Yesterday's example of silliness from Sullivan's Travels (1941) emphasized the joys of verbal comedy when practiced by skilled players. Today, I thought we might take a look at a sadly forgotten comic gem from the early sound era in the anthology movie, If I Had a Million (1932). Each of the segments in this movie center around how various Depression era characters behave when they receive what once seemed a fortune enough to last a long lifetime: $1 million. Inflation does strange things to human values, but in the segment shown in the clip below, it tickled my sense of humor with a dream of glory that all wage slaves have probably contemplated at least once. Charles Laughton (right) plays a mostly silent clerk who drones away in a large, anonymous office, moving with the slow, self-destructive gait of a turtle on a humid day as he goes about his duties. When he receives an unexpected missive, throwing him off his rhythm for just a moment. Regaining his composure, he appears to be notifying someone about something untoward, and one expects him to return to burrowing away in his rut.
We see how timing and well-chosen sound effects can tickle one's funny bone as much as language. This movie, alas, is one of many from this period that is not available commercially on a Region 1 DVD at this time. We owe the pleasure of this small gem to director Ernst Lubitsch:
If I Had a Million