Big V Comedies

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The Big V Comedies (also known as “Vitaphone Comedies”) were two-reel (17 to 20 minute long) comedy film shorts produced by Warner Bros. and Vitaphone between 1931 and 1938, contemporary of the more famous Hal Roach, Mack Sennett and Columbia Pictures comedies.

Overview[edit]

Most of these Warner short subjects were filmed at the Brooklyn, New York facilities, but a few 1935 titles handled by Ralph Staub were done in Hollywood, including the classic Keystone Hotel. [1] (This was a similar situation with the contemporary Educational Pictures, which also made its film shorts in both New York and Hollywood during the same period.) Samuel Sax was often producer in charge.

Among the most famous of these were the very last films starring Fatty Arbuckle, along with vintage screen appearances of Shemp Howard of Three Stooges fame and Bob Hope before his big break in features and radio. One mini-series, dubbed “Girlfriends Comedies” featured Thelma White and Fanny Watson.

The production standards were usually first rate (since the same company made the popular Broadway Brevities and Melody Masters), but the success of an individual film depended on both the talent of the performers and the writers involved. Also many titles were filmed indoors with fewer outdoor action scenes than many California produced comedy shorts.

The name “Big V” was used rather loosely in the trade periodicals, with later logos “Vitaphone Comedy” and “Vitaphone Gay-ety” (for the more musical product) alternating as substitute names in the later years. [2] [3] Some titles were given alternative series names by Motion Picture Herald as “Big Star Comedies” or simply “2-reel comedies”. [4]

The studio stopped making two-reel comedies in 1938, the same year that Hal Roach sold his Our Gang series to MGM and 20th Century Fox stopped distributing the Educational product. Apart from an occasional special, the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies supplied much of the comedy before the Warner feature attraction, until the Joe McDoakes series began in the 1940s.

List of titles[edit]

Below is a listing arranged by year of release with title listed first, followed by major credits, release date [5] (and sometimes Film Daily review or copyright date [6]) and DVD availability (some on sets put out by the Warner Archive Collection).

1931[edit]

Title Director & performers Release or review date Notes
The Meal Ticket Al Ray (director); Jack Pearl, Peggy Shannon & Claire Trevor June 7 (Film Daily review)
Success Alfred J. Goulding (director); Fred Allen (writer); Jack Haley, Helen Lynd & John Hamilton July Vitaphone Varieties Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
The Silent Partner Roy Mack (director), Rupert Hughes (writer); William Gaxton, Frank McGlynn, Shirley Palmer, Roger Gray, Detmar Poppen & Winifred Harris August 2 (Film Daily review)
Where Men Are Men Alfred J. Goulding (director); Joe Penner September 20
Rough Sailing Alfred J. Goulding (director); Joe Penner September 27 (Film Daily review)
Lucky 13 Alfred J. Goulding (director); Thelma White & Fanny Watson October 4 (Film Daily review) Girlfriends Comedy
The Smart Set-Up Roy Mack (director) & Burnet Hershey (writer); Walter O'Keefe & Margaret Lee November 1 "Big Star Comedy" Smart Money (1931 film) (Greatest Gangster Films Prohibition Era) DVD
Of All People Alfred J. Goulding (director); Thelma White & Fanny Watson November 15 (Film Daily review) Girlfriends Comedy
Her Wedding Nightmare Alfred J. Goulding (director); Thelma White & Fanny Watson December 27 (Film Daily review) Girlfriends Comedy


1932[edit]

Title Director & performers Release, copyright or review date Notes
Shake a Leg Thelma White & Fanny Watson February 21 Girlfriends Comedy
Poor but Dishonest Alfred J. Goulding (director); Thelma White & Fanny Watson, Al Klein, James C. Morton & Jessie Busley March 1932 Girlfriends Comedy
The Perfect Suitor Benny Rubin, Warren Hymer & Marjorie Hines (Margie Hines) March 20 (Film Daily review) "Big Star Comedy"
Maybe I'm Wrong Roy Mack (director); Richy Craig Jr., Frank Allenworth & others March 27 (Film Daily review) "Big Star Comedy"
The Toreador Alfred J. Goulding (director); Joe Penner, Paul Guilfoyle, Julie Chandler, Dudley Hawley & Frances McHugh April 17 "Big Star Comedy"
On Edge Alfred J. Goulding (director); William & Joe Mandel April 24 (Film Daily review) "Big Star Comedy"
In The Family Alfred J. Goulding (director); Thelma White & Fanny Watson July 2 (Film Daily review) Girlfriends Comedy
Sherlock's Home Alfred J. Goulding (director); Jack Haley, June O'Dea, Anthony Hughes & Herschel Mayall September 10
Here, Prince Joseph Henabery (director); Joe Penner, Joan Castle, Dan Coleman & Margaret Dumont October 1
You Call It Madness Alfred J. Goulding (director); Richy Craig, Earl Gilbert, Frank McNellis & Walter Wilson October 10
Hey, Pop! Alfred J. Goulding (director); Fatty Arbuckle, Dan Wolheim, Billy Hayes & Herschel Mayall October 15 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
Then Came the Yawn Joseph Henabery (director); Jack Haley, Christine Maple & John Hamilton November 26
The Run Around William Demarest, Jackie Kelk, Eleanor Phelps, Joe Lyons & Hal Clarendon © December 10

