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Your Technocracy and Mine

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Type "Robert Benchley" into IMDb, and you get a delicious list of eighty films under "Actor—Filmography," and fifty-three more (with overlap) under "Writer—Filmography." There are thirteen more in which he plays himself (sometimes as Robert, sometimes as Bob). Hooray, you cry, I'll go to Netflix and Move to Top of Queue! But when you arrive at the Robert Benchley page it is as bare as Ma Hubbard's larder. Three films grace it: Foreign Correspondent, Hollywood Musicals of the '40s, and You'll Never Get Rich. Where is Week-End at the Waldorf, My Tomato, Flesh and Fantasy (a.k.a. Six Destinies), The Bride Wore Boots, The Major and the Minor, That Inferior Feeling, How to Sub-Let, The Courtship of the Newt, The Romance of Digestion, or—a troubling omission—The Sex Life of the Polyp? Some of these are shorts, and all the more reason whey they should be available on DVD. Not all of this is Netflix's fault, but I have no doubt they could tighten the appropriate thumbscrews if they wanted to. Amazon has a better selection, but still Rafter Romance, no Stewed, Fried and Boiled, no How to Break 90 at Croquet. That Inferior Feeling, indeed!

Perhaps the most shameful absence is The Stork Club (1945), one of blonde genius Betty Hutton's funniest movies, in which Benchley plays droll lawyer Tom P. Curtis. There's a movement afoot to give Hutton a Lifetime Achievement Award (she's 83 now), and after you see this (along with Preston Sturges' superlative The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, on TCM this and next month) you'll know why.

It's not as though these are the only titles missing from Netflix, by the way. Careful now, my red-squared friend, or I may have to leave you for that highbrow Facets after all.

Benchley motion pictures [Robert Benchley Society]
Benchley films on TV this month [TV-now, via Benchley Society]
Living Legends of Classic Movies [ClassicMovies]


Heh. You think the absence of Benchley (possibly the best American humorist of the 20th century) on Netflix is bad? Try looking for Lee Tracy. Or the wonderful Robert Montgomery. Someone has got to light a fire under the butts of the folks choosing what movies to release on DVD, and remind them what our priceless heritage actually IS.

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