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The Bootleg Files: Summer Daze

BOOTLEG FILES 783: “Summer Daze” (1932 short comedy starring Karl Dane and George K. Arthur).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

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

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Unlikely.

In 1926, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cast two of its character actors, Karl Dane and George K. Arthur, in comic relief supporting roles in the film “Bardelys the Magnificent.” The actors were not teamed for this production, but someone in the studio came up with the idea of pairing the tall and gangly Dane with the diminutive Arthur in an Army comedy called “Rookies,” which was released to great popularity in 1927.

MGM rushed Dane and Arthur into four more feature films in 1928 and 1929, but by this point in time Hollywood was transitioning from silent movies to sound films. Dane and Arthur turned up in MGM’s all-star talkie “The Hollywood Revue of 1929,” albeit doing a pantomime performance opposite Jack Benny.

Sound films were not a problem for Arthur, who was born in England and had a clear speaking voice. Dane, however, was from Denmark and had a considerable Scandinavian accent – and while his speaking voice was not impenetrable, MGM felt uncomfortable keeping him in its roster. After severely reducing his on-screen presence in a few films, MGM dropped Dane from its roster – and Arthur was also let go.

Still, the duo had enough popularity to warrant RKO Radio Pictures bringing them over to headline five comedy films in 1930 and 1931. When these films failed to register with audiences, Dane and Arthur continued at Paramount Pictures with four additional short films.

“Summer Daze” from 1932 was the last Dane and Arthur short and it is an unsatisfactory swan song for this comedy team. In viewing the film, one gets the feeling that neither actor wanted to continue in this partnership – they don’t click as a team the way that other teams of the era operated – and their material was conspicuously weaker than the comedies being generated by their peers.

In “Summer Daze,” Dane is supposed to be a millionaire who has abruptly gone missing and Arthur is his physician. Dane is found at his New York City gentleman’s club sleeping – he seems to be borderline narcoleptic, as he is continually asleep throughout the day.

Arthur prescribes a camping trip in the Catskill Mountains, and the two men bring along their wives. But only Arthur is enjoying himself – Dane is mostly snoring in a deep sleep and the two wives loathe each other.

“Summer Daze” is often childish and unpleasant. Dane’s wife, played by the usually reliable Marjorie Beebe, throws stones at his head to wake him, and he responds to those missives with a befuddled “Yes, my love.” There is a scene where the men try to slap an elusive mosquito that evades swatting – but their wives mistakenly believe the men are having a fight with their slap exchanges and they get into a fist fight.

There is also a scene where Dane falls asleep on a large stone under a plaque that claims Rip Van Winkle slept for 20 years on that stone—the frantic Beebe hails a farmer’s truck and gets it confused occupant to wake her slumbering husband because he is not responding to the usual stone-to-the-head routine.

“Summer Daze” also engages in some tired slapstick, with Dane standing in a boat to shoot flying geese (he falls from the boat into a lake) and where the couples’ tent gets blown to the edge of a cliff and the men walk out and fall into the chasm below.

This film was directed by Albert Ray, a prolific but undistinguished fixture of the lower-budget production. Paramount was still making its short films in New York City and much of “Summer Daze” was shot on location in the Catskills, although the cliff sequence was obviously done in a cheapjack studio set-up.

Dane and Arthur had off-screen tensions since they were booted from MGM and by the conclusion of “Summer Daze” they decided to end their double-act. Dane was unable to regain a foothold in films – after a small role in a 1933 serial “The Whispering Shadow” for the cheapjack Mascot Pictures, he couldn’t get film work and went through a series of odd jobs and failed investments before committing suicide in 1934. Arthur’s acting career also petered out, including a few bit parts in films at the MGM studio where he was once a star, but he was able to transition into producing and won an Academy Award for his 1956 short “The Bespoke Overcoat.”

“Summer Daze” was never released in any home entertainment format. The film did show up on television as a National Telefilms Associates release, and a print of that presentation can be found online.

Sadly, very few of Dane and Arthur’s films are easily available. None of their surviving MGM silent features have been released in home entertainment formats. One of their better Paramount shorts, “A Put Up Job” (1931), was part of a Kino DVD anthology of the studio’s Pre-Code short films. “Summer Daze” can be found on YouTube – and while it is not representative of Dane and Arthur at their best, at least it keeps the duo out of complete oblivion.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: While this weekly column acknowledges the presence of rare film and television productions through the so-called collector-to-collector market, this should not be seen as encouraging or condoning the unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either through DVDs or Blu-ray discs or through postings on Internet video sites.

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