, who was his screen wife 103 shorts later in 1948. RKO wanted more and turned out six Kennedy shorts every year through Edgar’s untimely death in 1948 of cancer at the age of 58.  In “Lemon Meringue” (1931) Dot Farley was added to the cast as Edgar’s bossy mother-in-law and Billy Eugene as Florence’s “Brother,” as Edgar called him.  Both sponged off poor Edgar and hindered more than helped in their mutual endeavors.  Although actor Jack Rice soon replaced Billy Eugene, the family dynamic began an unprecedented 17-year run that set the stage for all the TV sit-coms from 1949 to today.

Edgar & Harry Sweet
I only really discovered Edgar’s “Average Man” series about ten years ago when I began watching them on DVD.  They are rarely shown on Turner Classic Movies, so vintage film fans have had little chance to see them and never in pristine quality. The Edgar RKOs are so darned inventive, hilarious and relevant today because Edgar always did and still does epitomize the average modern man beset with problems outside his control.  Naturally optimistic and likable, he takes on every challenge with a smile to sell vacuum cleaners, install a hot water heater, decorate a house or run a gas station, but his family and the world conspire to crush all well-meant intentions.  How long will his temper last?  Will pressure build until he explodes?  No, he accepts life's indignities by slapping his face and wiping it in his signature "slow burn" of frustration.

I have been discovering Edgar Kennedy my entire life and have much more to see.  I would love to see him as Daddy Warbucks in “Little Orphan Annie” (1932), in “Charlie McCarthy, Detective” (1939), in the 1938 mystery “The Black Doll” and in “Carnival Boat” (1932) in which Edgar and Harry Sweet play sidekicks to William Boyd and Ginger Rogers. These are not lost films, merely gems to watch for on TCM or at a Cinecon.  Publicity for Edgar and success with the project may lead to unearthing the lost “Lemon Meringue” short, which reportedly contains the largest pie fight ever staged.  My greatest hope is that “The Edgar Kennedy Show” will start others on the same joyous path of discovery.  

Edgar’s RKO shorts are sure-fire crowd pleasers TODAY that every film fan will love to discover for themselves.  Try it!  You can watch many hilarious Edgar "Clips of the Week" starting with "Rough on Rents."  However, the challenge of getting new fans to watch anything old, from Laurel and Hardy to the Charley Chase, is immense, and fewer have even heard of Edgar Kennedy.  This is where all of you can help!  Please visit Edgar on Kickstarter, show your support and pass the link along to friends.  More information is in this Press Release which may also be shared to help spread the word.

Many thanks for helping to restore "Thanks Again" (1931) as the first step toward rediscovering Edgar Kennedy, his Slow Burn and his RKO sitcom short subjects.





Saturday, August 31, 2013

Edgar Kennedy in Cartoons

Comedian Edgar Kennedy joined Mack Sennett in 1913 as an original Keystone Kop in "The Bangville Police." He both acted and directed with Chaplin, Arbuckle, Ben Turpin and all the Sennett comics in the early days.  In 1928 Edgar went to Hal Roach and is well remembered today as Kennedy the Cop and other roles with Laurel and Hardy, Thelma Todd, Charlie Chase and Our Gang.  His most famous part is the lemonade vendor in the Marx Brothers "Duck Soup."

Edgar hit his stride in the 1930s and '40s appearing in dozens of features while starring in his own Average Man RKO series that produced 103 two-reel comedies from 1931 to 1948. Edgar became world famous for his slow-burn/face-wipe reaction to life's indignities.  It comes as little surprise that such a comic icon made his mark in cartoons as well.

Newspaper cartoonist Fontaine Fox created the comic strip "Toonerville Folk" in 1908.  It's look at the oddball denizens and foibles of a small town on the edge of a big city (i.e. suburbs) became so popular that the strip ran until 1955. The Toonerville Trolley to and from town and run by The Skipper was central to many gags.  One of the richly sketched characters was the town bully Mickey McGuire, who was played in late silent/early sound shorts by Mickey Rooney.  Another character that caught on with readers was "The Terrible Tempered Mr. Bang" as pictured here in a one panel strip.

