Monday, October 06, 2008

The Golf Specialist

US 1930. PC: Radio Pictures. P: Lou Brock; D: Monte Brice; DP: Frank Zucker; ED: Russell Sheilds; AD: Ernst Fegté; sd: George Oschmann; cast: W.C. Fields; print: Library of Congress, 2015 ft / 22 min, original in English, e-subtitles in Italian, sound. Viewed at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, 5 October 2008. - Richard Koszarski: "Fields (...) accepted an offer to make one short film for RKO, where his old patron, William Le Baron, was now in charge of production.
A new “major” studio organized on the arrival of talkies, RKO was filming most of its short subject releases in New York (...) The films were made in the modern Gramercy studio on East 24th Street, which David Sarnoff, as part of his continuing battle with AT&T, had equipped with the latest RCA Photophone technology. (...)
Fields had been performing his famous golf sketch at the Palace (his last appearance in vaudeville) just before filming this canned version at Ideal in late April 1930. RKO used the same technical staff for these films that it employed at the Gramercy studio, but was apparently unsatisfied with the Ideal facilities(...)
Unlike the Clark & McCullough series, The Golf Specialist was a stand-alone project which can best be understood as an elaborate screen test for its star, W.C. Fields. His very first line of dialogue, “Any telegrams? Cablegrams? Radios? Televisions?” muttered in his trademark drawl, immediately marks him as one of those vaudevillians, like Will Rogers, whose success in talkies would surpass anything they had achieved in silent pictures. (The reference to television was unusually topical, as several experimental stations were already on the air in New York and New Jersey when this film was shot.)
The Golf Specialist not only presents the best surviving record of a Fields stage routine, but also captures his extraordinarily dark comic persona at its most extreme. There is no trace of the sentimentalizing, seen in both the silent and sound features, which would be added by his handlers to make this character more appealing to a wider public. Just as Erich von Stroheim had challenged audiences by making his protagonist a villain, Fields created this comic version of “the man you love to hate”, a cheat and a coward who hates dogs and robs small children of their pennies. RKO had no further use for Fields or his character, but his film career would flourish once William Le Baron returned to Paramount. Le Baron and Fields would then remake many of their silent features, polishing and perfecting the character of the domesticated householder worn down by home and family. The old routines, and the old character, would be relegated to the background. But before that happened, The Golf Specialist would give audiences one last look at the uncensored version." – Richard Koszarski. - A great remake of the golf sequence in So's Your Old Man.

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