EmilSitka.com / Films / #51
GOOD HUMOR MAN
Emil Sitka's List of Movies
June 10, 18 and Jul. 11, 1949
GOOD HUMOR MAN
|Emil Sitka, left, "steals the scene" from Jack Carson in THE GOOD HUMOR MAN (1950)
Films of Emil Sitka: THE GOOD HUMOR MAN (1950)
by Saxon E. Sitka
Just over a week after working in AND BABY MAKES THREE (1949) at Columbia Pictures, Emil was called back to the studio for another bit part in yet another feature-length comedy, THE GOOD HUMOR MAN (1950) starring Jack Carson.
The following is a contemporary review of THE GOOD HUMOR MAN, taken from a newspaper clipping that Emil snipped out of The Los Angeles Examiner many decades ago. Now preserved in the archives of the Emil Sitka Fan club, this review includes all the pertinent details as well as an interesting perspective on the film's star. It was published on June 9, 1950:
JACK CARSON'S ACTING PRAISED
By RUTH WATERBURY
"The Good Humor Man," a Columbia picture release. Produced by S. Sylvan Simon. Directed by Lloyd Bacon. Screenplay by Frank Tashlin from the Saturday Evening Post story, "Appointment With Fear." Now playing at the Pantages and RKO Hillstreet Theaters.THE CAST
Jack Carson Lola Albright
Jean Wallace George Reeves
Peter Miles Frank Ferguson
IT'S A BIG fat mystery why some of the finest actors in movies get sluffed off, while some of the minor talent characters get all the spotlight.
Prime example of fine acting, without sufficient praise, is Jack Carson, who is cavorting right this minute on the screens of the Pantages and Hillcrest Theaters in "The Good Humor Man."
Jack is honestly wonderful as a man with frozen products and a red hot heart. Said heart beats for pretty Lola Albright, but she is more interested in a handsome but dull character, played with nicety by George Reeves.
You are sure as shooting going to laugh hysterically at Mr. Carson. The action is wild and full of slapstick. A wackier scene than that where Jack defends Jean Wallace with tactics learned from comic books has seldom been filmed.
The mere idea of the ice cream man being frozen still in his own wagon by crooks should be enough to start you giggling. On screen it is a riot.
But even while you are rolling in the aisles over Mr. Carson's capers, do give a thought to his quiet dramatics as Mildred Pierce's husband in the Joan Crawford film.
REAL STAR ---
Here is a star of great diversity and sensitivity, and let's hope he gets the kind of Kirk Douglas break before too long: That thing of finding just the right part in just the right film to display his very superior ability.
S. Sylvan Simon, the wily producer of "The Good Humor Man," surrounded Jack with a gay and very expert cast and, since there never has been a smoother comedy director than Lloyd Bacon, every one concerned is very clever indeed.
Lola Albright and Jean Wallace are both very pretty girls with luscious figures, which is just about all their roles require. Peter Miles, who is surely one of the best juvenile actors, is cute as paint as leader of a gang of kids who get their Good Humors on credit.
It all adds up to being as refreshing as a Good Humor itself on a hot summer afternoon -- as as for that Carson, may some of the better scripts start coming his way, and pronto.
Jack Carson was a popular character actor in the late 1930s and early 40s. He graduated to starring roles in comedies like THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941) and THE BRIDE CAME C.O.D. (1941) with Jame Cagney, yet he continued to stand out for his dramatic supporting roles such as in THE HARD WAY (1943) and MILDRED PIERCE (1945). Although he never got the "kind of Kirk Douglas break" mentioned in the preceding film review, he did appear in some widely-acclaimed films such as A STAR IS BORN (1954) with Judy Garland, THE TARNISHED ANGELS (1958) with Rock Hudson, and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958) with Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor.
Sharp-eyed film fans have no doubt noticed the name of George Reeves in a pre-Superman role. Yes, he's the same actor whose tragic success story has spawned Hollywood myth. In the years preceding his rise to stardom on television as the Man of Steel, Reeves was co-starring in films like THE GOOD HUMOR MAN, in which he plays a slick, fast-talking gangster. It's interesting and incongruous to see the young Reeves portraying a bad guy who is exactly the kind of character he'd later become famous for sending to jail.