No evidence suggests that Edgar Kennedy's emerging personality in his Roach and RKO series is based on Mr. Bang.  In fact Edgar rarely blows his top. His patience is pushed to the limit until he finds grudging acceptance of his fate and lets it all out in his trademark slow burn. What Mr. Bang did was introduce audiences to a man severely tested and to the inherent humor in losing one's temper. Edgar at Hal Roach was tested often with disregard for his authority as a policeman by Laurel and Hardy in "Leave 'Em Laughing" (1928), as Uncle Edgar with the gouty foot that gets bopped a dozen times in "A Perfect Day" (1929), as the recipient of ice cream cones to his head in "A Pair of Tights" (1929) and more. Edgar refined Mr. Bang's outbursts into simmering slow burns at RKO.

How about Edgar's influence on animated cartoon characters in the movies?  Who was often frustrated to the point of glowering, simmering and seething with rage until he could take no more and blew his stack? As his opening theme song goes:

Who's got the sweet disposition?
One guess guess who.
Who never never starts an argument?
Who never shows a bit of temperament?
Who's never wrong, but always right?
Who'd never dream of starting a fight?
Who gets stuck with all the bad luck?
No one, but Donald Duck.

Wikipedia: Donald's two dominant personality traits are his short temper and his positive outlook on life. Many Donald shorts start with Donald in a happy mood, without a care in the world until something comes along and spoils his day. His anger is a great cause of suffering in his life. On multiple occasions, it has caused him to get in over his head and lose competitions. There are times when he fights to keep his temper, and he sometimes succeeds in doing so temporarily, but he always returns to his normal angry self in the end.

Edgar Kennedy developed his similar character in the late 1920s, made his first RKO short in 1931 and had laid claim to the gesture and term "slow burn" by the mid-1930s.  Donald first appeared in 1934's "The Wise Little Hen" and it took a few years to refine his character, a major facet of which was blowing his stack after repeated aggravations.  This model sheet at first glance appears to be a guide to 1940s Donald Duck animators, although it was drawn by 1990's Disney comics cartoonist Pat Block.  Enlarge it to read the comment: "Sometimes it's funny to let Donald react to a situation.  He boils awhile before exploding."

So there is a strong case that Edgar influenced Donald, but they are not that close.  Donald blows up and Edgar tries not to.  No physical resemblance, that's for sure, but another cartoon character does look like Edgar, has a temper problem he tries to control and his cartoon plots could have been written for Edgar!

Is "Pop" bald under that hat?
Andy Panda first appeared in the 1939 Walter Lantz Universal cartune "Life Begins for Andy Panda."  Andy is still famous today for his many theatrical cartoons made through 1949 and as Woody Woodpecker's pal in comic books.  It's Andy's father or "Pop" that has so much in common with Edgar Kennedy.

One of my earliest childhood memories is watching an 8mm, black and white, silent version of "Crazy House" (1940), again and again from the age of four on.  It ran about 12 minutes at 8mm "silent" speed and included inter-titles like all silents.  On a dark and stormy night Andy and Pop drive through a storm and right into a deep puddle. At the bottom of the pond Pop has to count to ten to simmer down. Later they find refuge in a carnival fun house that is closed for the season. Trying to get a drink from a fountain also tests Pop's patience as every little annoyance does. "Count to ten," Andy keeps reminding him. In the fade-out gag, again at the bottom of that pond, he turns purple with rage, counts down from ten by 2s and so cools down to normal in alternate stripes.

Pop did not appear in that many cartoons, but 1940's "Knock Knock" was memorable as the first cartoon with future star Woody Woodpecker. You can see how well they got along. Simple plots like "Get bird off roof" drove most of Edgar Kennedy's two-reelers.

In 1941 Pop soloed in "Andy Panda's Pop" in which Andy does not even appear, although Mrs. Panda does briefly.  The plot is pure Edgar Kennedy:  Andy's Pop asks the local roofing company if they will repair his shoddy roof. He is quickly turned off by the exorbitant price and determines, "I'll fix it myself!" Naturally, Pop isn't the most skilled of workers but does his best anyway. Unfortunately, his best turns to his worst when an annoying pelican distracts him by making the roof his new home. Pop angrily tries to rid himself of the feathered pest (who just wants to mind his own business) and destroys the roof more than ever in the process. Admitting defeat, he again calls the roofing company only to be irately told, "FIX IT YOURSELF!!!" 

