Article 4779 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Mack Sennett
Featuring George Moran, Charles Mack, Ernest Torrence
What it is: Beyond the pale
A circus employee is in love with a famous gypsy violinist, but he’s too embarrassed to propose because she makes more money than he does. When he wins a sweepstakes, he proposes, but then vanishes on the day of the wedding. The violinist gets on a ship to return to her homeland, but so is the circus employee, and he’s under the spell of hypnotist who is using him for his performances.
Ten thoughts on HYPNOTIZED.
1) Mack Sennett had trouble adjusting to the advent of sound, and from what I gather, this feature is really what did him in; it went way over budget, had twelve writers, and though I don’t know for sure, I suspect it bombed. It’s hard to imagine a movie this bad making money.
2) The putative stars are George Moran and Charles Mack, a vaudeville team that performed in blackface as “The Two Black Crows”. In this movie, as a team they appear only in a brief scene near the beginning; shortly after that, Moran disappears from the story, while Mack appears again and again, usually working with Wallace Ford.
3) Oddly enough, the performers in blackface are not the most offensive aspect of the movie. Some of the ways the animals are treated look very questionable. Sure, they’re probably faking the elephant getting drunk, but the scene where Mack and his girlfriend (or their stand-ins, as the case may be) are pulling on the tail of a lion doesn’t look faked.
4) Apparently, Sennett wanted W.C. Fields for the movie; I’m assuming he would have been either in the role Charles Murray or as the hypnotist. I don’t know whether it was wisdom or luck, but he was fortunate to have nothing to do with it.
5) The movie was distributed by World Wide pictures, who had an infamous movie logo consisting of a woman holding two huge globes in front of her chest. Usually it’s rendered as a drawing, but every once in a while it’s done with a live model. My copy of this features the live model both at the beginning and the end. This logo is classier than the rest of the movie.
6) For some reason, the movie has some short bits of animation of dancing mice during one scene. The scene also has Mack pulling on a dog’s tail to add to the animal cruelty of the film.
7) Every once in a while I encounter a movie where I feel that a “making of” feature about the movie would be more fascinating and effective than the movie itself. This is one of those. I’d especially love to find out why the movie is such a mess and why Moran disappears from the cast.
8) There are only two moments in the movie that even mildly amused me. One has Ford and Mack sitting down without chairs. The other has Mack pulling out the clumsiest looking jackknife I’ve ever seen.
9) On top of “The Two Black Crows”, one other character is also in blackface; this is the woman playing Mack’s girlfriend. I suspect the reason for this is that some audience members would have been offended by a white man (even in blackface) romancing a black woman. As far as I can tell, there’s only one real black in the cast; Hattie McDaniel shows up as a powder room attendant and promptly outacts everyone else on the screen.
10) Finally, this is one of those truly, desperately, painfully unfunny comedies. It’s energetic and it’s trying its best, but it falls flat at every turn. The only people who I would recommend it to are those who really want to see that World Wide Pictures logo.