waterworks each weeknight at ten
When The Artist won Best Picture at the 85th Oscars in February it marked the first time a silent film had reigned since the very first Oscar ceremony. Some articles on this unexpected throwback and French import mentioned modern filmmakers like Guy Maddin who've experimented with the silent form but strangely Mel Brooks' Silent Movie (1976) was rarely discussed. That's a shame since it might be the closest precedent to The Artist. It was also a widely released comedy about Hollywood and it's also very funny... at least in that shameless Mel brooks kind of way. There's another odd coincidence. Like The Artist it's sole line of dialogue comes from a famous Frenchmen.
The plot of Silent Movie is a simple laundry line on which to hang comic setpieces. Mel Brooks (as "Mel Funn") wants to make a silent movie and the powers that be in Hollywood won't let him unless he convinces the biggest film stars to participate. Since this is the 1970s that means Paul Newman, Liza Minnelli, Anne Bancroft (Mrs Mel Brooks but playing herself), Bernadette Peters and the like.
At one point, Mel Brooks and frequent comic foils Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise pile into a tiny car and look for Burt Reynolds house. 'Are you sure Burt Reynolds lives on this street?' Brooks asks with frustration before the camera cuts to a huge mansion with Burt's face on it. Haha ...oh, the vanity of world famous sex symbols. After a few failed attempts to enter his house and access his celebrity will the filmmakers give up?
The camera finally finds the actual mustachioed 70s superstar enjoying a steamy shower.
Burt, a good sport to joke about his own vanity like this, is making 'how you doin'?' faces and blowing kisses into the shower mirror. Burt works up quite a lather after the jump...
As Burt lathers himself up the joke switches from character humor to sight gag.
Mel, Dom and Marty will stop at nothing to woo their stars!
Speaking of good sports... Marty Feldman always let his bizarre looks work as a final straw punchline. Burt was enjoying the extra helping hands with his lather but now he's thoroughly freaked out.
Don't drop the soap Burt!*
Can you imagine any of today's directors lathering up with the stars? Some people will stop at nothing for their art.
* Silent Movie is unfortunately fond of the gay joke -- one punchline even involves a title card with "fags" written on it -- but it was 1976. That said the movie is very very funny in spots, especially when Bernadette Peters provides some va va voom to the proceedings.
Yesterday's Shower: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo