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Unread post by JFK » Sun May 26, 2013 5:53 am

This re-planted topic -and the {edited} quotes below-began life in the thread titled "From Silents to Talkies to TV"
Richard M Roberts wrote:
LouieD wrote:
odinthor wrote:The Marx Bros. supposedly made a silent "in 1921 that was never released, and is believed to have been destroyed at the time" (quoth Wikipedia). Jumping over sound films into TV: Groucho of course had a well-known presence on TV; Harpo had his TV appearances; Chico's last appearance in show biz before his death was on a TV show playing cards. No TV for Zeppo, though.

Is there one shred of proof this 1921 "film" was ever made? Wikipedia, I don't truss it.

There's an ad and article about HUMOR RISK in MOTION PICTURE WORLD, and an existing cast and crew still. And it was actually released by Reelcraft in 1921, which is why there is actually a good chance that a copy might show up out there. Dick Smith directed it, and Jobyna Ralston is the leading lady. The only one who said it was never released and all copies were destroyed was Groucho, and he was certainly not known to take the truth over a good story. Yes, it definitely existed.RICHARD M ROBERTS
Richard M Roberts wrote:
Robert Moulton wrote:Reading more carefully I'm concluding the ad for Humor Risk is in Moving Picture World. I know there is an article in the April 16, 1921 Moving Picture World, in what edition/page is there an ad? The April 16 article uses the phrase 'have made their screen debut' but I wouldn't conclude definitively from that a release had happened. An ad would be harder evidence, can you provide the date of the ad?
The film is listed in a Reelcraft Press Release as being part of one of their last released series in early 1922, I don't have it in front of me, but it is either the Royal or Sun-Lite Comedy Series, which were made up mostly of one or two-off pilot comedies that had been shot as much as five or six years earlier. Other films in these series included MARRIED TO ORDER with Charley Chase and Oliver Hardy, several Leon Errol short comedies including IN AT THE FINISH and NEARLY SPLICED, LUCKY DOG with Stan Laurel, and others. Those films have survived and were apparently released, so there is no reason not to believe that prints of HUMOR RISK got out there as well, even if Reelcraft went under soon after release of these comedies. RICHARD M ROBERTS
Robert Moulton wrote:Re Humor Risk, I did a little poking around on original production company, Caravel Comedies, and turned up an entry in the 'Motion picture studio directory and trade annual 1921'. Listing is:
Caravel Comedies, 130 West 46th St, N.Y.C.
Marx Bros.
Does that address mean anything to the experts out there?

{ Here's link to the annual, the Marx entry is on page 382: }
{ Follow up, also see in the same annual on page 279 }:
Art and Technical Director Y.C. Alley is also listed with a Caravel connection.
In turn Y.C. Alley is listed in this 1906 Dramatic Mirror as having a Musical Comedy Company (Correspondence - Alabama)
Last edited by JFK on Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:42 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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MARX BROTHERS-HUMOR RISK-Reelcraft Bankruptcy Negatives

Unread post by JFK » Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:29 pm

Film Daily Monday October 20 + Friday October 24, 1922Image
Reelcraft Pictures Corporation Stock Certificate
Would Reelcraft Pictures Corporation bankruptcy records show which negatives were purchased?
Has such info already been made known recently ?
Presumably, the negatives would only have included films they produced not distributed,
imdb says Reelcraft produced a mere 62 Films, while distributing 162 titles.
The two, conflicting Film Daily news clips in the image above suggest from 160 to nearly 200 negatives were purchased.
Were some/all of the negatives from Reelcraft's prior incarnations (see quote below), or were some/all from films they distributed?

Click to Read Notice of the bankruptcy in The N Y Times.

