When actors muff their lines

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
  • Author
  • Message
Offline

Wm. Charles Morrow

  • Posts: 1145
  • Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 4:10 pm
  • Location: Westchester County, NY

When actors muff their lines

PostSat Apr 07, 2018 10:44 am

Thanks to TCM I happened to catch the 1930 flick Way Out West last night, featuring Billy Haines & Leila Hyams. (No sign of Laurel & Hardy in this one.) At one point, Charles Middleton sternly confronts Billy and starts to deliver his line—and then sort of chokes in mid-sentence, hesitates, and resumes. It’s not a huge gaffe, but nonetheless comes off as a little awkward. It occurred to me that this is the kind of moment you find pretty often in early talkies, though not after 1930 or ’31 or so. And it’s far from the most egregious example I can think of. I always try to attend Ron Hutchinson’s Vitaphone programs at Film Forum, and I recall a very early short with Joe E. Brown in which he stumbles over the punchline of a joke, and ruins it beyond any hope of recovery. Sorry Joe, no retakes!

So, I'm wondering if anyone has favorite examples of obviously muffed lines from major studio releases. (I'm sure there are plenty more from the Poverty Row output.) And what’s the latest one, chronologically speaking – that is, anything after the early ‘30s?
-- Charlie Morrow
Offline

vitaphone

  • Posts: 476
  • Joined: Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:50 am
  • Location: New Jersey

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostSat Apr 07, 2018 1:12 pm

Charlie, the worst flubbed lines and action in any Vitaphone are in THE NIGHT COURST ('27)n with William Demarest. He and the judge screw up their lines multiple times, and early on when thew judge bangs his gavel, the head falls of and onto the bailiff's head below. No stopping!
Offline

Wm. Charles Morrow

  • Posts: 1145
  • Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 4:10 pm
  • Location: Westchester County, NY

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostSat Apr 07, 2018 1:18 pm

vitaphone wrote:Charlie, the worst flubbed lines and action in any Vitaphone are in THE NIGHT COURT ('27) with William Demarest. He and the judge screw up their lines multiple times, and early on when the judge bangs his gavel, the head falls off and onto the bailiff's head below. No stopping!


Oh, I remember that one! It's like watching a live TV broadcast, and it feels like they didn't get enough time to rehearse.
-- Charlie Morrow
Offline

smokey15

  • Posts: 105
  • Joined: Fri Jun 04, 2010 11:18 am
  • Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostSat Apr 07, 2018 2:29 pm

Offhand I remember one flub (if you want to call it that) from "Personal Property" with Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor in 1937. The director of that film was Woody Van Dyke, known as "one take Woody". In one bedroom scene Jean has a coughing fit and the scene remained in the film. No retakes. The film had to be rushed thru as soon as possible so Taylor and Harlow could make a trip for President FDR's birthday.
Offline
User avatar

Gumlegs

  • Posts: 181
  • Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 1:43 pm

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostSat Apr 07, 2018 3:40 pm

There's a blown line in "Broadway Melody" during the birthday party sequence. One of the guys is telling a Scotsman joke and muffs the line, saying "The best thing in life are free." Or the "s" simply wasn't picked up by the mic. Which ever it was, one was cut in. The edit is obvious.

Moe Howard has to work his way around a blown line in the Charley Chase directed "Flat Foot Stooges."
Offline
User avatar

boblipton

  • Posts: 5833
  • Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 8:01 pm
  • Location: Clement Clarke Moore's Farm

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostSat Apr 07, 2018 4:17 pm

Try these:











running through 1949.....

Bob
Last edited by silentfilm on Sun Apr 08, 2018 4:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Embedd YouTube links
If no one listens, then it’s just as well. At least I won’t get caught in any lies I tell.
— Joe Darion
Offline
User avatar

CoffeeDan

  • Posts: 936
  • Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2008 2:55 pm
  • Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostSat Apr 07, 2018 4:31 pm

In the "Shuffle Off To Buffalo" number in 42ND STREET, Ginger Rogers and Una Merkel are singing their lyrics to the song in an upper berth. Ginger gets to the lyric "He did right by little Nellie/With a shotgun at his belly" and badly muffs it, but to her credit, she keeps right on going as if nothing happened.

It occurs at about the 2:53 mark in this clip. Watch Una -- I'm not sure whether it was part of the act or not, but it's a great reaction . . .

