The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

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Phillyrich

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The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostFri Feb 01, 2013 8:48 am

Having just watched "On The Avenue" with Dick Powell and Alice Faye, I am puzzled by the major role played by the Ritz Brothers in this film. They killed almost every scene they were in. Everything just stops--when they join in. Nearly sank a pleasant musical. What am I missing here?

The Ritzes had to have some public appeal to be featured in so many films of that era. Were they funnier on the vaudeville stage? On radio?

I just don't get their silly wigs, dancing in drag, and simple slapstick. They make the Marx Brothers seem Shakespearean. Heck, they make The Three Stooges seem highbrow.

To me, The Ritz Brothers are why they invented "fast forward." But maybe there is something funny here I just don't understand.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostFri Feb 01, 2013 9:03 am

Ugh. I agree. I think what I dislike most about the Ritz Brothers is that they all did the same lousy act. It's one lousy act times three. The Stooges and the Marxes were all distinct comic types that played off each other. Every 2-person comedy act I can think used this same basic premise with a comic and a straight man. But the Ritzes all did the same schtick at the same time. I avoid them like plague.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostFri Feb 01, 2013 9:05 am

You're not alone, they do nothing for me either. No reason to want to know why.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostFri Feb 01, 2013 9:13 am

I like 'em. YMMV
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostFri Feb 01, 2013 9:23 am

Dumber than the Stooges??? Good God, man, if this is really true (sounds like it is!), get to your neurologist quick--it may not be too late to reverse whatever brain damage you've sustained.
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Pauline Kael and Alan King Loved Harry Ritz

PostFri Feb 01, 2013 10:19 am

Image
Kael was said to be working, at one point, on a Ritz essay or book.
Perhaps Slapsticon attendees can find something in the Lily Library's Kael collection.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2012/03/the-clippings-file-the-ritz-brothers.html
http://www.newrepublic.com/authors/pauline-kael
"Some years ago I attended an evening of mime by Marcel Marceau, an elaborate exercise in aesthetic purification during which the audience kept applauding its own appreciation of culture and beauty, i.e., every time they thought they recognized what was supposed to be going on. It had been bad enough when Chaplin or Harpo Marx pulled this beauty-of-pathos stuff, and a whole evening of it was truly intolerable. But afterward, when friends were acclaiming Marceau’s artistry, it just wouldn’t do to say something like, “I prefer the Ritz Brothers” (though I do, I passionately do). They would think I was being deliberately lowbrow, and if I tried to talk in terms of Marceau’s artistry versus Harry Ritz’s artistry, it would be stupid, because “artist” is already too pretentious a term for Harry Ritz and so I would be falsifying what I love him for."
http://www.geocities.ws/paulinekaelreviews/o2.html
On the Avenue US (1937): One of the best of the 20th Century-Fox musicals of the 30s, despite its unevenness and lack of sophistication. If it had nothing else, it might still be worth seeing for Alice Faye singing the memorable "This Year's Kisses," and it has a lot more: Dick Powell in ebullient voice, the Ritz Brothers doing a parody number, and a first-rate Irving Berlin score that includes I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, Slumming on Park Avenue, and You're Laughing at Me. The love interest involves ever-beautiful, ever-coy Madeleine Carroll, who gurgles when she means to talk, but the director, Roy Del Ruth, doesn't linger on her. He does, blessedly, linger on Harry Ritz, and when this great manic vaudevillian puts on drag and does an imitation of Alice Faye, or when he exercises his eyeballs, you can just barely gasp "dada."
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/pauline-kael-biography-excerpt-brian-kellow-new-york-times-252507?page=3
"Only one trace of her {Kael's} influence on the movie remained: She had insisted that Toback cast her old comedy idol Harry Ritz in a key role. Even that fizzled, however: Toback went to Las Vegas, interviewed Ritz, and agreed that he would be fine in the part. Once filming began at Lorimar, though, Ritz lasted only a single day. “He was confused,” recalled Toback. “He had a lot of trouble with his lines. He didn’t know whether he was any good.” At the end of the day’s shooting, Ritz called Toback into his trailer and begged to be released from the film. “You have to let me go back to Las Vegas,” he said. “I can’t do this. I’m going to embarrass you. I’m going to embarrass the movie. I’m not up to it.” He was replaced by the director King Vidor."

