Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gag reels and bloopers

For the huge number of films produced in this country in the early decades of the 20th century, there are very few bloopers that have been preserved, compared to that enormous mileage of footage that was kept.

What bloopers that do remain probably would not amount to a decent gag reel. How ironic that today sometimes the funniest parts of a film comedy are not the movie, but the bloopers. These segments are so entertaining to today’s audiences that sometimes a DVD release of a film will include among its extra features, a gag reel. Going one step further, a spoof, purposely-filmed set of made up “bloopers” was even attached to the end credits of the animated feature “Toy Story 2” (1999), which really was very funny.

Old Hollywood, for all its corn, would have been appalled at the idea of producing a gag reel. They wanted their products to be as glossy as they could make them. Mistakes were to be left on the cutting room floor. The film industry of the day and the studio system, run very much like a factory, was heavy into quality control. Our enjoyment of “Gone With the Wind” probably wouldn’t be much improved by clips during the end credits of Ashley cursing after a flubbed line, or Rhett dropping Scarlett on her head when he carried her up the stairs.

Nor did they spend much effort at merchandizing their films, as we do today, begun on a mass scale probably with the first “Star Wars” films and its toys. There were few merchandizing efforts in old Hollywood, at least when it came to toys. An occasional paper doll set or two, a few Snow White trinkets, nothing like what we come to expect today. Perhaps if McDonald’s had been around in 1939, there might have been a Rhett Butler Happy Meal toy, but I doubt it. Kitsch, like bloopers, was not dignified for a young industry desperately wanting to be taken seriously.

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