Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New March of Dimes Presents The Scene Stealers (1962)

I’m torn about including The Scene Stealers both in the Keaton week and also on Unseen. It’s essentially an hour long variety show done to promote the March of Dimes and get donations. Despite being listed as the star along with Ed Wynn, Keaton’s not in it that much…on the other hand there are a few laughs and it’s very rarely seen Keaton performace.

The plot of the piece is that Keaton and Ed Wynn are down on their luck sort of fellows. They see some showgirls coming off the Wonder Film Studios and decide to go in and take a look. After an initial rebuff the pair trick their way in an a tandem bicycle next to David Jansen’s car (it looks like they are riding In with him). The pair eventually end up on the soundstage where Jimmy Durante is running through the dress rehearsal for a March of Dimes variety show. This then spins out with the pair being chased around the lot having misadventures when Keaton’s tie gets stuck in a donation can and it’s thought he was trying to steal it. After an hour all is made right and the mistakes is realized…

The real star of the film is Jimmy Durante who does a big production number (which is quite good) and introduces the various bits that make up the “show”. These bits include songs by Eartha Kitt (another good number), Fabian, and Nannette Fabre. There are also some other appearances by other stars in walk ons and short bits.

I know, what of Keaton?

He and Wynn are reduced to running around the studio with security in close pursuit. In all honesty, most of it is a waste, on the other hand there are some really funny bits particularly with with Keaton dressing as a Union Soldier and messing up a piece by James Garner as a rebel general. Another has Keaton fighting to get his tie out of the collection. Keaton’s bits are mostly toss off blackouts but they are good enough to make you wonder why he wasn’t allowed to do more. Actually outside of a bit with Ed Wynn and a series of paintings they are the best thing in this show.

Personally until I saw Keaton as the soldier I was not going to mention this at all but I laughed hard enough that I was like “I’ll mention this and say that if you should ever get a copy of this dropped in your lap you should try it.” Over all it’s not a good piece. Its episodic nature makes it less than the sum of it’s parts, but for free this is worth a look.

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