Offline

TerryC

  • Posts: 101
  • Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:01 pm

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostSat Apr 07, 2018 5:55 pm

This famous example is definately on purpose. Sweet young ladies would not say “belly”. Her character is just truing to be gentile and corrects her lower class roots from showing.
Offline

Scott Eckhardt

  • Posts: 199
  • Joined: Thu Jun 18, 2015 11:36 am

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostSat Apr 07, 2018 7:05 pm

In WHOOPEE, during the title number, Eddie Cantor flubs the word "phone." That portion had to have been filmed live on set, since the synchronism is perfect.
Offline
User avatar

silentfilm

Moderator

  • Posts: 9280
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:31 pm
  • Location: Dallas, TX USA

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostSun Apr 08, 2018 4:53 pm

TerryC wrote:This famous example is definately on purpose. Sweet young ladies would not say “belly”. Her character is just truing to be gentile and corrects her lower class roots from showing.


I was wondering, because the music and lyrics would have been recorded earlier, before filming, so a flub is unlikely.
Offline

Wm. Charles Morrow

  • Posts: 1145
  • Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 4:10 pm
  • Location: Westchester County, NY

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostSun Apr 08, 2018 6:13 pm

silentfilm wrote:
TerryC wrote:This famous example is definitely on purpose. Sweet young ladies would not say “belly”. Her character is just trying to be gentle and corrects her lower class roots from showing.


I was wondering, because the music and lyrics would have been recorded earlier, before filming, so a flub is unlikely.


Yes, I’m sure that moment in “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” was planned. The lyric plainly intends to rhyme ‘Nelly’ with ‘belly,’ but Ginger decides she’d rather be refined and lady-like, changes the word to ‘tummy,’ and plays the moment beautifully.

One seeming line flub I was mistaken about for a long time was the exchange in Animal Crackers, when Louis Sorin (as Roscoe Chandler) addresses Groucho (Captain Spaulding) by his own character's name. The first time I saw it, I was sure Sorin muffed his line, and that Groucho covered for him. Much later I learned that Sorin actually made this mistake one night in the stage version, and it got such a big laugh they kept it in. When you watch the scene, Sorin really seems to make the verbal gaffe accidentally. Good acting!
-- Charlie Morrow
Offline
User avatar

Jim Roots

  • Posts: 2736
  • Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:45 pm
  • Location: Ottawa, ON

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostMon Apr 09, 2018 5:29 am

TerryC wrote:This famous example is definately on purpose. Sweet young ladies would not say “belly”. Her character is just truing to be gentile and corrects her lower class roots from showing.


"Genteel", not "gentile". Quite a major difference in meaning!

Jim
Offline

TerryC

  • Posts: 101
  • Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:01 pm

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostMon Apr 09, 2018 7:15 am

Thank you for the correction. Again a life long problem with spelling rears it’s “ugly head”.
Offline
User avatar

boblipton

  • Posts: 5833
  • Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 8:01 pm
  • Location: Clement Clarke Moore's Farm

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostMon Apr 09, 2018 7:57 am

Jim Roots wrote:
TerryC wrote:This famous example is definately on purpose. Sweet young ladies would not say “belly”. Her character is just truing to be gentile and corrects her lower class roots from showing.


"Genteel", not "gentile". Quite a major difference in meaning!

Jim


As a word that’s been borrowed from French four times for different meanings (as ‘jaunty’, ‘genteel’, ‘gentile’ and ‘gentle’), it is hard to know how to spell it!

Bob
If no one listens, then it’s just as well. At least I won’t get caught in any lies I tell.
— Joe Darion
Offline
User avatar

s.w.a.c.

  • Posts: 1895
  • Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:27 pm
  • Location: The Land of Evangeline

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostMon Apr 09, 2018 9:11 am

Technical query: lately I've been having issues with YouTube clips on Nitrateville -- like the ones above -- not showing up, with only a large blank space to indicate their presence. I'm assuming this is some strange bit of miscommunication between Mozilla Firefox and Adobe Flash, but if anyone else knows of this problem and a possible solution, that'd be a big help. I've gone into settings and played around with the Flash settings, but nothing has corrected the problem yet.

