Apr 23, 2018

On DVD: MGM's The Big Parade of Comedy (1964)

I suspect MGM’s Big Parade of Comedy (1964) isn’t a very good movie, but it caught me in the right mood, so I ended up enjoying this compilation film more than it probably deserved. It’s light and silly, though it sometimes has a questionable interpretation of comedy, most likely due to the fact that all of the material comes from films made from the 1920s to the late 1940s at MGM. Now available on DVD from Warner Archive, it’s an interesting product of its time.

The film is a collection of clips featuring different MGM films and performers, with more entertainment-minded than informative narration from then popular radio host Les Tremayne. It’s interesting the choices producer Robert Youngson made, for instance, giving Jean Harlow a well-rounded tribute featuring several scenes, while Carole Lombard gets barely a mention. I don’t know of anyone who thinks Garbo’s Two-Faced Woman (1941) is a comedy classic, or Robert Benchley an enduring comedy star, but both get lengthy scenes here.

There’s also genuinely funny material, including loving tributes given to William Powell and Myrna Loy, The Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy. A scene from Hollywood Party (1934) featuring Lupe Velez, Laurel and Hardy, and a bowl of eggs which demonstrates Velez’s underrated and mostly forgotten comic talent.

Overall it’s a fun romp if you don’t go in expecting a definitive collection. There are undeniable classics and legends here and plenty of films and stars who didn’t end up enduring for good reason. It’s interesting to see the perspective on classic film comedy from 1964, where apparently silent films were still looked upon as goofy artifacts, if deserving of some admiration. I suspect that even at that time a funnier batch of clips could have been drawn from the MGM vaults, but there are laughs to be found here.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. This is a Manufacture on Demand (MOD) DVD. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

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