1933[edit]

Title Director & performers Release, copyright or review date Notes
Trouble Indemnity Alfred J. Goulding (director); Frank Orth, Ann Codee, Jesse Busley & Marie Marion January 17 (Film Daily review)
The Build Up Alfred J. Goulding (director); Jack Haley, Helen Lynd, Don Rowan & Ed Jerome January 19 (Film Daily review)
Buzzin' Around Alfred J. Goulding (director); Jack Henley (writer); Fatty Arbuckle, Al St. John, Dan Coleman, Alice May Tick, Tom Smith & Al Ochs © February 4 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
Nothing Ever Happens Roy Mack (director); George Givot, Jane Gale & others March 1 Grand Hotel (film) DVD
Wrongorilla Alfred J. Goulding (director); Jack Haley, Harry Shannon, Joan Castle & Victor Kilian © March 4
An Idle Roomer Alfred J. Goulding (director); Jack Haley, Blossom MacDonald (Blossom Rock), Emily Lowry & Lou Lubin April 29
How've You Bean? Alfred J. Goulding (director); Jack Henley (writer); Fatty Arbuckle, Fritz Hubert, Jean Hubert & Mildred van Dorn © June 24 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
Nothing But the Tooth Joseph Henabery (director); Jack Haley, Mildred van Dorn, Chester Clute & Jackie Kelk © August 3
Salt Water Daffy Ray McCarey (director); Jack Haley, Shemp Howard, Charles Judels & Lionel Stander © September 16 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
Close Relations Ray McCarey (director); Fatty Arbuckle, Shemp Howard, Charles Judels, Harry Shannon, Hugh O’Connell & Mildred van Dorn © September 30 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
Gobs Of Fun Ray McCarey (director) George Givot, Charles Judels, Olive Borden & Toney Hughes © October 11 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
Turkey in the Raw Joseph Henabery (director); Gus Shy, Fritz Hubert, Al Ochs & Helen Goodhue © November 9
In the Dough Ray McCarey (director); Jack Henley (writer); Fatty Arbuckle, Shemp Howard, Lionel Stander & Ralph Sanford © November 15 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
Here Comes Flossie Ray McCarey (director); Ben Blue, Janet Reade, Shemp Howard & Paul Everton © December 9 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
Tomalio Ray McCarey (director); Jack Henley (writer); Fatty Arbuckle, Charles Judels, Fritz Hubert, Jerry Bergen & Phyllis Holden December 30 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD


1934[edit]