From Stocklobster website
The Bulls Eye Film Company was founded in December, 1918 by Milton L. Cohen with Nat Spitzer as studio manager. The company immediately engaged some of the era's top "second-rung" comics, headed by Chaplin imitator Billy West, fresh from a successful series at King Bee. Other talent during the firm's brief lifetime included Gale Henry, Leo White, Texas Guinan, Alice Howell, Milburn Moranti and the prolific Billy Franey. The first director general of the company was Charles Parrott, who as Charley Chase, would later find fame with his own series at Hal Roach Studios.
The company would also pick up unreleased shorts to beef up the schedule, such as Selig's "Napoleon and Sally" series of monkey comedies and Stan Laurel's unsold pilot film, "Lucky Dog".
Bulls Eye soon ran into litigation when in July 1919, Billy West (born Roy B. Weissberg) was sued and counter-sued over breach of contract. West had fulfilled just three months of his four-year Bulls Eye contract when he bolted to Chicago to make shorts for the Emerald Motion Picture Company. Bulls Eye's solution was to sue West and hire Harry Mann to play Billy West playing Charlie Chaplin.
The temporary loss of West did not slow Bulls Eye and by August the company had five companies and was considering opening a second studio in San Francisco. The studio's Gale Henry comedies were so popular that a comic strip series was created and syndicated to one hundred newspapers west of Denver.
Around September, 1919, the company pioneered a satiric newsreel, "The Weakly Indigestion". Each reel kidded current events of the day, a concept that survives today as the "Weekend Update" segment of U.S. television's "Saturday Night Live".
Bulls Eye's glory days were soon to end when, in March, 1920, the company was merged with Bee Hive Film Exchanges, the Interstate Film Company, and Emerald (rendering the West suit moot) to form Reelcraft Pictures. Cohen was given the position of General Sales Manager and the new president was R. C. Cropper .....formerly of Cropper Distributing and Bee Hive. The acquisition of Bee Hive and Interstate gave the company exchanges in New York and the major midwestern cities, but the release product would still be primarily that of Bulls Eye's with the addition of the Emerald comedies. The company survived for two years as Reelcraft when it went into receivership and sold its negatives to the Export and Import Film Company. According to Kalton C. Lahue and Sam Gill in "Clown Princes and Court Jesters", Reelcraft met it's demise when the profitable series (those of Alice Howell and Billy Franey) were outnumbered by the money-losing series. After one final mention of the dissolution of Reelcraft in the November 18, 1922 issue of "Moving Picture World", the company passed into oblivion

By the end of 1922, R. C. Cropper was back in the trades announcing the formation of the distributor Norca Pictures,
for which he was to serve as a G.M. and V.P. By 1926 - perhaps earlier- and on into at least the late 1940s, he made the news as the Boston branch manager for Pathe and then, RKO, operating, in part, out of his family home in Brookline.

Norca Pictures Production Company- 2 films ---------------Norca Film Corporation- Distributor- 1 film

Last edited by JFK on Tue Mar 24, 2015 12:41 am, edited 7 times in total.

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Unread post by ElectricPhonograph » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:25 am

Here's another tantalizing piece of evidence: Taken from a 1920 "The Film Daily" magazine, this has the Marx Brothers (listed by their real names) slated to appear in not only "Humor Risk", but also two other short comedies entitled "Hot Dog" and "Hick Hick Hooray".

Hope this helps!
"This wasn't just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it." - Dorothy Parker

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MARX BROTHERS:HUMOR RISK: New York Tribune., April 10, 1921

Unread post by JFK » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:29 am

ElectricPhonograph » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:25 am
Here's another tantalizing piece of evidence: Taken from a 1920 "The Film Daily" magazine
{ A Typo: The item is from the April 11, 1921 "Wid's Daily"- later known as "The Film Daily"} , this has the Marx Brothers (listed by their real names) slated to appear in not only "Humor Risk", but also two other short comedies entitled "Hot Dog" and "Hick Hick Hooray".
Thanks- I've changed the thread title!
Here- below- are 2 Humor Risk 1921 item/story links,
found at the
Library of Congress Newspaper Search Site:

The NY Evening World April 07, 1921 Image

New York Tribune., April 10, 1921, Page 6, IMAGE VERSION

New York Tribune., April 10, 1921, Page 6, TEXT VERSION
"The four Marx Brothers, of vaude-
ville fame, have made their cinema
debut. Julius, Arthur, Leonard and
Herbert are the Marx brothers' Chris-
tian names, and they are being feat-
ured in a series called "Comedies sans
Custard." The first comedy is called
"Humor Risk."

Last edited by JFK on Sat May 21, 2016 5:26 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Jim Roots
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Unread post by Jim Roots » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:53 am

I find it really hard to believe the Marxes would accept a title as inane as Hick Hick Hooray. This isn't Wheeler and Woolsey we're talking about.


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Unread post by LouieD » Thu Aug 22, 2013 12:21 pm

ElectricPhonograph wrote:Here's another tantalizing piece of evidence: Taken from a 1920 "The Film Daily" magazine, this has the Marx Brothers (listed by their real names) slated to appear in not only "Humor Risk", but also two other short comedies entitled "Hot Dog" and "Hick Hick Hooray".

Hope this helps!
Just early titles that never materialized. Check out some exhibitors books from the 20's and the 30's sometimes, they are loaded with films announced but never made.

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ABEL VALLET : Cameraman AL POSEN : Producer

Unread post by JFK » Sat Aug 24, 2013 6:06 pm


Abel Henry Vallet 7-14-1889 France 10-18-1978 Los Angeles
Born a year before Groucho, died a year after.
A. H. Vallet's
incomplete imdb credits

Has anyone interviewed his family, if any?
Los Angeles City Directory, 1923
Vallet Abel H mgr E Valett r205 N Bway
Edna Mrs cigars 295 N Bway
Los Angeles City Directory, 1926
Vallet Abel H (V S Productions) r509 Union dr
Edna Mrs clk r509 Union dr
Los Angeles City Directory, 1927
Vallet Abel H (V S Productions) h967 ½ N Serrano av
Edna clk r509 Union dr
Los Angeles City Directory, 1929
Vallet Abel h437 N Ardmore av

His recent work prior to Humor Risk poorly reviewed...


