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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

It’s no Tinkers to Evers to Chance but here’s why these three names came upon me today.

Last night I watched a movie on TCM called Million Dollar Legs with W. C. Fields. I had never seen this particular film before but I was intrigued by the opening credits when I saw the name Susan Fleming. Since the film was made in 1932 I did what we’re often taught not to do, I “assumed” that the Susan Fleming in question was none other than the future wife of Harpo Marx. This time, my assumption was quite correct. As I am a huge Harpo Marx fan, I was curious to watch a full film performance by the future Mrs. Marx.  Her acting was nothing spectacular but in all fairness, the part she played didn’t give her a whole helluva lot with which to play. It must be noted, however, that she was in the parlance of the day, quite a looker.

The film was an odd, almost surrealist comedy. Since its production date is 1932, I’m tempted to say that it seems like a precursor to the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup that premiered in theaters the next year. The film and its story, like any great Marx Brothers film, is secondary. The reason to watch the film is W.C. Fields. He was a comedian before his time. The acidic sarcasm that flows from just beneath that fabulously bulbous beak is the kind that you naturally expect from the earliest SNL troupes but not of a vaudeville comedian from the first half of the twentieth century. There are some wonderful character actors in the film like Hugh Herbert and George Barbier but Fields is the center attraction.

So how does ZaSu come into the picture? Well, I noticed from a home-grown list that today is ZaSu Pitts birthday. The distinctive character actress was born on this date in 1894. When I went to YouTube to see what they had on ZaSu this is what I found.

I must admit I’ve never seen Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch but I’ll have to take the time. Fields is almost always brilliant and the combination of two such unique talents is nearly irresistible.

By the way, if you’re anything like me, you’ve spent your entire life mispronouncing ZaSu Pitts’ name. This little clip will eventually get on your nerves but it should certainly teach you the correct way to pronounce Zay-Zoo.

The lovely Thelma Todd and ZaSu Pitts made 17 films together. They were put together by Hal Roach as female counterparts to Laurel and Hardy.

One final treat in honor of Ms. Pitts’ birthday is this hilarious snippet from a film called Sing and Like It! Yet again, this is a film I’ve never seen but I really want to track this one down. If the rest of the movie is as funny as these nine minutes, it can’t miss!

Happy Birthday ZAY-ZOO!!

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