Saturday, February 13, 2016


A Review of RUBBER HEELS from LIBERTY, August 20, 1927.

Reblogged from

Why Famous Stage Comedians Flop on the Screen

An article by Frederick James Smith

Ed Wynn, the musical-comedy star, recently made an excursion into motion pictures. He filmed RUBBER HEELS for Paramount Pictures -- and then retired for a rest.

Wynn is not the first footlight comedian to dive in and out of the films. Raymond Hitchcock was one of the first to try it, back in the old Keystone days. Before that he did a comedy for the Lubin company, which made burlesques in Philadelphia. Hitchcock was a flop. He is still dabbling in pictures now and then. Recently he played a circus mountebank in THE MONKEY TALKS.

Fred Stone tried three comedies with the Famous Players-Lasky corporation, and established a high-water mark in failures. He made two more comedies, and these also failed. Stone's buffoonery simply did not photograph.

The most recent instance of an in-again-out-again comedian is Eddie Cantor. Cantor made three comedies for Famous Players, the last of which, THE GIRL FRIEND, has not yet been released. Then he announced his definite return to the footlights. He will star for Flo Ziegfeld, Jr.

Will Rogers was more successful, although he has never had the crowds storming at the box-office windows. The ex-Oklahoma cowboy made a number of pictures for Goldwyn, Famous Players, Pathé, and other companies. He has had at least three screen classics -- JUBILO, ONE GLORIOUS DAY, and the two-reel satire, TWO WAGONS, BOTH COVERED -- to his credit. Mr. Rogers is going to try the films again shortly, devoting his spare time to the job of mayor of Beverly Hills.

W. C. Fields tried the pictures several times, finally scoring a hit in D. W. Griffith's SALLY OF THE SAWDUST; and he is now co-starring for Famous with Chester Conklin. His next few comedies will buy him either a Hollywood bungelow or a return ticket to Broadway. Leon Errol, with his fadeaway leg, was still another film failure.

Why do so many Broadway comedians flop on the screen? Because too much is expected of them at the start, and because they have none of the resources of a trained film maker. Harold Lloyd and others maintain their batteries of gag men. They take months developing their comedies, timing their laughs, putting in and taking out episodes. The footlight comedians are rushed through their repertoire of stage tricks -- and fail.

Ed Wynn did not even wait for the public reception of RUBBER HEELS. He returned to the New York stage voluntarily.

RUBBER HEELS is a comedy of a boob detective. Wynn is Homer Thrush, the man of many disguises. Chester Conklin, incidentally, is the master mind of the underworld. One of the comic thrills comes when Wynn is floated out to the crest of Niagara Falls on a chest. Wynn actually did the stunt, after the double looked at the slender cable designed to hold the chest from bobbing over the cataract, and decided to make no further sacrifices for art.

Wynn tried RUBBER HEELS to get a rest from the rigors of touring with a musical revue.

He was born in Philadelphia in 1886. His father ran a ladies' millinery establishment. You can trace the millinery influence in the way Wynn, for years, has extracted comedy from trick hats -- they also figure in RUBBER HEELS.

The comedian did not want to be a ladies' milliner. So he ran away and went on the stage. He was hissed off when he did his first act, a near-comic monologue. Wynn played in vaudeville and then made his musical-comedy debut in The Deacon and the Lady. Engagements in the Follies and at the New York Winter Garden followed.

He was just launching into footlight stardom when the actors' strike of 1920 occurred. Wynn, at the moment the highest salaried actor on Broadway, joined the strike and became the leader of the insurgents. He made furious speeches up and down Broadway, to the delight of large crowds.

With the strike won, Wynn found himself unpopular with the defeated producers and so became his own producer. His first revue starring himself was The Ed Wynn CarnivalThe Perfect Fool and The Grab-Bag followed.

Wynn writes lyrics and music of songs; he is the author of several humorous books; and he does a newspaper syndicate feature. In private life he is the husband of Frank Keenan's daughter, and an inhabitant of that famous Long Island town of actor folk, Great Neck.

RUBBER HEELS? A fairly entertaining satire â la Mack Sennett, but minus the old Sennett tang. Only Sennett could laugh at life in just the right key.


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