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WHEELER AND WOOLSEY RKO COMEDY CLASSICS COLLECTION – VOLUME TWO 6 FILM COLLECTION

By • Jan 24th, 2017 •

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WHEELER AND WOOLSEY
RKO COMEDY CLASSICS COLLECTION – VOLUME TWO 6 FILM COLLECTION

DIXIANA
THE CUCKOOS
TOO MANY COOKS
EVERYTHING’S ROSIE
COCKEYED CAVALIERS
SILLY BILLIES

A recent leading film re-discovery for modern audiences is the 1930’s comedy movie team Wheeler and Woolsey. Bert Wheeler was a sweet-faced young comic – Zeppo Marx and Jerry Lewis combined. Robert Woolsey was the wise-cracking half who reminds one of George Burns. During the Great Depression they were as popular as The Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy. Their humor was racy, blooming with often shocking ethnic and sexual gags. When vintage comedy films were repackaged for TV release in the 1960’s, the Wheeler and Woolsey films were pushed aside. They were not suitable for the kiddies, which makes them so much fun for modern audiences.

Warner Achieves has released many of the Wheeler and Woolsey films on DVD. Their best comedy, 1933’s DIPLOMANIACS, was released solo. With its wacky tale of fictitious battling countries, it’s a crazier (but not better) cousin to the same year’s DUCK SOUP. In fact cultured Louis Calhern is in both films playing back-stabbing ambassadors. Warners released a collection of nine of their best films, including the lust-driven pre-code treat HIPS HIPS HOORAY. When it came time to release a Volume Two of Wheeler and Woolsey films, the pickings were getting a little slim, but there are still gems.

One of the two best films in Volume Two is DIXIANA, a 1930 musical romance set in old New Orleans. The real stars are the fetching Bebe Daniels, and the final reels of the film in early sparkling Technicolor. The Bebe Daniels romance tends to drag, but the appearance of co-stars Wheeler and Woolsey certainly livens up this film. It would be another year until RKO Pictures decided to give them starring roles.

The other quality comedy film in this collection is 1934’s COCKEYED CAVALIERS. Set in 18th century England, the boys star as two lunatics wandering the countryside. Wheeler is a kleptomaniac who is always trying to vanish with carts and horses. They are mistaken as The King’s Physician. Starring with them is the always fetching Thelma Todd. The film was made after the strict censorship rules of the Production Code came in. Wheeler and Woolsey always relied on the slight shock value of nudity and sometimes gay humor, but in COCKEYED CAVALIERS they make the shackles of censorship work, resulting in classic comedy.

That is not the case with their 1936 comic western, SILLY BILLIES, which is in this set. Other films in Volume Two include TOO MANY COOKS (1931), which is a solo film for Bert Wheeler, and is also rather lean on laughs. Wheeler and young perky Dorothy Lee are troubled newlyweds trying to build a house. Dorothy Lee often worked with Wheeler and Woolsey. Robert Woolsey has a solo film here – the rather entertaining EVERYTHING’S ROSIE (1931). Here Woolsey plays a con artist carnival performer, very much like W.C Fields, but without Fields’ grumbling humor. Like something out of Fields, Woolsey is put in position to adopt an orphaned little girl. The girl grows up to become a lovely teenager (Anita Louise).

Woolsey passed away in 1938, leaving his comedy partner Bert Wheeler to seek out work on his own with little success. For the true Wheeler and Woolsey fan, Volume Two is a must have. If you haven’t discovered these silly boys, start with the surreal, naughty gem DIPLOMANIACS.

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