Emil's part in THE GOOD HUMOR MAN as the "Street Cleaner" is a small bit with several lines, coming about five minutes into the movie. Carson is walking his Good Humor route and selling ice cream on the street when Emil calls out to him for an ice cream cup. Taking it from Carson, Emil removes the lid from the cup, and despite being a street cleaner he tosses it on the ground. As the script says, Carson "looks at him reprovingly, picks up the lid and pointedly
drops it into the street cleaners cart." Not written into the script is Emil glaring just as pointedly back at Carson with a "don't lecture me" expression, as see in the still above. As always, Emil made the most of his small role, but it runs by quickly and the entire scene is over in less than a minute.
Emil Sitka's List of Movies, the journal upon which this series of articles is based, shows three dates of employment for this film acting job. It was highly unusual for "one-take Sitka" to need three days to enact a bit part with only two lines. In a series of interviews Emil gave decades later, he explained this mystery: I worked with Jack Carson in The Good Humor Man, in which I was playing a street sweeper. Well, we did our scene one day and I went home. The director, Lloyd Bacon, called me back and asked me to do the scene over. I asked what was wrong, and he said that it was done too well! I later heard that Carson wanted me replaced because he felt I'd stolen the scene, but Bacon was a friend of mine so that didn't happen. When I finally saw the finished picture, I noticed that for most of it the camera was on Carson, rather than a two-shot.
When asked to elaborate, Emil said: When the director directs you in a scene with a star, he'll say what you can and can't do. I mean, you don't go around trying to steal a scene. You never can do that, because they'll just cut you out altogether.
There are so many ways of shooting a picture, like say, a picture is shot first of all with a long-shot, the establishing shot, and then the two-shots, and then the single ones, the close-ups. No matter what two people are doing, if the camera goes on a star, you're out of it altogether. These things you know. But there are directors who are totally amused by what's going on.
So the long shot goes first to see how it plays. That means you've got to see the whole scene. If the director likes what's going on, if he likes it and it's amusing, it's a print. "Cut! Print! It's a take."
All right, so that's what happens a lot of times.
If he tells you not to be amusing you almost make yourself null and void. Actors know how to do that: you kind of fade out of the scene. But if you have to stand out now at a point, you stand out. And also, if something plays well, you go along and you do it, back and forth, back and forth.
In the scene with Jack Carson, it's not like he didn't like what I was doing. He liked what we were doing! It's amusing - very amusing! But, when it's a print and they show it in the dailies, why, they would say, "Why geez, that Emil Sitka's funny!" You know, they're not paying attention to Carson. "Sitka was terrific! Look what he's doing with the rubbish." You know, I had business to do as a street cleaner; I've gotta keep the place clean and so on. And of course, I pick up paper and what I do with it and whatever, it's all amusing. Jack Carson would do the same thing when he did his roles with other bigger stars, same as I'm doing: the best you can with what you've got. And now when he's the star of this, he's got the big "say-so." So he saw the takes and them laughing at what I'm doing. Ahhh, he'd like to do that scene all over again, with not so much attention paid to me.
So the only way was to re-shoot it. Now it's a week or two later, I got this call. I thought I was finished with the job, and I get this call from Columbia and I ask:
"What's the matter? Another picture?"
"No, no, same picture."
"Wudda ya mean, same picture? Another role?"
"Nope, same role."
Right away, I want to know, "Is something wrong?"
"Nope, nothing wrong."
"Nothing wrong? I mean, my scene was bad?"
"Bad? No, in fact, too good." So they said come on over.
So we do the same scene -- same way -- exactly. We hardly had to rehearse. But now what happens in the dailies, from what I learned, the camera for the single shot is on Carson, he's doing his double-takes there and so on, instead of showing the both of us.
Now, if you don't know what that means, Shemp Howard was very familiar with all that -- when he worked with W. C. Fields. When he worked with Fields, if it was a two-shot, he would steal it! They would call it stealing if they watch you more than the other guy, the star. Of course a lot of that happens. So what happens, the same thing with Shemp. Shemp was the kind of guy that could be funnier than the star, lots of times. Some of his best stuff, especially with W. C. Fields, was never shown.
THE ENDCopyright, Saxon Emil Sitka. All rights reserved.
Reproduction of any portion of this article in any form is prohibited.
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THE GOOD HUMOR MAN (1950)
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