Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thank God the Hays Code Saved Us from Stuff Like This

Every time I find myself inclined to believe that the moviemakers of yesteryear can do no wrong, I come across a movie like 1933's Meet the Baron. A pre-Code comedy starring a very unfunny Jimmy Durante and a deservedly obscure forerunner of Mel Brooks named Jack Pearl, Meet the Baron is best known today for being the first movie to feature the Three Stooges. Unfortunately, the Stooges do not have too much screen time and most of the screen time they do have is shared with their former leader Ted Healy, a rotund, balding man who combined the appearance of Edgar "Slow Burn" Kennedy with the personality of Moe Howard to create a persona whose popularity can be best determined by the fact that few Three Stooges fans today even bother to mention his name.

There is one sequence in the movie that I found worth watching: a campy Art Deco musical sequence that takes place entirely within the women's shower room. Of course, judging from the number of bad accents that I heard in this sequence, most of the women in this number seemed to have been hired more for their willingness to appear on screen in various states of undress than for their singing ability. However, I still found the sequence to be more entertaining than it deserved to be, and I found myself quite sorry when the music stopped halfway through the song. Especially since there was not one scene as entertaining as that sequence in the rest of the movie.

Yet I can't help thinking how likely it was that that same sequence would have been cut out of the movie altogether had it been made just a few years later. Too bad the Hays Code could not have protected moviegoers from the rest of the movie.

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