Tuesday, June 18, 2024

NFR Project: Shaw and Lee - 'The Beau Brummels' (1928)


The Beau Brummels

Dir: Unknown

Scr: Shaw and Lee

Pho: Unknown

Ed: Unknown

Premiere: September 22, 1928


One of the most bizarre selections from the Film Registry is this gem from 1928, which captures the absurd comedy of vaudeville act Shaw and Lee, here referred to as “the Beau Brummels” (a reference to natty dressing, which these two men definitely don’t indulge in).

The film is one of many Vitaphone shorts. Between 1926 and 1931, Vitaphone was a sound-on-disc recording system that played a record synchronized with the film. When optical soundtracks were incorporated into the celluloid of films, the Vitaphone method was abandoned. Many acts of all kinds were recorded with this system, initially in New York but late on the West Coast as well.

Shaw (Albert Schutzman) and Lee (Sam Levy) worked together for decades. This film was made relatively early in their career. In the film, the two stand side by side. Both engage in complete deadpan, facing the camera and not cracking even a smile. They tell their horrible jokes, sometimes reacting to the other’s punch line with a grimace. Periodically, they begin to speak at the same time, and then turn to each other with a “Huh?”. They flip through some songs selections, and even dance a little. All this they do straight-faced.

Perhaps their deadpan was their solution to recording a routine without an audience – later film of them shows them hamming it up much as other comics do. At any rate, their low-key imperturbable style makes watching the two of them an oddly satisfying experience.

The NFR is one writer’s attempt to review all the films listed in the National Film Registry in chronological order. Next time: Steamboat Bill Jr.

No comments:

Post a Comment