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Hal Roach Studios (Spotlight)
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Introduction to Taxi Boy Shorts

Comedy impresario Hal Roach paired two irrepressible masters of slapstick, Ben Blue and Billy Gilbert, in The Taxi Boys, a rowdy series of shorts about taxi drivers released in 1932 and '33. Montreal-born Blue (1901-1975) began working for Roach in 1932, the same year that the Taxi series began. Known for his bald pate and goofy expressions, he continued to work in movies and television through the 1960s. Gilbert (1894-1971) was born in Louisville, Ky., and got his start in vaudeville. Roach brought him to Hollywood to act, write and direct. Famous for his "sneezing" routine and for playing comic foil to such comics as Laurel & Hardy and The Three Stooges, Gilbert too appeared in many movies and television shows. Here are the shorts TCM is showing:

What Price Taxi (1932) -- Gilbert stepped into the series without Blue, and Clyde Cook and Franklin Pangborn play fellow drivers annoyed by an ill-tempered Billy.

Taxi for Two (1932) -- Blue now partners with Gilbert, who gets to show off his famous sneezing bit. Charlie Hall, known for his drunk act, makes an uncredited appearance.

Wreckety Wrecks (1933) -- After the boys run over a dummy and think they've killed someone, they decide to dispose of the "body" and mistake a seminary for a cemetery.

Thundering Taxis (1933) -- This was the first-produced short of the series, filmed without either Blue or Gilbert and held back a year before its release. In this one, Cook and Billy Bevan are the drivers, and Bud Jamison is the boss of the Black and Blue Taxi Company.

Taxi Barons (1933) -- Ben and Billy are mistaken for a European baron and general (General Motors!) at a swanky dinner party where they are hiding out from the police. Although their bad manners fail to reveal their true identities, the jig is up once the real dignitaries arrive.

The Rummy (1933) -- Among the comic highlights: Gilbert goes to a taxidermy shop thinking it's a place to get service for his taxi.

by Roger Fristoe

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