Billy Bletcher

Old Smokey (1938, William Hanna)

Technically speaking, Old Smokey is a fantastic cartoon. The animation and the backgrounds are both excellent. Hanna composes some great shots, as well as the camera “movements.”

But it’s not a fun cartoon. There are no gags, because there’s real danger. A house is on fire and only The Captain (the cartoon series’s lead) can stop it. Or can he….

The Captain is actually a dumb, mean-spirited, technophile immigrant who stupidly fired the fire department’s fire horse and got a fancy engine. And the fire engine, it turns out, is just too new-fangled to be any use.

Oh, I forgot… The Captain (and the woman in danger) are both fat immigrants. Couple of real mean fat jokes.

The cute fire horse saves the day and The Captain rehires him. The Captain then kills the fire engine, which has just been anthropomorphized.

While masterfully made, Smokey‘s a little creepy.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by William Hanna; based on a comic strip by Rudolph Dirks; animated by George Gordon; music by Scott Bradley; produced by Fred Quimby; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Billy Bletcher (The Captain).

The Tin Man (1935, James Parrott)

I’m wondering if all the Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly shorts–the team being one of Hal Roach’s attempts at a female Laurel and hardy–are as bad as The Tin Man. For a while, it seems like Todd is much worse than Kelly, but once Kelly’s acting opposite someone else… she’s much worse than Todd.

Tin Man features a mad scientist who hates women and wants to punish the gender. So he builds a robot (it looks like a bad Karloff Frankenstein monster Halloween costume) to destroy women. Setting it loose on Todd and Kelly proves a disaster… and the short ends with the scientist trying to save their lives.

Clarence Wilson isn’t terrible as the mad scientist, but making the murderous villain likable is just one of Tin Man‘s stupider moves.

Parrott’s direction and Jack Ogilvie’s editing are both awful.

It’s an atrocious two reels of film.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by James Parrott; written by Jack Jevne and William H. Terhune; director of photography, Art Lloyd; edited by Jack Ogilvie; music by Leroy Shield; produced by Hal Roach; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Thelma Todd (Miss Todd), Patsy Kelly (Miss Kelly), Matthew Betz (Blackie Burke), Clarence Wilson (Mad Scientist) and Billy Bletcher & Cy Slocum (The Tin Man).

Dry and Thirsty (1920, Craig Hutchinson)

Dry and Thirsty is split into two distinct parts. The first part, set on a boardwalk and beach, mostly features protagonist Billy Bletcher. Bletcher, who also wrote the short, resembles Chaplin. The mustache isn’t identical, but it’s close, and the mannerisms suggest a very American Chaplin impression.

He’s not bad and his mad pursuit of liquor is mildly amusing. Thirsty‘s essential component is director Hutchinson. He doesn’t just film the beach area well, he also knows how to film the motion. Hutchinson is able to make Bletcher’s manic impression work. The first half is great-looking.

The second half takes place in a hotel, introducing Vera Reynolds (as Bletcher’s love interest) and John Dempsey (as her husband). It’s funnier, but not because of Bletcher. The hotel’s so busy, there’s a foot traffic director. The gag works better than it should.

It’s an appealing little comedy with some excellent direction.



Directed by Craig Hutchinson; written by Billy Bletcher; produced by Al Christie; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Billy Bletcher (Horace Radish), Vera Reynolds (Mrs. Tryan) and John Dempsey (William Allways Tryan).

The Dentist (1932, Leslie Pearce)

The first third of The Dentist takes place on a golf course, without establishing W.C. Fields is a dentist. He talks about having to get back to his office, but it’s not clear. It doesn’t matter, as Fields being a belligerent golf jerk is funny.

When it does get to the dental practice, Fields’s first patient is Dorothy Granger and it quickly becomes clear the short’s pre-code. Granger’s in one constantly compromised position or another. The next patient, played by Elise Cavanna, is less blatant… but just as creatively contorted. Fields remains somewhat oblivious, at least once he starts getting annoyed, and it works rather well.

The absurdism comes in with the final patient. The patient’s got birds living in his enormous beard, which leads Fields to shoot.

The Dentist has a brisk pace. While it’s never raucous, it’s always amusing, often rather funny. Fields does a fantastic job.

3/3Highly Recommended


Directed by Leslie Pearce; written by W.C. Fields; director of photography, John W. Boyle; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring W.C. Fields (Dentist), Marjorie Kane (Mary), Arnold Gray (Arthur the Iceman), Dorothy Granger (Miss Peppitone), Elise Cavanna (Miss Mason), Zedna Farley (Dental Assistant) and Billy Bletcher (Mr. Foliage).

Scroll to Top