Edgar made the short "I'll Fix It" in 1941 as well, in which he tries to install a new hot-water heater, but the theme of him and the family fixing something they should never mess with goes way back to repairing an airplane in "Thanks Again" (1931).  Edgar Kennedy had firmly staked out his character by the mid-1930s.  His slow burn was famous the world over.  Any cartoon that borrowed Edgar's mannerisms was an homage to the comedian and to the comedy inherent in repressed anger.


For whatever reasons, Walter Lantz did not use Pop again but preferred the cuter, smaller and decidely less complex Andy Panda, while Woody was left to do battle with Wally Walrus and Buzz Buzzard. This was probably best for Edgar Kennedy, who didn't need an angry, bald cartoon rival.

Far less enduring than Edgar Kennedy, and far angrier, Mr. Bang is featured in the 1936 Van Beuren cartoon "Trolley Ahoy." 




The Edgar Kennedy Restoration Project aims to find and restore Edgar's 103 RKO shorts, starting with "Thanks Again" (1931).  Please visit Edgar on Facebook and "Like" Edgar.
Cartoon fans -- check daily for the latest news at Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research!

Coming soon -- The Slow Burn Challenge!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Meet Edgar Kennedy's Un-Average Families!

"I'll Build It Myself"
Jack Rice, Dot Farley, Edgar Kennedy, Florence Lake.
Edgar Kennedy's 103 Average Man RKO shorts were kept fresh over 17 years by creative plots and a shifting cast of supporting actors. Not only did actors come and go but the in-law relationships changed as writers and directors experimented to find the perfect formula to frustrate Edgar for maximum laughs.  In most films Edgar does have a wife with assorted in-laws added as needed. The family often takes on a new project and fails collectively such as:

a) Finding a bottle of champaign, the family builds a boat so they can christen it. (#7-Giggle Water)

b) The family goes into the interior decorating business. (#13-Good Housewrecking)

c) The family goes on vacation in their new trailer.  (#94-Heading for Trouble)

d) The family decides to jar their own fruit preserves. (#102-Home Canning)

Florence and Edgar
In others the family tries to e) adopt a baby, f) run a gas station, g) manage a department store, h) build a cabin in the mountains, i) confront an irate landlord, j) open a diner, etc.  "Try" is a key word as you can guess how most efforts turn out.

It's time to meet Edgar's two main families plus variations and the actors who portrayed them.

The first family in "Lemon Meringue" (1931) consisted of Edgar's wife (Florence Lake), her Mother (Dot Farley) and Brother (Billy Eugene), the dreaded In-Laws that live under the same roof sponging off poor Edgar and making his every waking moment ... trying, to say the least. This same cast finished the series from 1944 to 1948 with the exception of Jack Rice replacing Billy Eugene as Brother.

Florence Lake was the sister of Arthur Lake who played Dagwood Bumstead in the Blondie movies.  (Florence even played Blondie on the radio for a period while Penny Singleton was pregnant.) She met Harry Sweet in 1929, who cast her as Edgar's wife in the prototype "Rough House Rhythm" (1931).  She described her role: "I was the dumb blonde talkative wife.  The lines were not written, the script just said Florence ad libs."  Her ditzy chatter often became so annoying that Edgar spoke for the audience when he screamed: "Florence ... (pause) ... Shut up!"  Still there was a certain onscreen respect and affection between them, which was desperately needed to ward off the In-Laws.

Dot Farley, Ben Turpin
and Jimmy Finlayson.
Dot Farley forever made her mark as the meddling, nagging mother-in-law from hell.  She first acted with Edgar way back in 1913 in "The Bangville Police" and was in short comedies through the silent era with Ben Turpin, Billy Bevan, Mack Swain and others at Sennett.  How Edgar put up with "Mother" in short after short is a mystery.  How much frustration can one man take was of course the set up for laughter.  Edgar could only take so much and usually melted into a slow burn at the fade-out.  There were exceptions that kept the series fresh.  "Edgar Hamlet" (1935) ends with Wife, Mother and Brother all paying Edgar sincere compliments for his rendition of Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy.

Billy Eugene was the first to play Florence's brother, or Edgar's Brother-In-Law.  "Brother," as Edgar often called him, was a loafing bum without a job who took delight in hiding behind Florence while needling Edgar. Some plots had Edgar trying to get Brother married or into a job, anything to get him to move out. Billy Eugene was in the first 18 Average Man shorts until he disappeared from films after "In Laws Are Out" in 1934.