Image "I also loved the Ritz Brothers. The two older ones, Al and Jimmy, belonged to a club with my uncle Hymie, and they danced at my mother's wedding. Not Harry, he was too young. Harry was the little guy in the middle, who rolled his eyes, and I think he was the funniest man who ever lived. When the brothers were working in Miami, they'd stay in the penthouse at the Lord Tarleton Hotel, and every morning, the three of them would get up, walk out onto their balcony, and moon the public. They'd stand there with their asses hanging over the edge, and everyone would say, 'the guy in the middle is the funny one.' "
Last edited by JFK on Sun Jan 01, 2017 9:30 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostFri Feb 01, 2013 10:47 am

Sometimes I like them better than the Marx Bros. There's no question, the Marxes are better, but if I'm in the mood for craziness that is a subtle as a slap in the face with a flounder, then I'll take the Ritz Bros.

And for the record I think Harry Ritz's parody of "Let's Go Slumming" is dead on hilarious and has better pace and timing than the Faye version. Call me prejudiced but I've always thought that 20th C. Fox musicals are like a box of chocolates- a piece or two at a time is fine but eat the whole thing at once and I overload on the sugar.
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Re: Pauline Kael Loved Harry Ritz

PostFri Feb 01, 2013 12:21 pm

JFK wrote:She was said to be working, at one point, on a Ritz essay or book.
Perhaps Slapsticon attendees can find something in the Lily Library's Kael collection



Don't hold your breath. I've found it always very easy to dismiss both Pauline Kael and The Ritz Brothers. Her liking of them has just made it even easier.


RICHARD M ROBERTS
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 7:36 am

Hey, put me in the "Like" column for the Ritz Bros.

:D
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 12:22 pm

Each week in the minutes before Your Show of Shows went on the air, Sid Ceasar would psych himself up by repeating, "Tonight I'm Harry Ritz."

The Ritzes don't do anything at all for me, but they were so highly regarded in their day that they must have had something. I like to think that their best work must've been their live performances on Broadway; maybe they just didn't translate so well to the screen, especially when doing material written and directed by movie people who didn't get them. (Ditto for Clark & McCullough and Olsen & Johnson.)

I wonder how highly we'd regard the Marx Brothers today, if all we had of them on film was Room Service and A Night in Casablanca.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 12:40 pm

Chris Snowden wrote:Each week in the minutes before Your Show of Shows went on the air, Sid Ceasar would psych himself up by repeating, "Tonight I'm Harry Ritz."

The Ritzes don't do anything at all for me, but they were so highly regarded in their day that they must have had something. I like to think that their best work must've been their live performances on Broadway; maybe they just didn't translate so well to the screen, especially when doing material written and directed by movie people who didn't get them. (Ditto for Clark & McCullough and Olsen & Johnson.)

I wonder how highly we'd regard the Marx Brothers today, if all we had of them on film was Room Service and A Night in Casablanca.



Well, that arguement only works if indeed the Ritz Brothers didn't make films that were indeed thought of as Ritz Brother classics and that do work well. The problem is that I see their films that are considered great like THE THREE MUSKETEERS, or sequences like those in ON THE AVENUE that are considered prime Ritz Brother material, and I don't think they're funny.

It's all coming down to a theory I've begun to believe in more and more, and that's that anyone who was loved by primarily New York audiences usually sucks to the rest of the World. I call it the Lou Holtz/Benny Rubin/Ed Wynn/Ritz Brothers/Ben Blue/Every other Friggin New York Comic Theory.

Or we could just call it the Al Jolson Theory.


RICHARD M ROBERTS (watch what you say about A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA, it may have been the Marx Brothers biggest boxoffice hit.)
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 12:43 pm

It was always said that Harry Ritz was the obvious star of the trio, and I agree. He was a naturally very funny guy, and it's easy to see how he could have influenced Sid Ceasar.

The Ritz Bros. may not have made any film classics, but they did some classic numbers on film, such as in On the Avenue, including "He Ain't Got Rhythm" sequence. Mel Brooks, another Harry Ritz admirer, couldn't have topped it. I mean, c'mon, it's genuinely good stuff.
Last edited by westegg on Mon Feb 04, 2013 8:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 1:03 pm

Lou Holtz could be pretty funny - he was a vaudevillian, and certainly not much of an actor.

http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/9610

I agree, Benny Rubin is generally a pain in the ass, especially in features. Still, in CRAZY HOUSE he's quite good - mostly because he's just there to react to the March of Time clips.

Ed Wynn's early talkies are almost complete washouts - maybe three good laughs in each of them. He and the movies weren't ready for each other, it took him decades to slow down and learn to act.

