The Bootleg Files: Hey, Nanny Nanny

BOOTLEG FILES 817: “Hey, Nanny Nanny” (1933 short starring Clark and McCullough).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.


REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It fell through the cracks.

Not likely.

Question: What is the funniest movie that you never saw? The answer could be “Hey, Nanny Nanny,” a 1933 short starring the comedy team of Bobby Clark and McCullough.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Clark and McCullough starred in a series of short films for the Fox and RKO studios. Most of their Fox films are considered to be lost, while their RKO output is believed to be extant – but many of these films have been out of circulation for too many years and, thus, are unknown to the general public. Making matters worse, too many Internet-based know-it-alls have been critical of the duo, complaining that Clark is excessively domineering and McCullough is often reduced to sidekick status. And while Clark has a tendency to hog the limelight, McCullough was richly funny and often stole scenes with a single line delivered in a brilliantly warped slacker manner.

“Hey, Nanny Nanny” is one of the team’s best films and is packed with the story staples that enriched Depression-era comedies: bums crashing high society, mistaken identities, animals loose in a dignified house and the wealthy having their pretensions punctured with slapstick mayhem. In this case, the incredibly wealthy banker Mr. Bond, who has a bad case of lumbago. He instructs his butler to phone the masseur he uses for treatment, but the masseur is out of town. As luck would have it, two incredibly irresponsible window washers (Clark and McCullough) are in the masseur’s office and take the call, pretending to be him. They decide to take the assignment, despite having no expertise in massage – and they bring along an anatomy map and a canoe paddle, with the latter being carried under the belief it might come in handy.

When Clark and McCullough arrive at Mr. Bond’s office, Clark assumes his pretty secretary is the patient and throws her on a desk and starts to massage her – hey, ya gotta love the Pre-Code years! They have Mr. Bond take off his clothing and put on a flimsy robe – and while waiting for them, they clear off his desk with Clark practicing his rowing and McCullough as his coxswain.

The fake-masseurs rub horse liniment on Mr. Bond, which causes him to run about in agony and out of his office – while still in his flimsy robe. He runs through the streets to his mansion and is forced to use an oversize chunk of ice to cool down the burns created by Clark and McCullough.

Without a client, either as masseurs or window washers, the duo cross paths with a magician who wants to quit his line of work. He sells his belongings to them for $10 – which not only includes his magic paraphernalia but also his pet goat Algonquin. As luck would have it, Clark and McCullough immediately receive a phone call for their first gig as magicians – at the Bond residence, where Mrs. Bond is throwing a party.

What happens next? Well, to give away what happens would be a spoiler of epic proportions – although it can be said that Clark, McCullough and Algonquin do not disappoint.

“Hey, Nanny Nanny” moves at a lightning clip, with Clark’s insults, McCullough’s non-sequiturs (especially with a drunken party guest regarding Chicago), Algonquin’s intrusion and Mr. Bond’s discovery that his home is being wrecked happening in a brilliant rush. Indeed, more inspired craziness happens in this 20-minute film than in most contemporary two-hour comedies.

Special mention should be made to Monty Collins, the gifted comedy actor/writer who plays Baffles, the Bond family butler who faces endless indignities from a malfunctioning suit to being on the receiving end of Clark and McCullough’s antics. Collins achieved a degree of immortality for donning drag to play the Three Stooges’ mother in “Cactus Makes Perfect,” and his comedy skills were so strong that Stan Laurel recruited him to work in France on gag-writing when Laurel and Hardy were stuck in the miasma production that became known as “Atoll K.”

Some of Clark and McCullough’s RKO films lapsed into the public domain and have been released on DVD by Alpha Video, which specializes in copyright-free titles. But “Hey, Nanny Nanny” is not among them, although whether it is public domain or still under copyright is unclear. Until that can be sought out, a video upload from what seems like a second- or third-generation dupe can be enjoyed on YouTube via the wonderful channel “Geno’s House of Rare Films.” And even with the less-than-pristine visual quality of the video upload, the manic merriment of “Hey, Nanny Nanny” can easily be enjoyed.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: While this weekly column acknowledges the presence of rare film and television productions through the so-called collector-to-collector market, this should not be seen as encouraging or condoning the unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either through DVDs or Blu-ray discs or through postings on Internet video sites.

Listen to Phil Hall’s award-winning podcast “The Online Movie Show with Phil Hall” on SoundCloud and his radio show “Nutmeg Chatter” on WAPJ-FM in Torrington, Connecticut, every Sunday. His new book “100 Years of Wall Street Crooks” is now in release through Bicep Books.