Jack Rice stepped right into the Brother shoes without a lost beat in "A Blasted Event" (1936). Jack also appeared in the 1940s Blondie features as Ollie.  It is jarring to see him show up in several Edgar shorts as different characters.  In "Baby Daze" (1939) he plays an expectant father in the waiting room, and in "T'Aint Legal" (1940) he delivers a $5,000 prize check for Edgar being so happily married. Both films were made during a transition period when the brother-in-law character had been written out.

Florence Lake left the series suddenly after "Dummy Ache" in 1936.  She popped up in 1938's "Ears of Experience" (1938) with Jack as Brother and Bill Franey as her Father who lived with them instead of Mother Dot, and again in "Two for the Money" with Dot and Jack in 1942.  Flo returned to the series to stay in "Radio Rampage" (1944). One reason she dropped out may have been a drinking problem which she eventually overcame and led her to preach against the evils of drink from then on.  Edgar's biographer, Bill Cassara, has these thoughts on the series changes during the years 1936 to 1942:

"In retrospect Edgar did appear to have two families during the 17 year run.  Many factors came into play.  The series only lasted until the end of the year with no guarantees for a long run.  If there were salary increase demands, that could partly explain the first turnover.  Billy Franey was an old pal of Edgar's and getting him on board may have actually saved money (eliminating the brother-in-law character).  That all changed when Franey unexpectedly died.  Also, Florence filled in on radio during the time Penny Singleton was doing the "Blondie" series.  The Edgar series was always popular with middle America and no one took much notice of the family changes.  For everyone to come back into the fold was a nice capper to the series."

Two experiments right after "Dummy Ache" found Edgar soloing.  In "Vocalizing" (1936) he takes a singer home from her concert and soon becomes her chauffeur.  In "Hillbilly Goat" (1937) Edgar is a traveling salesman in the Ozarks who encounters a love-starved widow.  He may have had a family back home but since they don't figure in the plots we will never know.  Both were funny films, but the Average Man is a married man, so the family quickly returned though in a new dynamic.

Vivien Oakland and Bill Franey
in "Drafted in the Depot" (1940)
Vivien Oakland turned up as Edgar's wife in "Bad Housekeeping" (1937) and played "Vivien" in 21 shorts through "An Apple in His Eye" (1941).  Vivien was a Hal Roach veteran who worked with Charlie Chase in "Mighty Like a Moose" (1927) and Laurel and Hardy in "We Faw Down" (1928), "Way Out West" (1937) and others.  While portraying Mrs. Kennedy, she also played Leon Errol's wife a few times in his RKO shorts series.

In sharp contrast to Florence's dumb blonde, Vivien Oakland kept Edgar in his place with acerbic sarcasm of her own.  He knew she was right most of the time and so tried to become the husband she expected.  Her strong character replaced the need for a mother-in-law presence. Hmm, what if Edgar also lived with a father-in-law?

Bill Franey first appeared with Edgar in "Dummy Ache" (1936) and played various roles in most of the shorts thereafter until his early death in 1940 at only 51, although he looked like he was 71! Bill was a good friend of Edgar's in real life but a relentless tyrant in the shorts to rival the mother-in-law figure he replaced.  In fact he became Vivien's father or "Pop" in "Edgar and Goliath" in 1937 and the role stuck. When it looks like Edgar and Vivien might not have been married for ten years in "T'Aint Legal" (1940), Franey kicks Edgar out of "her" house and tries to turn him in to the police.

Other actresses stepped in to play Wife from time to time during the period Florence was away.  Irene Ryan, later famous as Granny on "Beverly Hillbillies," was Wife in "Hold Your Temper" and "Indian Signs," both 1940, with Dot Farley and Jack Rice in their familiar roles.  Vivian Tobin is Wife in the hilarious "Kennedy's Castle" (1938) with Franey as the live-in Pop.  Comedian Sally Payne, fresh from playing Gabby Hayes' daughter in Roy Rogers westerns, played Wife six times in 1941 and 1942.  Pauline Drake played Wife in three films 1943-'44.

Florence Lake returned for good in "Radio Rampage" (1944) along with Dot Farley and Jack Rice through the last film in the series, "Contest Crazy" (1948).  The family dynamic remained true to Harry Sweet's original concept back in 1931 and never seemed to grow stale. The films were as funny as ever.  Many classic scenes came from this final, definitive family circle like the ring swallowed by a chicken in "Feather Your Nest," the washing machine carried up a long flight of stairs in "It's Your Move," tobacco shortages from the war in "What, No Cigarettes?," beef shortages in "The Big Beef," and "I'll Fix It Myself" which is self explanatory.

The Average Man series had an unprecedented 17-year run in the movies with largely the same cast and set the stage for "I Love Lucy," "Ozzie and Harriet," "I Married Joan," "Amos 'n' Andy," "My Little Margie" and so many TV sit-coms to come.

One can easily envision "The Trouble with Edgar" becoming television's first smash situation comedy with Florence, Dot and Jack repeating their roles with perhaps a cute kid next door thrown in. Instead that honor went to "The Trouble with Father" starring June and Stu Erwin that debuted in 1950.  (I am sure someone will point me to an earlier TV sit-com.)  It could have been Edgar, except for his untimely death in 1948 at the age of 58.  However, I don't think he would have gone into TV at that point in his career since he was better paid for making six two-reelers a year at RKO and was in high demand in A-comedies like his final film "My Dream is Yours" (1949) with Doris Day.

In "Will Power" (1936) Edgar sends himself a phony telegram so he can fake a heart attack so that while he is sick Brother will be forced to find a job.  The family rallies around Edgar with some concern.


Photos are courtesy of Dennis Atkinson and his RKO Comedy Classics.

Please visit the Edgar Kennedy Restoration Project on Facebook and "Like" Edgar.

More information about the upcoming Kickstarter campaign, an original Slow Burn Edgar music video and plans for The Edgar Kennedy Show are at the Edgar website.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Birth of the Average Man!

In 1930 Edgar Kennedy was second banana for every comedian on the Hal Roach lot -- Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang, Harry Langdon, Charley Chase and The Boy Friends.  He often played Kennedy the Cop and even tried his hand directing Charley Chase and Thelma Todd in "All Teed Up" and the Boy Friends in "Bigger and Better."  But there didn't seem to be an opening at Roach for Edgar to star.  His popular cop character was the butt of jokes, requiring little comic talent, and could easily be replaced by Roach stalwart Tiny Sandford.

Edgar did freelance work outside Roach that same year in two comedy shorts for Pathé in which he co-starred with perennial drunk Arthur Houseman: "Help Wanted, Female" and "Next Door Neighbors," directed by Harry Sweet.

Also in 1930-'31 fledgling studio RKO Radio Pictures was putting together their own short subject department that flourished until the studio closed in the mid-1950s.  Leonard Maltin tells the story in "The Great Movie Shorts" (Crown, 1972):

Edgar Kennedy & Harry Sweet
"In the early days of sound, several companies -- FBO, Pathé, and Radio Pictures -- were gradually merged together.  At first they tried to maintain separate entities, but finally they came together as RKO Radio Pictures.  In the merger stages, a permanent short-subject department was formed under the direction of Harry Sweet, a writer-director-comic.  Gloria Morgan, a script supervisor on the shorts, remembers him as "a very gentle, funny man with a delicious sense of humor."

"Sweet initiated several series, most notably Edgar Kennedy's "Mr. Average Man" comedies, and directed many himself.  He also starred in a number of shorts and supervised other comedies being made at the time with Clark and McCullough, the Masquers Club, etc.  When he died in a plane crash, producer Lou Brock took over the short-subject program and stayed on for many years."

Harry Sweet acted in more than 60 films starting in 1919.  One may spot him as Edgar's pal in "Carnival Boat" (1932) with William Boyd and Ginger Rogers, or watch his last comedy short "Just a Pain in the Parlor" (aka. "How Comedies Are Born"). Harry also directed 58 comedy shorts from 1920 to 1933 and is credited as writer on 27 of them.  Two comic spirits more kindred than Edgar and Harry may never have existed.

Sweet made two "Whoopie Comedies" teaming Edgar with screen wife Florence Lake during the transition period to the RKO shorts.  "Rough House Rhythm" was released 4/5/1931 and "All Gummed Up" followed on 5/24/1931.  Neither film are available for viewing, but the plot of "Rough House Rhythm" involves Edgar and Florence getting married and setting up housekeeping with Flo's brother sharing the same cramped dwelling.  In "All Gummed Up" the nagging mother-in-law (played by Louise Carver) was added and William Eugene was cast as "Brother."