EDIT: Very weird, when I posted, they finally appeared. Refreshing the page did nothing, but I guess altering its content after I'd messed around with the settings did.
Twinkletoes wrote:Oh, ya big blister!
Offline
User avatar

Rick Lanham

  • Posts: 1971
  • Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:16 pm
  • Location: Gainesville, FL

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostMon Apr 09, 2018 11:19 am

I wish I could fix it permanently also. I have to alter the url to take the "s" out of https.
But that supposedly reduces security…

Rick
“The past is never dead. It's not even past” - Faulkner.
Offline

busby1959

  • Posts: 432
  • Joined: Fri Aug 22, 2014 12:12 pm
  • Location: Cathedral City, California

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostMon Apr 09, 2018 12:05 pm

silentfilm wrote:
TerryC wrote:This famous example is definately on purpose. Sweet young ladies would not say “belly”. Her character is just truing to be gentile and corrects her lower class roots from showing.


I was wondering, because the music and lyrics would have been recorded earlier, before filming, so a flub is unlikely.


The show within the film, "Pretty Lady" opened in Philadelphia before coming to New York. The word 'belly' was considered a vulgarism in the 19th century. The point is to show how far behind the times Philadelphia was - hence, the many jokes about the city, particularly by W.C. Fields. 'Belly" would have gone back into the show when it opened on Broadway....it rhymes with the previous line "he did right by little Nellie with a shotgun at his belly".
Offline

Dave Pitts

  • Posts: 182
  • Joined: Sat Nov 30, 2013 9:55 am

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostTue Apr 10, 2018 8:06 am

Love this topic, because I wonder about it and am always on the lookout for flubs. In a way it's an artificial construct, because "flubs" occur in real-life speech all the time -- we fall into spoonerisms or stutter on the start of a word or correct our grammar -- viewed objectively, speech flubs should enhance a movie's semblance of reality.
I've noticed that flubs are found in early talkies from all the studios. Was this because they were mastering all the aspects of sound recording, and any audible take was going to be kept unless there was an absolute malfunction on set -- like someone forgetting a line and stopping? Anyway, you'll hear actors mangling a word and then repeating it and proceeding in lots of '29 and '30 films, not so much later.
With the indie productions and Poverty Row it's a different story -- if you watch Monograms or, God help us, PRCs of the 40s, you'll hear flub after flub. I presume that the actors were told to move on with the scene and never stop a scene unless the director called it. If you have 10 days to make a film, you've gotta get those script pages shot.
Online
User avatar

oldposterho

  • Posts: 552
  • Joined: Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:05 am

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostTue Apr 10, 2018 8:22 am

There are several line reading flubs in the narration for Ingagi, dude just keeps right on going though. Clearly they weren't interested in doing retakes.
Offline

TerryC

  • Posts: 101
  • Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:01 pm

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostTue Apr 10, 2018 9:17 am

I know that Vitaphone recordings could not be edited, so rather than re-do an entire 15 minute take, small flubs were forgiven if they were small enough. Also it was time consuming and expensive to set up for another take. Weren’t most of the early talkies cast with people from the live stage who were used to no retakes?
Last edited by TerryC on Tue Apr 10, 2018 8:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Offline
User avatar

Dean Thompson

  • Posts: 172
  • Joined: Fri Jan 22, 2016 10:21 am
  • Location: Way Down South

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostTue Apr 10, 2018 12:35 pm

Oliver Hardy muffs a line in Helpmates, and it works perfectly. He and Stan are trying to clean up his house after a wild party the night before, and the script apparently calls for Ollie to say impatiently, "Don't you realize my wife will be coming home soon?" Or at least it was meant to be something like that. He blows it midway through, but he's supposed to be all worked up anyway, and it's a great setup for Stan to fire back, "Say, who d'you think I am? Cinderella?" :lol:
Offline

Wm. Charles Morrow

  • Posts: 1145
  • Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 4:10 pm
  • Location: Westchester County, NY

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostTue Apr 10, 2018 9:17 pm

Harry Langdon stumbles over his opening line in the Roach two-reeler The Shrimp (1930). But somehow with him, it suits his character; it's like the verbal equivalent of the hesitant way he moves.
-- Charlie Morrow
Offline
User avatar

Ray Faiola

  • Posts: 1008
  • Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 10:18 am
  • Location: Ellenville, NY

