What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Kentucky Kernels (1934)

Today’s movie is the 1934 RKO comedy Kentucky Kernels, featuring the comedy team of (Bert) Wheeler and (Robert) Woolsey! But, of course, we have three shorts to precede it, all of which are included as extras on the Blu-ray release of Kentucky Kernels from Warner Archive Collection!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Buddy’s Circus (1934)

(Length: 6 minutes, 31 seconds)

Buddy runs a circus as a baby gets into the mix. Can’t say as I have any prior experience with this “Buddy” character, since I mainly know the Looney Tunes era that features the likes of Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, etc. It’s an interesting cartoon, certainly done in a similar style to most cartoons of this era. It has its flaws, mostly revolving around some racial stereotypes of the time that make a few brief appearances here. Like I said, it’s interesting, but hardly worth many viewings.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Dance Contest (1934)

(Length: 6 minutes, 54 seconds)

Popeye competes with Bluto for Olive’s affections in a dance contest. First chance I’ve had to see one of the earlier Fleischer cartoons with Popeye in quite some time, and I’ve gotta say this one was fun! Sure, it was Popeye vs. Bluto, but it feels so fresh compared to some of the later cartoons! Of course, it’s fun seeing what Popeye did for dancing here (maybe not so much with Bluto, who was a little violent in his dancing with Olive, but then again, we’re cheering for Popeye, not him)! All in all, a fun cartoon to get the chance to see!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Sock-A-Bye, Baby (1934)

(Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)

Popeye is babysitting, but the sounds of the city won’t let the baby sleep. A lot of different noise-related gags here, which are different than I’m used to with Popeye. Which is NOT a bad thing! This cartoon was fun! Admittedly, Popeye seems to have the same reaction, whatever the noise: to destroy/ beat up whatever is making the noise (but it’s fun seeing some things try to keep going until he finishes them off)! I certainly enjoyed this one!

And Now For The Main Feature…

(Host): Magician Elmer Dugan (Robert Woolsey), also known as “The Great Elmer,” is down on his luck. He is living with his buddy Willie Doyle (Bert Wheeler) in a shanty under the bridge. One night, their fishing nets catch the suicidal Jerry Bronson (Paul Page). They pull him out of the nets, and try to convince him his life is worth living by suggesting he adopt a child. They volunteer to find him one at the orphan’s home, run by Mrs. Baxter (Margaret Dumont).

(Sounds of glass breaking offstage)

(Host): Oh, no. You didn’t.

(Narrator): Yes, I did. He he he.

(Host): Oh, fun. You know what our rather spiteful narrator did, folks? He brought in Spanky Milford (as played by that Little Rascal George “Spanky” McFarland, who was loaned out to RKO by the Hal Roach studio for this film). He’s a nice kid, but he’s got one big problem: he has a fondness for breaking glass!

(Host): Anyways, back to the story. Elmer and Willie are able to adopt Spanky for Jerry, but, when they bring Spanky over, Jerry is leaving for his honeymoon! He promises to return for the boy, and he gives them a check (although Spanky tears it up). Fast forward a few weeks, and now their shanty has greater airflow (since Spanky has been breaking all the windows).

(Sound of shattering glass)

(Host): (Winces). Yes, like that one. (muttering under breath: darn that narrator for bringing him in, anyways.) Anyways, they are visited by a pair of lawyers, who say that Spanky has inherited an estate in Banesville, Kentucky. Spanky refuses to go without his “Uncle Elmer” and “Uncle Willie.” The lawyers, who are reluctant to accompany Spanky there because of a big feud in the area between the Milford family and the Wakefield family, are relieved at the prospect, and offer to pay the expenses for Elmer and Willie to take him (but they don’t mention the feud). When Elmer and Willie see the wad of money the lawyers are offering, they quickly accept. On the train ride there, they meet Gloria Wakefield (Mary Carlisle), for whom Willie falls for immediately. When they arrive at the station, her father, Colonel Wakefield (Noah Beery), is waiting for her. Unaware of the feud, Elmer and Willie invite them over for dinner (an invitation they keep open even after learning about the feud). At first, the party seems to be going well, with everybody getting along, including Colonel Wakefield and Spanky’s aunt Hannah Milford (Lucille LaVerne), who seem to have feelings for each other. Then, Spanky opens a bottle of champagne, resulting in everyone thinking a gun went off, and the feud is back on! (Ah-ha, you thought Spanky was going to open a bottle here, too, didn’t you? Well, I locked that stuff up, and kept the key away from the narrator!)

