Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Showtime USA Vol 2 Yes Sir Mr Bones And Square Dance Jubilee|
Actors: Cotton & Chick Watts, Chester Davis
Genres: Comedy, Musicals & Performing Arts
Yes Sir, Mr. Bones!: A young boy wanders into a home for old minstrel men and wants to know more about them, cueing the oldsters to tell HIM (and the Lords of Flashback to show US) a performance from the days of riverboat ... more »
An interesting curiosity . . .
Silent film comedy lover | The Jersey Shore | 12/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I picked this one up "on spec" because I was interested in the minstrel featurette, had never heard of this movie before, and was curious about it. Turns out this was an independent production distributed by Lippert Pictures, the same company who for a time also held the reissue rights to Hal Roach's 1934 feature "Babes in Toyland/March of the Wooden Soldiers" starring Laurel & Hardy. Given the budget constraints, this is an impressive production and very well executed; the costumes in particular are great.
I suppose this is about as close as we may ever get to seeing a reconstruction of a minstrel show, which is actually a precursor to 1920's vaudeville and the 1950-60's "variety shows" on television. The tunes are authentic to the time period, although the arrangements have more than a little 1940's feel to them. The performances are very good, considering everything, and some of them, such as the "bones" routine, the soft shoe and the "sand dance," are amazing. Watch closely and you may even see where Michael Jackson's "Moonwalk" move may have originated.
Of course, there are some VERY politically uncorrect portions here, starting with the blackface makeup and continuing with a number of the "comedy" routines, which are pretty embarrassing in light of present sensibilities. It's actually amazing that some of these routines got filmed in the first place, and I wonder exactly where this featurette was distributed! Still, it's good to have it, if only as a historical document and a way of measuring how far we've come since the 1940's.
I should also mention that the commentary, although sometimes a bit flippant, is generally very good. The speakers have done a fine job of identifying and researching the cast, and have plenty of interesting nuggests of information to share. For example, they found that Chester Conklin, one of the original Keystone Kops, appears as a extra! They also confirmed that the "sand dance" was done by the son of the owner of Haverly's Mastodon Minstrels, one of the premier minstrel troupes at the turn of the century. Lots of good detective work here (including why the chorus girls' shoes don't match). The only downside is the audio quality -- at times it sounds as though the interview was recorded on a very windy back porch!
On the other hand, the DVD transfer is impeccable, and was made from what appears to be pristine source material, perhaps even an original 35mm print. Except for one or two very tiny splices and one or two "jumps" (probably caused by some minor sprocket-hole damage) in the first five minutes, the picture is crystal clear with beautiful contrast and excellent audio. Somebody did an excellent job of preserving this film for posterity (or perhaps it just sat on a shelf and was ignored for 50 years, who knows?) and then transferred it to DVD with great care. Other studios and distributors, please take note!!"