Friday, January 25, 2013

Circus Boy Number Two: "The Fabulous Colonel Jack"

Full Second Episode is here.
The full link is this:

(I could only find the first 2 episodes on Youtube, and found them through "Monkeemaniaheads" on Facebook. Many thanks to that page for the heads up!!  Please let me know in the comments if you find more links!!)

I'll note here that Noah Beery Jr. is "Uncle Joey" the clown.  He had an incredible career, starring in everything from John Wayne movies to "The Rockford Files".  His father, Noah Beery Sr. and uncle, Wallace Beery (Oscar winner!), were both huge stars of the silent screen.

In fact, the setup for the series, that Corky is an orphan being raised by circusfolk, is the same premise that "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" (film, 1928) used.  It starred Loretta Young in her first big role (at 15!).  And Lon Chaney, the man of 1000 faces, in a great dramatic turn (especially the end!!!).  Trust me, you've seen his work, even if you don't recognize him.  HE is the face of most silent movie horror monsters.  His son, btw, was Lon Chaney Jr., who was in #7, "Monkees in A Ghost Town".  ("You ain't goin' nowhere!") He also played Lennie in "Of Mice & Men" 1939.  With Noah Beery Jr.

Historical Contexts:
There was a great decline in live theater & family events like circuses in the 1950's and many were struggling or going out of business in that period.  "Circus Boy" actually purchased the entire contents of a real circus instead of having to build and collect all the authentic elements for the studio.

The plot of this show involves the businessman who technically owns the circus, getting bored with his "real" job and wanting to get back into the circus life.  He brings all sorts of acts, including an Ostrich and a Kneeling Bull, but there are serious consequences when he's away from his job.  From the perspective of today, this is actually a lesson in business on the fine art of "delegation".  But within the context of the show, it's supposed to be a lesson about the virtues of sticking to your own job, no matter how boring it is.

The idea of actually going down into a mine shaft as a job was more common 50 years ago.  But still pulls at the heartstrings of any audience today.  Especially the nobility of poor people, especially trusting rich people with their lives.  And the claustrophobic idea of being trapped when there is a collapse.  Looking back, this is kind of a scary choice for a children's show.

Other works which feature the difficult conditions of mining include:
How Green was My Valley (Welsh novel 1939, and movie, 1941 with a young Roddy McDowell)
Coal Miner's Daughter (1980 bio of Loretta Lynn, country singer)
It's still done today, but machines & techniques have made things safer.  But not entirely.  Baby Jessica rescued from a well in 1987 and the 33 trapped Chilean Coal Miners (2010)

Pay special attention to the beauty of the lyrics to "How Glory Goes"  from "Floyd Collins", an Off-Broadway musical about the greatest cave explorer who ever lived.  The song is about his last moments being trapped in a cave, wondering about death.  Audra McDonald's recording should be played at every funeral.

Etymology & Historical Linguistic Digressions:
Avis Strouthion (Bird- Ostrich)
For a gag, the writers include the Ancient Greek name for an Ostrich!!

"Avis strouthion, it means 'Ostrich', it comes from the Greek."/
"I wish the Greek would come and get it!"
(When was the last time you heard a random Classical vocabulary word on tv??)

Note the difference between the spelling and pronunciation of the word:
The L comes from Italian, but the French turned it into an R (through dissimilation).

As a child, I heard [Coy-Nel] on Bugs Bunny and was convinced that they were 2 different words entirely.  Therefore, "Colonel" should be pronounced with an exaggerated Brooklyn (Bugs) accent.  And that there really were people who had reached the rank of "Kernel", maybe a higher rank-defined by to the costume in the cartoon.

There seems to be an Indian dialect phrase used, which translates roughly to "Pull, Bimbo, pull!".  Apparently Colonel Jack believes that Bimbo would remember his native language.  (Let me know what the spelling is for the phrase, if you can figure it out, and if anyone speaks Hindi or Tamil or recognizes it at all)

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