Saturday, 9 September 2017

I also like how disappointed they look.

Yesterday, I watched the 1941 Leslie Howard film 'Pimpernel Smith', a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel set in 1939.  I was delighted to find it has what must be at least an extremely early example of a particular type of joke:

That's pretty good, isn't it? Forty years before Ted Stryker met a trombonist in a bar, or Homer Simpson met the Springfield Philharmonic in the woods. Does anyone know of an earlier version? The Goons did it a lot, of course, but not until the '50s. 

I recommend the film, by the way- it's on Netflix at the moment (in Britain, anyway), and has some good jokes in it, and an excellent (and excellently cast and costumed) comedy Nazi. 

- 'No, no, no. Shakespeare is a German. Professor Schußbacher has proved it once and for all.'
- 'Dear me, how very upsetting. Still, you must admit that the English translations are remarkable.'

(I know, I know... I will do the rest of the Double Act blogs eventually. Probably.) 


riflet said...

That truly is an excellent version of the "seemingly non-diegetic sound is actually diegetic" trick/joke. Not just well conceived, but well handled. Thanks for pointing it out.

Alas I have no idea if there are any earlier versions. This is pretty early in the sound era for such meta-tricks but the meta-tricks always start earlier than I think.

As for later examples (for which you did not ask), one that leapt to mind takes place early in Mel Brooks' High Anxiety when a string orchestra is revealed to be traveling next to Brooks' vehicle on the highway.

Thank you for your continued service.

riflet said...

My abject apologies. I said "string orchestra" but in recollection I believe it's actually a full orchestra --- possibly identified as the Los Angeles Philharmonic on the side of the bus. I distinctly recall brass instruments, at any rate.

Mea maxima culpa.

I have thought of no examples prior to 1941 however. Sorry.

Alan Jones said...

Absolute favourite has to be blazing saddles

Jim said...

TV Tropes calls this "Left the Background Music On". See:


I noticed a few 1930's films in the list they give:

The Laurel and Hardy short Busy Bodies (1933)
Fritz Lang's 1936 film Fury - [ ]
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

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Beth said...

It's interesting that 7 yrs earlier Leslie Howard played the Scarlet Pipernel in a film which was set in the original setting. Perhaps Pipernel Smith is actually a time travel story!

Unknown said...

Hello! Sorry, this comment has nothing to do with Pimpernel Smith, but I don't know how else to contact you. My husband and I came to see you a couple of weeks ago at the Kensington Central Library; we enjoyed the show greatly, it was very funny - and clever - stuff! You interspersed the new material with material written for Mitchell and Webb, in which old ladies interview people with silly jobs.

I remember hearing these when performed by Mitchell and Webb, but I either missed or forgot the start when you tell us that Joanna Lumley is now our dictator. I rmeember reading years ago that if she had her way, she'd be a 'benevolent despot' - it struck me as a very good idea at the time; was this also your kicking off point for the sketch?

Best wishes,

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