(Narrator): Drat! I wondered where the key was!

(Host): He, he, he. You see, I can do it to you, too. Anyways, moving on. The next day, Elmer and Willie go over to the Wakefield home to smooth things over. However, after one of the servants let them in, they overhear Colonel Wakefield planning revenge on them and the Milford family. Unable to get out of the house without being discovered, they try to hide. Elmer is found by the Colonel in Gloria’s room, and the Colonel immediately sends for a minister.

(Narrator plays “Here Comes The Bride” on organ backstage)

(Host): (Walking backstage): No, no, no! Not now! You’re a few days (and one post) too early!

(Sounds of a cartoon hammer hitting someone on the head)

(Music stops)

(Host): (Walking back onstage, drops a big rubber mallet on the way out): Right then. Willie tries at first to pose as the minister, but the real one shows up, and they both get out of Dodge as quickly as they can. The next day, the Colonel gets all the Wakefields together to shoot the Milfords, but Gloria warns Elmer and Willie before the Wakefields arrive. However, when they get into a carriage to leave, Spanky gets out to break the glass in the greenhouse, and they’re stuck there.

(Checks backstage on the narrator, finds him starting to wake up).

(Host): (Whispering): I better stop right there. Any further, and the narrator may start a feud to go along with the story!

(Host): As far as it goes, this movie is my first experience with the comedy team of Wheeler and Woolsey. The only reason I can claim to have heard of them before I decided to try this movie is that I saw requests for their films on the Warner Archive Facebook fan page many times earlier in the decade (requests that obviously ceased to happen after Warner Archive released all of the Warner-owned films on DVD). But, Kentucky Kernels was another thirties film released to Blu-ray (and a comedy to boot, in a year I enjoy comedies that much more), so I figured I would give it a shot. And boy, am I glad I did! From start to finish, the comedy of Wheeler and Woolsey won me over, and kept me laughing! Their comedy was mainly dialogue-driven, but it worked well enough for me!

(Host): Of course, they were hardly all the fun here, as “Spanky” McFarland certainly entertained throughout the movie! If there was any unbroken glass left over, it was only because he didn’t notice it! Of course, I will also say that I enjoyed the film’s one big musical number, the song “One Little Kiss” which was written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby (to be fair, there was one other song, “Supper Song,” but it was so short it hardly seems worth mentioning). It’ll be a while before “One Little Kiss” isn’t stuck in my head (but, like I said, I enjoyed it, so that’s not a bad problem)! If there’s any criticism to level against this movie, it would be directed towards actor Willie Best (who is billed here as “Sleep ‘n’ Eat”). To be fair, it’s not so much him, it’s the material he has to work with, which is obviously rather racist. Luckily, he is for the most part in the background or at least has quick appearances, and it’s easy enough to get past it (at least, it is for me). I enjoyed this movie quite easily, and I certainly recommend it!

(Host): This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, with the Blu-ray boasting a 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative. Simply stated, the movie looks fantastic! As much as I enjoyed it, I hope it does well enough for them to release a few more of the Wheeler and Woolsey films on Blu-ray!

(disappears from center stage in a puff of smoke)

(Narrator): There he goes! Stage right!

(Starts to run after trying to tiptoe off)

(Falls through trapdoor)

(Host): Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! (Slams into ground) Ow.

(Host): (From down below) Now why couldn’t that have happened with the other trapdoor when I was trying to disappear before?

(Narrator): He, he, he.

Film Length: 1 hour, 15 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

College Humor (1933) – Mary Carlisle – Double Or Nothing (1937)

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