Monday, September 15, 2008

"The Golden Calf" 1930

“The Golden Calf” is another one of those early 30’s Fox features that infuriatingly does not exist anymore, having turned to dust long ago. But the materials we do have available to us (reviews mostly), show our kid excel in this musical comedy.

“The Golden Calf” starred Jack Mulhall (Philip Homer) and El (Knute Olsen) as 2 artists living in Greenwich Village. The female lead is played by Sue Carol (Marybelle Cobb) and supported by the bubbly and fun Majorie White (Alice). Richard Keene (Tommy) and Paul Page (as Edwards) round out the cast. The film was directed by Millard Webb and was his only talkie for Fox Films. He would go on to direct 2 more productions after this before succumbing to and intestinal ailment on April 21st, 1935.

From the AFI film catalog, here is the synopsis:

“Marybelle Cobb, a plain and old fashioned girl, is secretary to a commercial illustrator Phillip Homer, with whom she is secretly in love. When Homer advertises for a girl with perfect leg measurements to be a model for a hosiery manufacturer’s advertising, Marybelle, with the aid of her friend Alice, decides to transform herself completely and apply for the job. She wins the much sought after appointment against considerable opposition. When Homer’s indifference turns to love, Marybelle confesses the deception and all ends well.”

Harrison’s Reports weekly from April 12th, 1930 goes even further:

“She is an old fashioned girl, and wears old fashioned clothes, until she hears her employer speaking deridingly of her looks” and after she has her beauty transformation “making her look like a million dollars, so beautiful, in fact, that even her own employer failed to recognize her.” Good clean fun, for sure.

An interview that appeared in the Appleton Post-Crescent on April 26th, 1930 we find out about some of the shenanigans that went on during the filming, mainly a scene with El taking a kick to the shin:

In the scene, Brendel persists in “talking out of turn” and Mulhall, to stop him, kicks him in the shin.

After a dozen rehearsals and as many retakes, Brendel’s right shin became very sore.

“Wait a minute,” he told Millard Webb, director, “I’ve got an idea.” The comedian got a thick strip of board, rolled up his trouser leg and tied it securely over his shin. “Now, kick as hard as you want to.”

He told Mulhall. “Make it pop, Jack,” Webb directed. “It will be funnier.”

The scene started and at the psychological moment Mulhall cut loose and with a good kick at El’s shin.

A wild yell from the comedian stopped the scene.

“What’s the matter, El?” Webb asked. “I thought you were prepared.”

“He kicked the other shin,” Brendel moaned.

The New York Times review on May 5th 1930 was certainly not glowing, but it did single out the performances of Marjorie White and El, stating “if it were possible to have more of singing of Marjorie White and of the comics of El Brendel, the photoplay would be more amusing”. The reviews for Jack Mulhall, who’s star was rapidly fading after his meteoric rise in the 20’s, were not very flattering, “Jack Mulhall appears as the employer and is no more than an audible version of the old Mr. Mulhall who used to take girls on Coney Island excursions in First National pictures”. OUCH!

Songs that appeared in the film include “You Gotta Be Modernistic”, “Maybe Someday”, and “Can I Help It If I’m In Love With You?”. Available stills from the production show the sets to be pretty elaborate and the costumes revealing, but I have yet to find one of actor Walter Catlett, who appeared billed as the master of ceremonies.

The film originally starting out called “The American Beauty Review”, and was based on a story called “The Golden Calf” that was published in Liberty Magazine on December 25th, 1926. Early press releases and many reviews (as well as IMDB) refer to this film as “Her Golden Calf”, but all of the post-release and reviews only mention “The…..” and until a film print turns up and tells us otherwise, “The…..” is what it stays.

In an article written for the release of “The Golden Calf”, (The Anniston Star Wednesday April 23rd, 1930) wrote about the character of the clown who in real life never gets the girl and is forever heartbroken, Brendel quipped:

“Not me,” says El, “I’m a happy guy all the time. I have a nice home, a charming wife, a couple of automobiles and money in the bank.”

And, in the early 30’s, a busy film career.


Stacia said...

Great post! I found a still online from "Golden Calf" a few months ago and wondered why I couldn't find much info on the movie -- I had no idea it was lost.

Louie said...

Unless a private collector has one somewhere, it's gone. Another of El's films that I will be writing about in the next few months that's missing is "Hot For Paris". Stay tuned!

Anonymous said...

This looks like a really fun movie...wish we could see it. But thanks to your great assortment of cool pictures at least we can get a good idea of what it's like.
Always nice to see pictures of Marjorie White, but thanks especially for posting so many of the beautiful Sue Carol, someone we just don't get to see enough of. And by the way, if they thought that with the glasses and way she dressed they were making her look homely, plain or unattractive as the secretary in this movie... well it didn't work!

Keep the cool & rare pictures coming!
--- Rich Finegan