Ben Blue - Richard, there I'm going to agree with you. Ben Blue looked funny, but most of the time he wasn't. He made only one genuinely funny short - and that was when he was the drummer for Jack White and his Montrealers.
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LOU HOLTZ "Maharaja" character BENNY RUBIN Bio

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 2:12 pm

FrankFay wrote:Lou Holtz could be pretty funny - he was a vaudevillian, and certainly not much of an actor.
http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/9610

Holtz's reputation hasn't been helped by the fact that
1. A Notre Dame coach swiped his name
2. The Three Stooges swiped his "Maharaja" character/routine for three films
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_Out_for_Rhythm ------------------------ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Little_Pirates------------------------http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Stooges_Go_Around_the_World_in_a_Daze


Hear Lou Holtz "Maharaja" routine at tiny link below
Rudy Vallee - Fleischmann's Yeast Hour 08-23-1934 with Ernest Truex as "Casper Milquetoast",
Lillian Carmen, Lou Holtz

http://otrrlibrary.org/OTRRLib/Library%20Files/R%20Series/Rudy%20Vallee%20-%20Fleischmann's%20Yeast%20Hour/Rudy%20Vallee%20-%20Fleischmann's%20Yeast%20Hour%2034-08-23%20(253)%20%20Adventures%20of%20Casper%20Milquetoast%20-%20Ernest%20Truex.mp3

Hear 74 Lou Holtz Laugh Club (Three-Minute-Long) radio shows at
http://www.otrrlibrary.org/l.html


Image
Benny Rubin, a favorite of Frank Capra, Jerry Lewis,
and Jack Benny (on Radio and 53 Benny TV shows)
wrote a memoir, Come Backstage With Me.

MOST FREQUENT BENNY TV SHOW APPEARANCES
Jack Benny (254 episodes, 1950-1965)
Don Wilson (236 episodes, 1950-1965)
Eddie Anderson (176 episodes, 1950-1965)
Dennis Day (148 episodes, 1950-1965)
Mary Livingstone (76 episodes, 1950-1963)
Mel Blanc (59 episodes, 1950-1965)
Benny Rubin (53 episodes, 1952-1965)
Frank Nelson (26 episodes, 1953-1963)
Last edited by JFK on Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 2:32 pm

FrankFay wrote:
Ben Blue looked funny, but most of the time he wasn't. He made only one genuinely funny short - and that was when he was the drummer for Jack White and his Montrealers.


Ben Blue's short HERE COMES FLOSSIE has the good fortune of being stolen by Shemp Howard. I like to give every comedian from this era a fair shot before I dismiss them, but life's too short for me to give The Ritz Brothers another opportunity to waste my time.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 2:53 pm

In case no one has seen it, here's the Jack White short - Ben Blue is the drummer who keeps popping up with the jokes:

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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 3:00 pm

FrankFay wrote:I agree, Benny Rubin is generally a pain in the ass, especially in features. Still, in CRAZY HOUSE he's quite good - mostly because he's just there to react to the March of Time clips.


First saw him in Marianne, thought him a great addition to the "gang," but have been disappointed in other performances...though haven't seen above picture. Not too bad in They Learned about Women, if I remember correctly. The Code, I'd guess, KO'd his film career.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 3:32 pm

Any more really bad comedians you guys can dig up from the "greatest generation?"

It seems like some of these could get the "shreds" treatment, that are common on youtube.

Youtube metallica shreds to see what I mean. I'm not sure if there is anything obscene in that
one, apologies if there is.

There are dozens of them.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 4:15 pm

In case no one has seen it, here's the Jack White short - Ben Blue is the drummer who keeps popping up with the jokes:




Who says that's Ben Blue? Because it isn't. Ben Blue was thinner, younger, and had more hair then, and a Broadway Headliner at the time who wouldn't be playing drums in a lousy Vaudeville Act.

This Group fits the Al Jolson Theory well though, all spastic energy, meaningless one-liners they think are oh-so-cute, but aren't, and painfully un-hilarious, exactly what apparently wows them in Manhattan. More proof that Vitaphone didn't kill Vaudeville, VAUDEVILLE killed Vaudeville.




First saw him in Marianne, thought him a great addition to the "gang," but have been disappointed in other performances...though haven't seen above picture. Not too bad in They Learned about Women, if I remember correctly. The Code, I'd guess, KO'd his film career.




Nope, Benny Rubin actually and ironically became a very funny and ubiquitous Character comic and Bit Player whom everyone would recognize from Television from the late 30's on(he actually died in 1986), but when he was a Star, and doing his Broadway schtick, he's painful.


RICHARD M ROBERTS
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 4:50 pm

telical wrote:Any more really bad comedians you guys can dig up from the "greatest generation?"


