Jimmy Durante, Lupe Velez
(USDVD release date: 11 Nov 2011)
Jimmy Durante stars as Jimmy Durante, who allegedly plays a vine-swinging hero named Schnarzan in a series of jungle pictures. For a silly reason, he throws a huge bash or wingding or shindig that gets crashed by his jealous, fiery lover Lupe Velez. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy show up to reclaim their lions (I won’t explain), and their feud with Velez is the comic highlight. Another guest is Mickey Mouse. This early in his career, he’s still a half-naked, rude little rodent who gives his host the razzberry before introducing a Technicolor Silly Symphony about an army of chocolate soldiers who invade a gingerbread kingdom and massacre everybody before returning home to cheering crowds.
The musical highlight is Rodgers & Hart’s title song, a sassy, dizzy concoction performed by switchboard operators who get psychedelic in the manner of Busby Berkeley. There’s also a visiting African explorer who seems to be spoofing Groucho Marx’s Captain Spaulding in Animal Crackers (though how can you spoof a spoof?) and who provides an opportunity for limp wristed gags that might be too surreal to count as homophobic (“A chim-pansy!”).
If it all feels like a random throwaway that somehow overspilled the boundaries of what should have been a two-reeler—sister, you said a mouthful. Indeed, the movie is so willfully incoherent, and the product of so many uncredited writers and directors, that Allen Larson wrote an article about it for The Velvet Light Trap called “Hollywood Party, Jimmy Durante, and the Cultural Politics of Coherence”. Incredibly, this made-on-demand disc from Warner Archive includes bonus audio outtakes of rehearsals and deleted songs, so the lost ideal would have been stuffed with even more nonsense.