Dot Farley, Edgar Kennedy and William Eugene
in "Lemon Meringue."
The stage was set for the first official "Average Man" film that was released by RKO on Aug. 3, 1931.  At the last minute Dot Farley, who first acted with Edgar in 1913, filled in for Louise Carver and hung around to irk Edgar through 1948 as "Mother."

Louella Parsons announced in her syndicated column:  "RKO-Pathé believes that daily happenings in the life of the ordinary citizen will furnish enough comedy for a series of short subjects.  They have signed Edgar Kennedy, who has appeared in innumerable Laurel and Hardy comedies, to play the lead in Mr. Average Man, with Harry Sweet directing.  The first of the series, "Lemon Meringue," starts this week and included in the cast with Mr. Kennedy are Dot Farley, Florence Lake and William Eugene."

An exhibitor at the time wrote about the film: "A Mr. Average Man comedy, featuring Edgar Kennedy.  His mother-in-law and brother-in-law with the aid of his wife, get him to open a restaurant and quit his regular salary job.  The action takes place just before the opening on the hash house.  The timing of the gags is pretty close to perfect, and it works up to a good old slapstick finish with pies being thrown regardless." Edgar later bragged about being hit in the face with pies 164 times in a single movie.

Is your mouth watering to see this film?  Can you taste the lemon?  Sadly, "Lemon Meringue" is the holy grail of all sound comedy shorts because it is the very first of Edgar's 103 RKO shorts, it reportedly contains the largest pie fight of all time (who would not love to see that?) and it is presently LOST.  The film was never released to television in the 1950s, the Library of Congress and other american film archives have no material, and virtually no one has seen the film since it's original release.  There is always hope that a print lies hidden in some foreign archive, or that a 16mm print struck in the 1930s or 40s for home use might yet resurface.

The second film in Edgar's RKO series, "Thanks Again," does exist in 35mm although it has been seen by few since it was not in the 1950s TV package.  The plot involves the family acquiring a single prop airplane, which they must first repair in a hanger before a bizarre accident somehow puts Edgar in the cockpit flying wild during the climax.

Harry Sweet wrote and directed 13 shorts with Edgar Kennedy -- "Next Door Neighbors" for Pathé in 1930, the two Whoopie Comedy precursors to the Average Man in 1931 and the first 10 shorts in the RKO series.  Without question Sweet was the architect of Edgar's domestic comedy shorts that ran for 103 episodes until Edgar's passing in 1948.  The format then morphed into the well-loved TV sit-coms typified by "Trouble with Father," "I Married Joan," "Ozzie and Harriet," "I Love Lucy," "The Honeymooners" and so many more.

Harry Sweet's final Edgar Kennedy short is "Good Housewrecking" released June 16, 1933.  The family tries their hand at interior decorating, to naturally disastrous results as you can see in this excerpt:


The Edgar Kennedy shorts directed by Harry Sweet
Next Door Neighbors (1/28/30) - Pathé
Rough House Rhythm (4/5/31) - A Whoopie Comedy, forerunner to Average Man - Lost
All Gummed Up (5/24/31) - Whoopie Comedy, forerunner to Average Man - Lost
Lemon Meringue (8/3/31) - RKO. First official Average Man short - Lost
Thanks Again (10/5/31) - Earliest preserved film in the series.
Camping Out (12/14/31) - Lost, or let's say "present whereabouts unknown."
Bon Voyage (2/22/32) - Whereabouts unknown.
Mother-in-Law's Day (4/25/32) - An Edgar short with the same title was released in 1945.
Giggle Water (6/27/32) - Rare, but Library of Congress has materials.
The Golf Chump (8/5/32) - earliest Average Man short released to TV in the 1950s.
Parlor, Bedroom and Wrath (10/14/32)
Art in the Raw (2/24/33)
Good Housewrecking (6/16/33)

The above quotes are from Leonard Maltin's "The Great Movie Shorts" and from Bill Cassara's "Edgar Kennedy - Master of the Slow Burn."

Photos are courtesy of Dennis Atkinson and his RKO Comedy Classics.

Please visit The Edgar Kennedy Restoration Project on Facebook and LIKE Edgar.