Sunday, March 14, 2010

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 60

In the early to mid-sixties, there existed briefly a genre of films that tended to only play in the South. Although they ostensibly had plots, said “plots” were just an expendable frame for a whole bunch of music video-style performances from country music stars of the era.

Perhaps the most notable example of this genre is HILLBILLIES IN A HAUNTED HOUSE which featured Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney and John Carradine. Others included FORTY ACRE FEUD and LAS VEGAS HILLBILLYS. Then there was the one we’re discussing today, SECOND FIDDLE TO A STEEL GUITAR.

I’m not a big country music fan but even for me there’s a certain joy in watching these legendary performers miming their big hits. Little Jimmy Dickens is great here and Sonny James (who seemed to be in most of these pictures) was always

impressive. Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys seem a little put out but do a fine version of “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

TV comic Arnold Stang (voice of TOP CAT) co-stars with Pamela Hayes, for whom this was her only IMDB credit! The real attraction with this picture for non-country fans, however, is the Bowery Boys! That’s right. Ten years after he retired, Leo Gorcey teams up again with Huntz Hall, creatively named “Leo” and “Huntz” but clearly playing Slip and Satch, hats and all. Their comedy schtick at the beginning and between numbers throughout seems largely unscripted (and thus unfunny) but it’s still so good to see them again…in color yet! The years hadn’t been that kind to Leo but the chemistry with Huntz was still there.

Recently released on DVD finally, SECOND FIDDLE TO A STEEL GUITAR isn’t much but it is well worth it for fans of this odd genre, classic country or the Bowery Boys.

When HEE HAW came along a couple of years later on television, they stopped making this type of film and many of these Grand OlOpry veterans became semi-regulars there instead. Huntz and Leo would team again for a TV documentary and a later cameo in THE PHYNX, made just before Gorcey’s death. SECOND FIDDLE TO A STEEL GUITAR is literally a movie of which it can be said, “They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore,”