October 24, 2011
As regular readers of this site well know, I have a very low opinion of the fat man in the battered hat and the antics he calls ‘comedy.’ Over the years, folks have chimed in with their own opinions. I am sharing some of them here in the spirit of reasonableness and openness to others’ opinions. (But he still sucks.)
Ed: I just received a set of DVDs containing 46 Durango movies. The couple I’ve seen so far confirms your opinion that Smiley Burnette was spectacularly unfunny.
Joe, Sr. : R. SMILEY BURNETT I HAVE NEVER LAUGHT SO MUCH, AS WHEN I SEEN YOU DO YOUR MAGIC ON THE WESTERNS, I DO KNOW THAT YOU HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT 300-SONGS. SO MUCH TALENT YOU HAVE. GOD BLESS YOU ALWAYS. YOUR PAL DRANGO KID WILL SHOOT ME! I DID NOT GET HIS NAME RIGHT!
Luciano: I think that in terms of songs by Smiley Burnette, this film, Cyclone Fury, has some of the best. His song “I’ll be getting some sleep” by the coffin is great, so is “Hear the Wind”, a song that he sings by the chuckwagon in order to earn a bite to eat.
Mun Mun: I agree that Starrett always does a great job of feigning amusement at Smiley’s comedy routines.
Steve: I think you’re being a bit hard on ol’ Smiley. I always liked the guy, even though he could be a bit too annoying in some films. Of course, it was in the script that he act that way.
Bruce: SMILEY BURNETTE: agree with you on your blog, he is the single most negative factor in every DK movie, thank God for remotes & fast forward. He’s even annoying on many one sheets where frequently he dominates them more than Charley. Autry never gave him the seemingly free licence he had with Charley.
Mike: Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion and while Smiley’s buffoonish comedy may not appeal to you, he was definitely popular with Western movie audiences of the Forties and Fifties. Even after leaving movies, he took his act on the road to state fairs where people still remembered him and then of course to Petticoat Junction. He wrote countless songs, was able to play a number of instruments and his bug-eyed look and gravelly voice always found an audience.
September 27, 2009
I thought I’d discovered all evidence of Smiley at the Autry. I was wrong.
Beware potential visitors.
September 19, 2009
I spend a lot of time at the Autry Museum, especially in the summer (as should be apparent from my last half-dozen posts). It’s close to our home, the little one likes the place, it’s not the sort of museum where you have to be particularly quiet, the people are friendly, and it’s got, hands-down, the best air-conditioning in the L.A. area.
We often find ourselves in the Imagination Gallery, aka, the cowboy movie section. There’s a blue screen there and a saddle with a button under the horn. If a little finger pushes it, baby is part of a chase scene set to the William Tell overture. Briar rides this about 800 times every visit.
I’ve had plenty of time to peruse the exhibits and I’m happy to report that there is very little Smiley Burnette on display. Fellow Smiley-phobes, you are free to roam these halls with little fear of running into images of the big unfunny man in the battered black hat.
I count two (2) images of Smiley. The first is a brief appearance in the aforementioned tribute film to stunt men where he is barely recognizable, expect to the keen eye of those who have suffered through hours of his inane antics.
The second, and final, image is this, tucked in with a number of other stills running along the top of the displays.
It’s surprising really, seeing how long he was with Gene Autry. I mean, pretty much from the beginning, and, after a break as Starrett side-kick, right up until the end. He’s not even mentioned in the literature or the 20 minute film on Gene’s life.
But, look! Don’t get me wrong! I’m NOT complaining!
August 31, 2009
The Autry National Center of the American West (aka, the Autry Museum) has a series of short films playing on monitors interspersed among the exhibits. These presentations examine the history of B-Westerns. I’ve written about these films before.
Around the corner from the Charles Starrett exhibit there plays a tribute to the stunt men of the B-Western. It begins with a quick-paced montage of movie stunts (a horse and rider diving off a cliff, a wagon rolling down a hill, etc) and culminates with a long shot of a cowboy maneuvering along a buckboard on a “speeding” wagon, clearly on a soundstage. Recognize someone?
“…a special breed of people who make movie magic appear to be real.”
I’ll agree with the “special” part, but, c’mon, Smiley as a stuntman? The guy can barely pull off a convincing pratfall.
May 30, 2008
May 14, 2008
You know the old theorem that given an infinite amount of time that an infinite amount of monkeys banging away on an infinite amount of typewriters will eventually write Shakespeare?
It turns out there is a corollary to this. Given over 200 film and television roles and allowed to clown in front of the camera in all of them, Smiley Burnette will eventually say or do something funny.
The miracle occurs in “Trail of the Rustlers.” Smiley has been kidnapped by rustlers, and is being led, blindfolded, to his death. Smiley: “Aw fellas, a joke is a joke.”
On second thought, it’s not all that funny.
Smiley bugs me for a couple of reasons. First of all, his comedy is always so obvious. I mean, he will always make the most obvious choice. If he’s going to dance, he’ll put his finger on the top of his head and pirouette. If he’s riding a horse, he pretends to almost fall off. If he’s peering through a magnifying glass, he’ll get too close to something and bonk his head.
Secondly, he’s smug. He’s got this look most of the time like “every one of my moves is like the purest symphony of comedy.” This sure fits with the oft-told story about Charley and Smiley’s first exchange when the honchos at Columbia decided to add Smiley to Charley’s act. Smiley apparently said, “I’m here to save your ass.”
Third, he’s not accomplished at his clowning. Any half-way-decent physical comedian can do amazing things with their body, and has an array of other skills and talents to draw on. Smiley is clod. His singing is a joke (and not a very funny one.) The frog voice sounds like a lame sound effect (I’m not convinced it isn’t.) He spends the entirety of “South Of Death Valley” exploring the comic potential of a lasso — any kid with a piece of string could have done better.
And finally, there is a certain laziness on top of all this. Just watch him half-heartedly snap his fingers, you’ll know what I mean.
It’s getting harder and harder to watch these films. And Smiley is to blame!