Title Director & performers Release, copyright or review date Notes
Howd' Ya Like That? Ray McCarey (director); George Givot, Charles Judels, Donald McBride, Lionel Stander & Philip Loeb © January 13 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
Nervous Hands Ralph Staub (director); Ben Blue & Donald MacBride © January 29
Mushrooms Ralph Staub (director); Harry Gribbon, Lionel Stander, Cora Witherspoon, Shemp Howard & Russell Hicks © February 14 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
Pugs and Kisses Ray McCarey (director); Charles Judels, Lionel Stander, Greta Granstedt, Shemp Howard & Ralph Sanford © February 17 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
Foiled Again Ralph Staub (director); Ben Blue, Sybil Burns, Robert Malcolm & Russell Hicks © March 20
Very Close Veins Ralph Staub (director); Ben Blue, Dorothy Dare, Shemp Howard, Herb Warren & June East © April 14 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
Corn On The Cop Ralph Staub (director); Harry Gribbon, Shemp Howard, Mary Doran & Boyd Davis © April 28 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
I Scream Ray McCarey (director); Gus Shy, Shemp Howard, Curtis Karpe & Lionel Stander © May 19 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
Art Trouble Ralph Staub (director); Jack Henley (writer); Harry Gribbon, Shemp Howard, Gertrude Mudge, Beatrice Blinn & James Stewart © June 23 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Archive) DVD
My Mummy's Arms Ralph Staub (director); Russell Hicks, Harry Gribbon & Shemp Howard © June 28 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
The Prize Sap Ralph Staub (director); Ben Blue, Hugh Cameron, Dorothy Brown & Cora Witherspoon © July 21
Daredevil O'Dare Lloyd French (director); Ben Blue, Shemp Howard, Vicki Cummings, Milton Frome & Maude Odell © August 3 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
Oh Sailor Behave Ralph Staub (director); El Brendel & William Carey with Gordon Westcott, Doris Arkinson, Mary Forbes & Vivien Oakland September 1
Radio Scout Ralph Staub (director); El Brendel, Joan Wheeler, Bob Nolan & others September 1
All Sealed Up Lloyd French (director); Ben Blue, Fred Harper, Louise Troxell, Harry Shannon & Lionel Stander © September 13
Salted Peanuts Ralph Staub (director); George Givot & Charles Judels © October 9
Smoked Hams Lloyd French (director); Shemp Howard & Daphne Pollard © October 20 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
High, Wide and Hansom Lloyd French (director); Jack Henley (writer); Herb Williams, Leona Powers & Frank Otto November 5
So You Won't T-t-t-talk Lloyd French (director); Roscoe Ates, Shemp Howard, Donald MacBride, Jackie Kelk & Ruth Gillette © November 24 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
Dizzy And Daffy Lloyd French (director); Jerome & Paul Dean, Roscoe Ates, Shemp Howard & others November 30 (Film Daily review) Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD

1935[edit]

Title Director & performers Release, copyright or review date Notes
Out Of Order Lloyd French (director); Ben Blue, Donald MacBride & Frances McHugh © January 19
Vacation Daze Ralph Staub (director); Hobart Cavanaugh, Mary Treen, Jack Norton & others © February 9
A Peach of a Pair Lloyd French (director); Daphne Pollard & Shemp Howard © February 12 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
His First Flame Lloyd French (director); Daphne Pollard, John Sheehan, Fred Harper & Shemp Howard March 9 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
Once Over Lightly Lloyd French (director); Roscoe Ates, Loretta Sayers & Donald MacBride © March 25
Why Pay Rent? Lloyd French (director); Shemp Howard, Roscoe Ates, Ethel Sykes, Billie Leonard & Dickie Wallace May 4 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
Pretty Polly Lloyd French (director); Polly Moran, Marjorie Main, Jane Gale, David Burns, Pats Flick and Ginger Pearson June 1
Serves You Right Lloyd French (director); Shemp Howard, Nell O’Day, Donald MacBride & Horace McMahon June 15 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
On The Wagon Lloyd French (director); Shemp Howard, Roscoe Ates, Gertrude Madge, Lillian Pertka & Zeni Vatori July 1 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
Get Rich Quick Ralph Staub (director); Allen Jenkins, Eddie Shubert, Mary Treen & Herman Bing © July 6 completed August 1934
Husband's Holiday Ralph Staub (director); music: Howard Jackson; Hobart Cavanaugh, Mary Treen, the Canovas, Jack Norton & Billy Barty July 6
The Vodka Boatmen Lloyd French (director); The Yacht Club Boys, Gertrude Madge & Nancy Evans August 7 (Film Daily review)
Watch the Birdie Lloyd French (director); Bob Hope, Nell O’Day, Arline Dinitz, George Watts August 10 Top Hat (Greatest Classic Films Astaire & Rogers 1) DVD
Keystone Hotel Ralph Staub (director); Joe Traub (writer); music: Howard Jackson; Ben Turpin, Hank Mann, Chester Conklin, Ford Sterling, Marie Prevost, Vivien Oakland, Jack Duffy, Bert Roach August 24
The Officer's Mess Lloyd French (director); Shemp Howard, Louise Squires, Horace MacMahon, Charles Kemper & Dermar Poppen October 19 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
Lonesome Trailer Ralph Staub (director); Joe Traub (writer); music: Howard Jackson; El Brendel, Edna Bennett, Eddie Schubert & Mary Treen October 26
The Old Grey Mayor Lloyd French (director); Bob Hope, Lionel Stander, Ruth Hall, George Watts & Sam Wren © November 2 G Men DVD
Double Exposure Lloyd French (director); Bob Hope, Jules Epailly, Johnny Berkes & Loretta Sayers November 23 Gold Diggers of 1935 DVD
The Lucky Swede Ralph Staub (director); music: Howard Jackson; El Brendel & Helen Ericson December 4

