The Flying Wombat

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The Young in Heart, 1938, as well as being a satisfying comedy about a family of spongers meeting their match in an innocent old lady, also features possibly the world’s best car showroom:
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The Flying Wombat was actually the 1938 Phantom Corsair, a futuristic prototype designed by Rust Heinz, the ketchup magnate. It’s a beautiful-looking thing, but turned out not to be the car of tomorrow after all.
The film is bursting with up-to-the-minute Thirties style: a couple even have a date at Lubetkin’s modernist penguin pool at London zoo, which had opened four years before.
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E’reway inway ethay Oneymay


Of all the many strange things in ‘Gold Diggers of 1933′, this has to be the strangest. Neon violins: fine. Incongruously downbeat ending with soldiers covered in wounds: OK. But this? “Say! You know this opening number? What would really put this across would be if Ginger Rogers starts to sing We’re In The Money in pig Latin. And she sorta looms up and her face gets really big and threatening? It’ll slay ‘em!”

They Step on Ya! Walk on Ya!


Stop work, it’s Monday afternoon cartoon time (M.A.C.T.), which I believe is now official government policy. What could be more suitable for a rainy Monday than a Tex Avery cartoon about a misanthropic cat? Keep watching for the freaky moon creatures at the end. This version seems to have French subtitles, which makes it also educational.

Get This, You Double-crossing Chimpanzee


I don’t know why I hadn’t realised until recently that an incredibly high percentage of my favourite films – His Girl Friday, Spellbound, Notorious, The Shop Around the Corner, Strangers on a Train, Monkey Business, Where the Sidewalk Ends – were at least partly written by one man, Ben Hecht. Maybe it’s because the British boycotted his work in the Forties and Fifties due to his criticism of their policies in Palestine, so he wrote many of his screenplays anonymously.
His screwball comedies in particular show up where modern rom-coms go wrong with their mild embarrassments and drippy mopings. People were tougher in the Thirties and Forties: there’s nearly always something more serious at stake than humiliation. It might be full of wisecracks but His Girl Friday revolves around preventing the planned execution of a mentally ill murderer, and a desperate woman throws herself out of a window halfway through.

I Walked With a Zombie

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What could be more exciting than the opening titles of old films – as you look at this collection of page after page of movie title stills, you expect to hear the tooting of a fanfare or banging of a gong as the matinee begins. I haven’t seen some of these films but Le Salaire de la Peur or The Wages of Fear is a winner: sweaty truckers on an urgent mission drive a load of nitroglycerine veeeery carefully…
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Amazing Feats of a Fly


This short film showing a fly doing juggling tricks with dumbbells, corks and another fly was made by pioneering filmmaker Percy Smith. By the end it’s sitting in a tiny chair to do its routine. It does seem possible the fly is, er, glued on, although Smith claimed none of the creatures he filmed were any the worse for the experience.
Speechification has a post on a great radio documentary about Smith, as well as a link to another of his films, the Birth of a Flower.

The Mascot


A beautiful stop-motion forerunner of Toy Story by the famous Polish animator Ladislas Starewicz. What’s incredible is how much character he manages to get into the toys, especially the tough safe-cracking doll, and the poor little dog hanging up as a car’s mascot is full of pathos. This version unlike others on YouTube has the original music – you can see parts 2 and 3 here and here.

Easter Imps


For a brief respite from Easter chicks and bunnies, try this vintage cartoon set in hell. What could be better on a bank holiday than this Ub Iwerks classic, which features a dragon being milked for its fire and the best dancing imps you’ll ever see.

So Sad and Alone, in his Little Glass Home


Strange how well animation and sweetly harmonising voices go together in these old 30s cartoons – I don’t know what could be more reassuring. Do you think Hugh Harman just determinedly waited for someone called Rudolf Ising to come along, or were they perhaps having a drink together one day when they went, Hey, hold on a minute…
This one is a sort of goldfish version of the Wizard of Oz – perhaps intentionally, since it came out in the same year.