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The Bootleg Files: Bell Bottom George

BOOTLEG FILES 582: “Bell Bottom George” (1944 British comedy starring George Formby).

LAST SEEN: An unauthorized posting is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: The film and its star are unknown in the U.S.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It has been released on British DVD, but a U.S. release is unlikely.

Very few Americans ever heard of George Formby, but over in Great Britain he is revered as one of the top entertainers of the 1930s and 1940s. With his squeaky Lancashire voice, his toothy grin, his penchant for singing upbeat tunes (many with saucy double meanings) while playing a ukulele or banjolele, and a persona for being a lovable bumbler who somehow manages to save the day, Formby personified what the British refer to as the “cheeky chappie,” but which Americans would recognize as a working-class hero.

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The Bootleg Files: Zenobia

BOOTLEG FILES 581: “Zenobia” (1939 comedy starring Oliver Hardy, Harry Langdon and Hattie McDaniel).

LAST SEEN: An unauthorized posting from a TCM telecast is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: A 1997 VHS video release.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A film that slipped through the cracks.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It is not a priority.

In 1939, producer Hal Roach announced that he was creating a new film that teamed Oliver Hardy with Harry Langdon. This was not something that Hardy welcomed, but he had no choice. Hardy and his longtime partner Stan Laurel were signed to separate contracts with Roach – their teaming came about by accident rather than design – but after a dispute involving the production of the team’s 1938 feature “Block-Heads,” Roach terminated Laurel’s contract. With Hardy still under contract for another year, the producer looked about for a vehicle to fit his rotund comedy star.

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The Bootleg Files: Detective Felix in Trouble

BOOTLEG FILES 580: “Detective Felix in Trouble” (1932 Japanese amateur animated short).

LAST SEEN: A video of this rare film is online at the Japanese Animated Film Classics website.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: The unauthorized use of the Felix the Cat character.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely at this time.

Today, it seems that anyone with a video camera and a mania for popular movies can make their own fan film based on the latest multiplex hit. But the concept of the fan film is not new, by any stretch. The earliest known fan film was a 1925 short “Anderson’s Own Gang Comedy,” a South Carolina-lensed riff on the Our Gang series.

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The Bootleg Files: So This is Harris

BOOTLEG FILES 579: “So This is Harris” (1933 Oscar-winning short starring Phil Harris).

LAST SEEN: An unauthorized video dupe is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: One of those films that just fell through the cracks.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely at this time.

In 1933, RKO Radio Pictures decided to take a chance on Phil Harris, a brash and fun-loving singer and bandleader whose star was on the rise. The studio initially cast him as the lead in the B-grade feature “Melody Cruise,” and then decided to make him the center of attention in a two-reeler.

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The Bootleg Files: Une Femme Coquette

BOOTLEG FILES 578: “Une Femme Coquette” (1955 short directed by Jean-Luc Godard).

LAST SEEN:
A possible unauthorized video dupe is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: The filmmaker never made it available for home entertainment release.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely at this time.

Over the past week, cinephiles on the Internet were in a lather over the news that a long-unseen Jean-Luc Godard film mysteriously turned up on YouTube. Since I am not a Godard fan, my initial reaction was one of mild indifference. But because the film’s arrival online came through what appears to be a bootleg copy, and since it only runs a mere nine minutes, I felt duty bound to give it a viewing.

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The Bootleg Files: That Certain Feeling

BOOTLEG FILES 577: “That Certain Feeling” (1956 comedy starring Bob Hope, Eva Marie Saint and Pearl Bailey).

LAST SEEN: An unauthorized video dupe is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A possible problem with rights clearance.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely at this time.

During the early 1950s, a sense of staleness began to permeate Bob Hope’s film output. Movies like “My Favorite Spy,” “Off Limits,” “Here Come the Girls” and “Casanova’s Big Night” were burdened with a mechanical indifference, and even a reteaming with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour in “Road to Bali” carried a sense of been-there/done-that. Yes, there were flashes of inspiration here and there, especially when Hope was paired with co-stars that matched his vibrancy – most notably in his instant-classic song-and-dance routine with James Cagney in “The Seven Little Foys.” But, for the most part, the fun was deflating and Hope’s star ranking at the box office was taking a slide.

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The Bootleg Files: A Day at the Horse Opera

BOOTLEG FILES 576: “A Day at the Horse Opera” (1966 animated short inspired by the Marx Brothers).

LAST SEEN: An unauthorized video dupe is floating around Facebook.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A possible problem with rights clearance.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely at this time.

On February 14, 1966, the trade publication Broadcasting Magazine carried an advertisement from Filmation Associates for a proposed series titled “The New Marx Brothers Show.” The series was to consist of 156 animated shorts featuring characters inspired by Groucho, Harpo and Chico Marx. (Yeah, no love for Zeppo, again!)

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