Thursday, December 5, 2013

Laurel and Hardy: Utopia (1951) - Full Classic Movie with Cartoon Short: Betty Boop: Minnie the Moocher (1932) - Banned Cartoon


Utopia (1951) is a French/Italian co-production film—also known as Atoll K Robinson Crusoeland in the United Kingdom and Utopia in the United States -- which starred the comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in their final screen appearance. The film co-stars French singer/actress Suzy Delair and was directed by Léo Joannon, with uncredited co-direction by blacklisted U.S. director John Berry.

Laurel learns that he is to receive an inheritance left by a wealthy uncle. Unfortunately, most of the inheritance is consumed by taxes and legal fees, and he is left with only a rickety but fully provisioned yacht and a private island in the Pacific Ocean. Laurel and Hardy leave for the island, accompanied by a stateless refugee and a stowaway (a malcontent Italian bricklayer).

On the voyage, the friendly refugee acts as chef, but the food mysteriously disappears from Stan's plate because the stowaway is taking it. This leads Stan to blame Ollie and an argument ensues. The engine then fails, so Ollie removes parts in an attempt to fix it. He hands them to Stan, who puts them on the deck where they slide overboard. Ollie then realises that his efforts were in vain when he notices that the fuel gauge reads empty. Having lost the engine, they hoist the sail, revealing the stowaway hiding in it.

They encounter a storm and Stan battles with an inflating liferaft in the cabin while Ollie is at the helm. They are shipwrecked on a newly emerged desert island, which they dub "Crusoeland" after the book Robinson Crusoe that is on their yacht. They are soon joined by a nightclub singer who is fleeing her jealous fiancee, a naval lieutenant. The island is established as a new republic, with Hardy as president and Laurel as "the people." They write a constitution declaring their atoll will have no laws, no taxes, and no immigration controls.

All goes well until the singer's fiancee arrives to confirm the island is rich with uranium deposits. People from all over the world flock to "Atoll K" as it has been named, but soon the situation turns chaotic when a revolt seeks to overthrow and execute the island's original inhabitants. Before the execution, another storm strikes and floods the island. Laurel and Hardy are rescued and arrive at the island Laurel inherited, only to have their land and supplies impounded for failure to pay taxes.

Production:
In the late 1940s, Laurel and Hardy were without film employment. Earlier in the decade, they ended their long association with producer Hal Roach and signed to make a series of films at both 20th Century Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In post-World War II Europe, Laurel and Hardy were enjoying a new popularity with audiences that had been unable to see their movies during wartime. As a result of this, the pair received an offer from a French-Italian cinematic consortium to star in a film to be produced in France for $1.5 million, a large budget for the era.

The production of Atoll K was riddled with many problems that caused the production to be extended abnormally. Ida Laurel, Stan Laurel's widow, told biographer John McCabe, "I'm hardly likely to forget the date we left for France and the date we returned -- April 1, 1950, and April 1, 1951. But there was no April Fooling about that terrible year. That bloody picture was supposed to take twelve weeks to make, and it took twelve months."

From the beginning, there were disagreements on the film's screenplay. Laurel was unhappy with the storyline envisioned by French director Léo Joannon and insisted on bringing Alfred Goulding and Monty Collins to aid in the screenplay's creation (neither man received on-screen credit). There were also considerable problems in communications, since neither Laurel nor Hardy spoke French and Joannon spoke very little English.

During the production, the two comedy stars encountered serious problems. Laurel's pre-existing diabetes was aggravated and he developed colitis, dysentery and a prostate ulcer while on the French locations for the film. He eventually required hospitalization,[4] and his widow would later fault the quality of the French medical care, claiming that at one point, she had to substitute for an absent nurse by changing her husband's bandages. Laurel's weight dropped to 114 pounds, and for most of the production he could only work in 20 or 30-minute spurts.



Classic episode of Betty Boop featuring Cab Calloway's famous song, Minnie the Moocher from 1932.

In 1932, Calloway recorded the song for a Fleischer Studios Talkartoon short cartoon, also called Minnie the Moocher, starring Betty Boop and Bimbo. Calloway and his band provide most of the short's score and themselves appear in a live-action introduction. The thirty-second live-action segment is the earliest-known film footage of Calloway. In the cartoon, Betty decides to run away from her parents - who insist that she eat something despite the fact that she doesn't want to eat (to the tune of "They Always Pick on Me,"), and Bimbo comes with her. While walking away from home, Betty and Bimbo wind up in a spooky area and hide in a hollow tree. A spectral walrus — whose gyrations were rotoscoped from footage of Calloway dancing — appears to them, and begins to sing "Minnie the Moocher", with many fellow ghosts following along. After singing the whole number, the ghosts chase Betty and Bimbo all the way back to Betty's home. While Betty is hiding under the covers of her bedsheets, her runaway note is torn up and the remaining letters read "Home Sweet Home". In 1933 another Betty Boop/Cab Calloway cartoon with "Minnie the Moocher" was The Old Man of the Mountain.
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