Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kismet Dun Met It's Kismet

Long time visitors to Poptique will know that any film that's "lost" gets a big fuck-yeah thumbs up from me. It consistently quivers my conscience that a piece of work, toiled over many months, and enjoyed (or indeed, otherwise) by thousands across the globe has crumbled into powder, gone up in smoke and vanished into thin air.

Therefore it's also a shocker when something ridiculously obscure and unimaginably rare appears on Youtube for it's millions of users worldwide to roundly ignore, and for a tiny handful of contrary nostalgia nuts like myself to gawp at.

Take this seemingly innocuous behind the scenes footage from the set of the 1930 version of creaky operetta Kismet.

Opulent was the word for this grand 65mm widescreen, two-colour technicolor extravaganza that traveled the world wowing audiences in the dark days of the depression. How can a tiny tease of home movie footage be all that survives of the blighter? Very mind boggling - if, like me, your mind is boggled by the now essentially pointless debris of cinematic history.

Pity poor Otis Skinner - this legendary figure of the American stage had been famously plying his trade as the lead in Kismet for over 20 years when the film was released in 1930, having already recorded the performance for posterity for First National back in the 20s. Posterity gave old Otis the figure however, as both have been swept away like the sand from the sound stages upon which they were lensed (how's that for a lovely bit of poetic prose?).

The sets and costumes from Kismet probably appeared in a quite a few films we're familiar with - one I wasn't, that has been positively identified as a prime example of recyclisation (an exciting word I've invented just for this article) is the 1932 Joe E Brown laughfest.

These days Brown is remembered almost entirely for saying "Nobody's perfect" to a dragged up Jack Lemon at the end of Some Like It Hot, but in the early pre-code 30s he starred in hit after ribald hit for Warner Bros with his sassy, big mouthed act. I can honestly say I've never sat through a single example - but one day I'll have to wallow in a brain-straining Joe E Brown festival, most likely when I'm incapacitated and in a masochistic mood to
push myself over the edge.

Truth be told, Operetta's are far from the top of my list of films I'd gladly endure, so Kismet is far more alluring due to it's long lost status to add the the Eastern allure of it's rumoured pre-code sauciness (the unreleasability of which supposedly helped hasten it's ultimate destruction). Should another lamentably misplaced example ever appear - The Rogue Song from the same year - my finger would be near-constant addition to the fast-forward button to get me to the from each Laurel & Hardy guest spot to the next.

Should I be forced to watch the musical numbers my expression would be very similar to the gent to Stan's left...