AL POSEN-Wikipedia
Alvah Posen (1895 - June 10, 1960) was an American cartoonist on several comic strips, but he is best known for his strip Sweeney & Son and as co-producer of the now-lost Marx Brothers film, Humor Risk (1921).
Born in New York, Posen served in the Army during World War I and worked for a film advertising agency when the war ended. He then travelled in the Orient as a member of a geological and mining expedition, spending a year in Siam and Yunan.
In 1925, with no formal training in art, Posen created the rhyming comic strip, Them Days Are Gone Forever (aka Them Days Is Gone Forever). Distributed by United Features Syndicate, it was published in 100 newspapers within a year, and continued until 1927. Posen followed it with another rhyming strip, the short-lived Ella and Her Fella.
Sweeney & Son was a Sunday page which began in 1933, distributed by the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate, and continued for the next 25 years. It featured the topper, Jinglet (1926–35), which used several rhymed words in a four-panel gag at the bottom of the page. On January 17, 1949, Posen revived his earlier format for a daily strip, Rhymin' Time, which had lyrics set to "Turkey in the Straw'", such as:
My business is conducting polls And, gosh, is my face red! Since last election, everyone Hurls insults at my head! They used to think me wonderful. "Infallible," they said. Them Days Are Gone Forever.
He also adapted this rhyming format into comic strip advertisements for Bristol-Myers and companies.
As a National Cartoonists Society member, he originated the idea of cartoonist shows for American servicemen and became the NCS Director of Overseas Shows. Posen, Gus Edson, Bob Montana and other cartoonists participated in a USO cartoonists tour in October 1952. Posen was friends with Smokey Stover cartoonist Bill Holman, and the famed nonsense phrase "1506 nix nix" seen in Smokey Stover was an inside joke between the two cartoonists. The number 1506 was a reference to a hotel room where Posen stayed.
Posen was a bachelor who liked to ski at Lake Placid, New York and vacation at a ranch in Wyoming.
Awards : Posen received the National Cartoonists Society's Silver T-Square Award in 1956."
Syracuse University: The Alvah Posen Papers
The Alvah Posen Papers consists of artwork, comic strips, correspondence, ideas for comics, memorabilia and photographs.
Correspondence consists of letters from newspaper and advertising clients, the Treasury Department, admirers requesting original drawings, and fellow cartoonists, among them Rube Goldberg, Al Capp, and Milton Caniff. A large part of the miscellaneous correspondence from 1955-1959 concerns Posen's role as Director of Overseas Shows for the National Cartoonists Society. Also included are a number of carbons of Posen's replies to letters received. A letter of 7 Jul 1948 from Posen to Richard Clarke of the Chicago Tribune gives a history of Them Days Is Gone Forever.
Ideas for comics consists mostly of letters received from fans, with suggestions and ideas for Jinglet and Them Days Is Gone Forever.
Memorabilia includes a report and test of a commercial strip for Wheaties cereal and National Cartoonists Society materials.
Original artwork contains pieces by Posen. There are sketches for commercial art pieces (some of which incorporate his strips, such as a rough for Them Days Is Gone Forever incorporating an ad for Ingram's Shaving Cream) and miscellaneous other pieces, such as an original colored strip of "The Roundies and the Squares."
Photographs contains portraits of Posen, portraits of others inscribed to Posen and images of cartoonist related events.
Printed material consists of proofs and newspaper clippings of Jinglet, Rhymin' Time, Sweeney and Son, Them Days Is Gone Forever. Some of these were originally pasted into scrapbooks which have been disassembled. In some cases two different strips were printed on the same sheet or pasted on the same page in a scrapbook, so there is some overlap of titles and dates in this section.
" has seven entries for "Al Posen."
Six are from 1918 or earlier, and deal with film exchanges/distributors.
The seventh, final, entry (from Film Daily 8/8/1936) has Posen at a party
also attended by Humor Risk co-writer Jo Swerling

Last edited by JFK on Sun Nov 09, 2014 7:11 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Rob Farr
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Unread post by Rob Farr » Sun Aug 25, 2013 7:01 am

Humor Risk actually has a fighting chance of showing up, which is to say a 0.5 % rather than a .0005%. Survival rates on States Rights comedies are not terrible, and if the title card is lost or if it survives in a foreign archive under a different name, who would recognize the lead comedians as the Marx Bros? States Rights comedies were just never reviewed in the trades or popular press, and rarely show up on release charts. That's why festivals like Mostly Lost and Slapsticon are so important, because who else is ever going to thread up and project a nameless, orphaned comedy short before a theater full of comedy aficionados?
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep." - Harpo Marx

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HUMOR RISK :Lost in Translation ?

