When I hear the opening refrain of the jingle “Come one, come all/ We’ll have a ball…”, I groan inwardly. First, the song is incredibly annoying – not as annoying as the voice that brays, “This week in Hollywood historrrreeeee!”, true, but naff none the less. Second, the One Reel Wonders shorts that TCM use as inter-film filler invariably feature Robert Benchley, least when I am watching.
And try as I might, I am immune to his charms. I am very susceptible to Campbell Scott, and his charms when portraying the man himself in Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle. But Benchley himself makes me weary and irritated. He gives me the kind of mild headache that causes wonder if my flu shot worked.
In the delightful Major and the Minor he was used to reasonable effect as the most annoying kind of man a poor working girl like Ginger could have the misfortune to service. Sadly Mr Benchley has transferred this attitudinal style to many of the aforementioned One Reel Wonders. Comics who laugh at their jokes whilst corpsing or having a hysterical giggling fit are one thing. But an actor who uses hearty chuckling at his puns as part of his routine whilst playing pompous bumbling fellows, is just annoying, no matter how brainy the actor playing this character may be in real life.
So, recently, lest I broke out in hives when the episode concerning newts turns out to be on again, upon realising a One Reel Wonder was imminent, I investigated whether a Sex and the City rerun or the tail end of a Monk/House/Numbers-inspired drama or some information on the Weather Channel was on, in order to pass the minutes in a more entertaining fashion.
Happily, it was the second. On another station I watched Lie To Me in awe as the amazonian Jennifer Beals, as the ex-wife Tim Roth, stood at least one head over him as they indulged in some hostile flirting. This duo brought with them many memories from my childhood – Jennifer’s iconic off-the-shoulder tee, Tim Roth rivaling Gary Oldman as the eccentric Englishman of my tweenage affections… I was so taken with this duo, far more so than Mr Benchley, that I missed the opening 4 minutes of The Mask of Fu Manchu.
*shakes fist at the heavens*
Damn you, Benchley!