Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Before They Were Critics: David Elliott
Not many people know this, but long before joining The Reader as staff film critic, a youthful David Elliott worked as a Senior Scientist at Boggs Biologics. So successful was he, Monogram Studios produced a two-reeler honoring his work in chemical warfare.
Elliott purportedly has six prints of the hard-to-see patriotic war documentary, What to Do in Case of a Gas Attack -- along with a copy of Jerry Lewis' The Day the Clown Cried, and the missing reels of The Magnificent Ambersons -- resting comfortably inside Louis Vuitton bags at a climate controlled slat flat in Jamul.
Robert Lowery ignites the screen as "David Elliott."
Check this out -- our town's leading cinematic scribe received third billing right behind the female ingenue and Charlie Chan!
I'm just pulling your lariat, but you knew it all along. Hollywood would no sooner make a biopic about David Elliott than they would Patton. Forget about that chromo, Elliott! This is another shameless attempt to extol the virtue of America's most polarizing comedy team, The Three Stooges. These captures were lifted from the fairly obscure Charlie Chan programmer, Murder Over New York (1940), a film that first came to my attention while scanning the dial one Sunday afternoon.
Chicago's WGN-TV dispensed Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan programmers every Sunday afternoon. I was a kid in the pre-cable era with no driver's license, and mounds of snow outside my window. It was either low grade cinema to pass the hours or the NFL. The choice was obvious.
For decades, Holmes/Chan vehicles were strictly off limits, until that fateful Sunday I happened to lift my gaze at just the right moment to spot Shemp, once again on WGN.
This was eight years before Shemp replaced Curly on the Columbia shorts, and decades before racial profiling became the rage. Inspector Donald Macbride ("Jumping Butterballs!" from The Marx Bros. Room Service) assigns his squad-roll to "round up every Hindu in New York." Enter fake fakir Samuel Horowitz as a street person!
Donald Macbride and Shemp Howard.
A sponge and a pail of water (this must have been filmed on Saturday night) and Ouila! From Sādhu to Shemp in seconds!
I saved you 65 minutes. Short of revealing the killer (John Sutton), everything you need to know about Murder Over New York is contained in this post.