Unread post by JFK » Sun Aug 25, 2013 2:12 pm

Rob Farr wrote: Survival rates on States Rights comedies are not terrible, and if the title card is lost
or if it survives in a foreign archive under a different name,
who would recognize the lead comedians as the Marx Bros?
A very good observation. And, it points to an additional problem:
just as the translated title for "The Unknown" - written on a film can, or title card - misled what was a notoriously sloppy archive
so might a modern foreign archivist be misled into thinking the translated name for Humor Risk, printed on a film cannister or title card, was meant to be descriptive, and not the film's actual name:
"Humor Risk" Translated, Google Style
--------humor risiko AFRIKANS --------rreziku humor ALBANIAN--------հումոր ռիսկ ARMENIAN
--------yumor risk AZERBAJANI--------umorea arriskua BASQUE--------гумар рызыкі BELARUSIAN
--------হাস্যরস ঝুঁকি BENGALI--------humor rizika BOSNIAN--------хумор риск BULGARIAN
--------risc humor CATALAN--------humor risk CEBUANO--------幽默风险 CHINESE SIMPLIFIED
--------幽默風險 CHINESE TRADITIONAL--------rizik humor CROATIAN--------humor riziko CZECH
--------humor risiko DANISH--------humor risico DUTCH--------humuro risko ESPERANTO
--------huumor risk ESTONIAN--------katatawanan panganib FILIPINO--------huumoria riski FINNISH
--------Le risque de l'humour FRENCH--------risco humor GALACIAN--------იუმორის რისკის GEORGIAN
--------Humor Risiko GERMAN--------κίνδυνο χιούμορ GREEK--------રમૂજ જોખમ GUJARATI
--------risk imè HAITIAN CREOLE--------סיכון הומור HEBREW--------हास्य जोखिम HINDI
--------txuas luag pheej hmoo HMONG--------humor kockázat HUNGARIAN--------húmor hætta ICELANDIC
--------risiko humor INDONESIAN--------riosca greann “IRISH”--------rischio umorismo ITALIAN
--------ユーモアリスク JAPANESE--------Banyolan JAVANESE--------ಹಾಸ್ಯ ಅಪಾಯ KANNADA
--------ហានិភ័យ humor KHMER--------유머 위험 KOREAN--------ຄວາມສ່ຽງ humor LAO
--------humor periculo LATIN--------humors risks LATVIA--------humoras rizika LITHUANIAN
--------хумор ризик MACEDONIAN--------risiko jenaka MALAY--------riskju Humer MALTESE
--------विनोद धोका MARATHI--------humor risiko NORWEGIAN--------خطر ابتلا به طنز PERSIAN
--------ryzyko humor POLISH--------risco humor PORTUGESE--------riscul umor ROMANIAN
--------юмор риска RUSSIAN--------хумор ризик SERBIAN--------humor riziko SLOVAK
--------humor tveganja SLOVENIAN--------riesgo humor SPANISH--------ucheshi hatari SWAHILI
--------humor risk SWEDISH--------நகைச்சுவை ஆபத்து TAMIL--------హాస్యం ప్రమాదం TELUGU
--------ความเสี่ยงอารมณ์ขัน THAI--------mizah riski TURKISH--------гумор ризику UKRANIAN
------مزاحیہ خطرہ URDU------nguy cơ hài hước VIETNAMESE--------risg hiwmor WELSH------הומאָר ריזיקירן YIDDISH

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Rollo Treadway
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Unread post by Rollo Treadway » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:54 pm

So many big "ifs" and "buts" concerning the hunt for Humor Risk.

We have evidence that the film was made, but unless I missed something, nothing to show that it was actually released. Even if Groucho, like other show biz folks, was not always reliable, it would be odd if no advertisement or review can be located assuming the film did get a commercial release. After all, the Marxes were already famous.

Further assuming that the film was exported to other countries, the chances may not be so great of discovering it under a translated title. While it makes perfect sense for The Unknown to be directly translated as L'inconnu, the pun on "humor risk"/humoresque doesn't work in many other languages. In such cases, the importer would usually cook up a completely different title.

Courtesy of, the famous cast & crew still. Director Dick Smith center, flanked by Jobyna Ralston and the Marxes.


While I'm reluctant to add to the already existing confusion about the cast, I can't help thinking that the woman 4th from left strongly resembles Groucho's wife Ruth. If so, was she a cast member or just visiting?

Humor Risk director Smith visiting the Monkey Business set in 1931, as captured by one of that film's screenwriters, Will B. Johnstone. Interestingly, the caption implies that Smith attempted to contribute gags to the film - wonder if any of them made it.



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