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The Bootleg Files: Garbo

BOOTLEG FILES 583: “Garbo” (1969 BBC documentary narrated by Joan Crawford).

LAST SEEN: An unauthorized posting is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Uncertain.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It was announced for a 2005 release, but that never happened.

Around 1985, I was walking down First Avenue in New York City when I noticed an elderly woman coming down the street. I immediately recognized this woman – for many years, she had been the elusive object of tabloid photographers eager to snap her picture. I debated whether I should make any acknowledgement of her presence and decided that it would be best to allow her to maintain the legendary privacy associated with her name. And thus, in less than a New York minute, I had my encounter with Greta Garbo.

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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: 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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