Monday, August 24, 2009

The Great McGonigle (From 2006)

When I was young, there was a coterie of entertainers, some still alive, many recently dead, that seemed a bit mildewed and square, but had a certain something that kept them from disappearing from view altogether. They'd have little renaissances, either as shadows of themselves, still performing, or as icons; then they'd slip below the entertainment horizon again.

All the three main Marx brothers had a run. Henny Youngman. Rodney Dangerfield. Charlie Chaplin ebbed and flowed. Harold Lloyd. Even Mae West caught a flurry of interest in the seventies. George Burns clawed his way out of the crypt every once in a while for forty years or so, dragging his friends Jack Benny and Milton Berle along. Jackie Gleason got his homage regularly. Come and go.

But man, I never got tired of William Claude Dukenfield, the genteel bum:

There were a couple of juggling videos making the rounds of the internet recently, and they struck me as mildly entertaining. They immediately reminded me, though, of the most entertaining juggler that ever lived: W.C. Fields. Someone finally took pity on me and posted that video on YouTube, so I could prove it to you. And he's barely trying in that one.

Remember when celebrities could do things, and entertain people?


Ricky Raccoon said...

Maybe Steve Martin the last of them. Seen him juggle pretty well, use a lasso and can play the banjo while telling jokes with signature grin. I want to say he had a sketch as an actual one man band. In his boxers. I think he also collected desserts, and was a top-shelf air brush artist.

Ricky Raccoon said...

By artist, I don't mean those chumps who clean up blemishes for Time Magazine covers. I'm talking about that short-lived craft no one cares to learn anymore because computer graphics replaced it. But you can't touch the medium or smell it either, while it's being made. You also can't touch the original because there really isn't one with a digital anything.

The Queen Vee said...


Phil said...

Great post, Sipp!

"I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. It's the one thing I am indebted to her for."

Va Beach

Jim - PRS said...

I had seen that once before a long time ago. It was great to see it again. Now, I have to look for the movie (the one where he bought the orange grove) and did a bit with a folding chair that was a classic.

DBC Reed said...

I would also vouch for Charlie Chaplin on roller skates.Best in "The Rink" towards the middle.He skates better in the department store sequence in "Modern Times" but that's not the point.(They're both on the Net BTW.)

These guys could actually do things well .

DBC Reed said...

And Chaplin also wrote "Smile",Michael Jackson's favourite song,which he must have felt gracefully summarised his grim predicament.

Gordon said...


Anonymous said...

Nearly all stage entertainers had several skills before the movie became dominant.

The studio system provided training in multiple skils. But those skills were not necessarily the same as stage skills.

Studio actors, especially the young ones, took regular lessons in ballroom dance, singing, riding, card dealing, handling guns, fencing, skating, tennis, swimming. Not to mention the all important voices and accents.

I saw just a little at the end of the studio system. Not enough to really understand what was ending.

Today precise physical skills are not displayed much. But I suspect many actors still train. It can't hurt.

K two