Wheeler and Woolsey - RKO Comedy Classics Collection
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The comedy gets delivered – in spades! – in this collection of no less than nine rollicking pictures starring RKO’s comedy kings, Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey. And there are lovely guest stars galore – such as Lupe Velez, Betty Grable, Thelma Todd and Dorothy Lee. This 4-Disc, 9-Film Collection is sure to quench your comedy thirst! Includes: Half Shot At Sunrise (1930), Hook, Line and Sinker (1930), Cracked Nuts (1931), Caught Plastered (1931), Hold 'Em Jail (1932), Hips, Hips, Hooray (1934), The Nitwits (1935), Mummy's Boys (1936), High Flyers (1937).
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Although I've loved these films all my life, I was late in discovering Wheeler and Woolsey. Other reviews on this page share some of their background. Well-oiled Vaudeville veterans, movie producers teamed them in a collaboration that clearly was meant to be! If you are reading this review and debating whether to invest in their films, I might suggest you ask yourself if you enjoyed classic George Burns comedy? Well, the cigar-chomping Robert Woolsey evokes a bit of that Burns style, although Woolsey clearly had a greater range of comic, musical and even dancing talent than Burns. The curly haired Bert Wheeler might be thought of as Woolsey's Gracie Allen or perhaps Dean Martin's Jerry Lewis in their funniest movies. What's so great about Wheeler and Woolsey is that both men could crack jokes, warble a clever tune and occasionally carry off carry off dance numbers that usually focus on novelty effects.
I'm also so pleased that Warner Brothers archives produced this collected set with fine copies of the films. These are clear and fun to watch. If you've invested in early movies, you've probably hit a few grainy, poorly reproduced knock offs. This set is high quality.
Enjoy! And don't forget there is a Volume 2 to this series that you may want if you enjoy this first one.
It's tempting to compare W&W slightingly to the Marx Brothers because their comedy tends to be anarchic like the Marxs'; but you have to let go of that and accept them for what they are. They aren't second-rate Marx imitators (in fact, they were on the scene first); they have their own consistent personas and their own comic style. Wheeler is a fast talker, and Woolsey, surprisingly, is a romantic lead, albeit a rather childish one; and the pair generally have good-guy roles--helping destitute widows, and the like.
So far, I've really enjoyed "Hips, Hips, Hooray" and "Half Shot at Sunrise". In fact, "Half Shot" seems to have had quite a large budget, with lots of special effects, elaborate sets, and a large cast of extras. The others have been enjoyable, too, if on a slightly lesser level.
Oh, and Thelma Todd is very appealing in "Hips".
Edit: I should mention that I have had some problems with playback on these discs. A couple times the action froze, then started up again, and last night "Half Shot at Sunrise" stopped (twice) just before the finale (although a few days earlier, it had played perfectly well). I am returning the set to the vendor, and have ordered another copy. Hopefully second time's the charm!