1936[edit]

Title Director & performers Release, copyright or review date Notes
When the Cat's Away Lloyd French (director); Shemp Howard, Johnny Berkes, Anita Garvin & Jean Cleveland January 4 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
Shop Talk Lloyd French (director); Bob Hope, Johnny Berkes & Richard Lane © February 14 The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936 film) DVD
Slide, Nellie, Slide Murray Roth (director); Herman Bing, Paula Stone, Al Shean & Marie Wilson © February 17
Calling All Tars Lloyd French (director); Bob Hope, Johnny Berkes, Oscar Ragland March 25 Critic's Choice (film) DVD
Absorbing Junior Lloyd French (director); Shemp Howard, Johnny Berkes, Gertrude Madge, Gerie Worthing, Arthur & Morton Havel & Kenneth Lundy April 25 Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (Warner Archive) DVD
The Wife of the Party Lloyd French (director); Ken Murray, Sassafras, George Watts, Peggy O'Donnell & Donald MacBride June 12
The Oily Bird Lloyd French (director); Ken Murray, Oswald, Charles Withers & Harvey Moffat July 25 Vitaphone Comedy
The Good Old Plumbertime Lloyd French (director); Johnny Berkes, Hugh Cameron, Loretta Sayers, Grace Worth and Donald MacBride © August 24
The Lyin' Tamer George Jessel August 29 Vitaphone Gay-ety
Dough-Nuts Lloyd French (director); The Yacht Club Boys, Virginia McNaughton, Johnny Berkes & Jules Epailly November 14 Vitaphone Comedy

1937[edit]

Title Director & performers Release or copyright date Notes
Toot Sweet Roy Mack (director); Fifi D'Orsay & Rufe Davis © August 3 Vitaphone Gay-ety
Doctor Cupid Lloyd French (director); Ken Murray & Oswald, Gertrude Mudge, Dorothy Edwards & Phyllis Crane September 4 Vitaphone Comedy
One on the House Lloyd French (director); Ted, Judd & Joe McMichael December 18 Vitaphone Gay-ety
Under the Wire Lloyd French (director); Joe & Asbestos, Harry Gribbon, Eddie White & Phil Silvers © December 21 Vitaphone Comedy
Wedding Yells Lloyd French (director); music: William Lava; Ken Murray, Oswald, Jeanne Kelly, Milton Charleston & Regina Wallace December 28 Vitaphone Comedy


1938[edit]

Title Director & performers Release date Notes
Waiting Around Lloyd French (director); Frank Libuse, Jimmy Shay, Gus Raymond, Margo Brandon & the Stanley Twins February 26 Vitaphone Gay-ety
Hold That Ball Lloyd French (director); the Preisser Sisters, Bobby Pinkus, Thurston Crane April 23 Vitaphone Gay-ety
Stocks and Blondes Lloyd French (director); Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, Richard Bishop, Marie Hartman & Butler Hixon May 21 Vitaphone Comedy
Rise and Sing Roy Mack (director); Alan Cross & Henry Dunn June 25 Vitaphone Gay-ety
My Pop Lloyd French (director); Henry Armetta, Harry Burns, Anita Simpson & Claire Carleton July 16 Vitaphone Comedy
There Goes the Bride Roy Mack (director); Fifi D'Orsay & 4 McNally Sisters August 27 Vitaphone Gay-ety

See also[edit]

Links[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Maltin, Leonard. The Great Movie Shorts. 1972. Bonanza Books, p. 25
  2. ^ 1936 Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures. 1936. Film Daily, p. 447 lists 19 “Big V Comedies”
  3. ^ BoxOffice magazine. December 5, 1936 (p. 38), January 8, 1938 (p.71) use “Vitaphone Comedy”
  4. ^ Motion Picture Herald magazine, "Release Chart Lists" including issues December 26, 1931 (p. 73), April 23, 1932 (p. 88) & December 31, 1932 (p. 89)
  5. ^ BoxOffice magazine, including issues July 20, 1935 (p. 33), December 7, 1935 (p. 46)
  6. ^ Motion Pictures 1912-1939 Catalog of Copyright Entries 1951 Library of Congress