For me, Joe Penner is The Great Inexplicable. Wildly popular for several years on radio, he also had a few plum roles in Hollywood films, but I've never seen or heard anything of his that was remotely funny. Maybe it works as performance art. But comedy? Yeesh.

He's proof positive that the formula of riding one or two meaningless catch-phrases to national acclaim goes a lot further back than Saturday Night Live.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 5:32 pm

Joe Penner is ok in THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE, but he's also placed opposite Martha Raye in a film where everyone is over the top except Charles Butterworth.


Here's Benny Rubin on a Jack Benny special in 1970- he comes in just after the 3 minute mark. His deadpan timing is every bit a match for Benny.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxaN0cc3zPU[/youtube]
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 8:16 pm

While we're on this thread, how about the comedian known as
Parkyakarkus? (Father of Albert Brooks!)
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 8:43 pm

Check Youtube for a 1958 audio of the classic Friars banquet speech that Harry Einstein (Parkyakarkus) did. It really slayed 'em at a Hollywood gathering--the horrific punchline is that Einstein died of a heart attack as soon as he sat down.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 9:09 pm

From what I've seen and heard Harry Einstein / Harry Parke / Parkyakarkus was a very funny man who did a great deal to lighten up PRC productions.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 9:11 pm

Joe Migliore
Ben Blue's short HERE COMES FLOSSIE has the good fortune of being stolen by Shemp Howard.


Shemp Howard is always funny.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostSun Feb 03, 2013 10:13 pm

A while back I saw a tape of Ben Blue on a talk show in the late ‘60s. I never found him funny in the first place, but he came off so badly during that appearance I almost felt sorry for him. He seemed like a sour, unpleasant person. Comedy, by that point in his career, was reduced to a reflex action. If someone mentioned that they’d been to a restaurant, he’d automatically tell a couple of restaurant jokes. If someone mentioned hippies, he’d tell a hippy joke. But there was no joy or spontaneity in anything he did. It’s hard to be funny when you’re a bitter old man.
-- Charlie Morrow
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostMon Feb 04, 2013 6:53 am

The opening of ON THE AVENUE is one of my favorite first reels of any picture. "He Ain't Got Rhythm" is a terrific song and the Ritzes performance is outstanding. Add the huge set, footlight effect lighting etc, I think it's a total winner.

The Ritzes were definitely a limited-appeal team and I can understand why they succeeded far better in night clubs where they were able to work off the audience.

Another great film number they did was "The Horror Boys of Hollywood" in ONE IN A MILLION. On roller skates yet.

As it happens, ON THE AVENUE is my season opener at the Chelsea Rialto!

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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostMon Feb 04, 2013 7:21 am

I happened to watch the Ritz version of Three Musketeers with my wife and two of my kids just two weeks ago. It was the first full-length Ritz film any of us had seen.

The kids were bored stiff (one actually gave up and left the room after about an hour). My wife was unimpressed. I thought they were weak but faintly amusing imitators of the Three Stooges, with less violence. As someone here has already pointed out, all three of them played the same role in the same way -- there was no variation amongst them, and hence none of them really had anything to play off against.

I agree totally with Richard Roberts on the New York idea of humour. It is perfectly exemplified today by ... no, not Saturday Night Live ... the supremely unamusing David Letterman. This guy has never once made me laugh. He made me crack a faint smile exactly once, and I don't even remember what it was he said that time.

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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostMon Feb 04, 2013 7:47 am

Jim Roots wrote:I happened to watch the Ritz version of Three Musketeers with my wife and two of my kids just two weeks ago. It was the first full-length Ritz film any of us had seen.


Not a big Ritz fan, but I do enjoy THE THREE MUSKETEERS.

But its funniest moment occurred 24 years later, when the film was used as the plot point of a 1963 episode of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER. In "The Book Report," Beav has procrastinated reading the Dumas book for a book report, so Gilbert tells him the movie will be on TV Saturday night... write the book report from that, and the teacher won't know the difference.
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Re: The Ritz Brothers- Thank God for "fast forward?"

PostMon Feb 04, 2013 8:04 am

Jim Roots wrote:I agree totally with Richard Roberts on the New York idea of humour. It is perfectly exemplified today by ... no, not Saturday Night Live ... the supremely unamusing David Letterman. This guy has never once made me laugh. He made me crack a faint smile exactly once, and I don't even remember what it was he said that time.

Jim


Uh, recall how many you'd put away, Jim, the night he elicited that one "faint smile"? Believe I'd pass out cold before he prompted one from me. And how much is this wit "earning" for all his sparkle & charm?
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