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostWed Apr 11, 2018 5:32 am

Dean Thompson wrote:Oliver Hardy muffs a line in Helpmates, and it works perfectly. He and Stan are trying to clean up his house after a wild party the night before, and the script apparently calls for Ollie to say impatiently, "Don't you realize my wife will be coming home soon?" Or at least it was meant to be something like that. He blows it midway through, but he's supposed to be all worked up anyway, and it's a great setup for Stan to fire back, "Say, who d'you think I am? Cinderella?" :lol:


Ollie's line is "Shut up and get this mess cleaned up - do you know that my wife will be home at noon!?" There is no muff.
Classic Film Scores on CD
http://www.chelsearialtostudios.com
Offline
User avatar

precode

  • Posts: 485
  • Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 2:49 pm
  • Location: Shemptown

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostWed Apr 11, 2018 8:51 pm

In THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU, Peter Lorre momentarily forgets a line. He says something in Latin, and goes on, "which means--uh, what I wanted to say--" and then recovers and finishes.

If I may toot my own horn a little, in THE BIFFLE MURDER CASE (which will be showing at Cinevent), H.M. Wynant has a line, "Any idiot can do it, even this one," and then points to Biffle. But on one take, he mistakenly pointed to Shooster instead. And bless them, Will and Nick stayed in the scene and reacted appropriately. It was so deftly done that I ended up using it instead of the way it was written.

Mike S.
Offline
User avatar

BiggieB

  • Posts: 9
  • Joined: Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:46 pm

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostThu Apr 12, 2018 11:10 am

CoffeeDan wrote:In the "Shuffle Off To Buffalo" number in 42ND STREET, Ginger Rogers and Una Merkel are singing their lyrics to the song in an upper berth. Ginger gets to the lyric "He did right by little Nellie/With a shotgun at his belly" and badly muffs it, but to her credit, she keeps right on going as if nothing happened.

It occurs at about the 2:53 mark in this clip. Watch Una -- I'm not sure whether it was part of the act or not, but it's a great reaction . . .



It's intentional. It's the old gag of using a rhyme to hint at a naughty word to come and replacing it at the last minute with a non-rhyming word. In this case she changes from "belly" to "tummy". Apparently "belly" was less innocuous in the thirties than it is now. A famous example of this is in the lyrics of "Edie Was a Lady":

"Now Edie could get plastered
And call a guy a.... scoundrel."
Offline
User avatar

Donald Binks

  • Posts: 3060
  • Joined: Fri Jun 17, 2011 10:08 am
  • Location: Somewhere, over the rainbow

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostThu Apr 12, 2018 3:17 pm

Then there are those instances where a whole scene is devoted to lines being delivered mistakenly, often with hilarious results - an example:-



In the U.K. television show "The Two Ronnies", Ronnie Barker also had a talent for being able to deliver any manner of lines in twisted English.
Regards from
Donald Binks

"So, she said: "Elly, it's no use letting Lou have the sherry glasses..."She won't appreciate them,
she won't polish them..."You know what she's like." So I said:..."
Offline
User avatar

Brooksie

  • Posts: 2754
  • Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:41 pm
  • Location: Portland, Oregon via Sydney, Australia

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostThu Apr 12, 2018 4:07 pm

As an aside, that was an astoundingly young Peter Finch in the last video, starting at around 3:00.
Offline

wich2

  • Posts: 1501
  • Joined: Tue Apr 08, 2014 11:11 am

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostFri Apr 13, 2018 11:29 am

Bert Lahr in WIZARD OF OZ:

"Trapped! Trapped like mice - I mean 'rats' ..."

One of the first blown lines I ever noticed. They have to cut away, just as Lahr starts to crack and blow the take.
Offline
User avatar

Jim Roots

  • Posts: 2736
  • Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:45 pm
  • Location: Ottawa, ON

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostFri Apr 13, 2018 11:54 am

Brooksie wrote:As an aside, that was an astoundingly young Peter Finch in the last video, starting at around 3:00.


Which one is he supposed to be? I don't recognize him.

Jim
Offline
User avatar

Brooksie

  • Posts: 2754
  • Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:41 pm
  • Location: Portland, Oregon via Sydney, Australia

Re: When actors muff their lines

PostFri Apr 13, 2018 3:12 pm

He's the one who turns the radio off and says 'That'll do me," at 3:12. He would have been all of 23 at the time.
Next

Return to Talking About Talkies

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot], oldposterho and 6 guests