Jack Chertok

What Do You Think? (1937, Jacques Tourneur)

Well, What Do You Think? is one bland short film.

There are some definite strengths to it. Tourneur’s direction of the actors is outstanding, especially at the beginning at a Hollywood party, when he’s cutting between various actors. All of Think is told in narration (from Carey Wilson) and so Tourneur has got to make the actors convey without dialogue or music.

And he succeeds.

He even succeeds when Think hits the main plot, involving William Henry’s Hollywood screenwriter going through a near death experience. Tourneur does a fine job with Henry’s investigation of his strange experience, but there’s nothing to do be done about the silliness of the plot after the investigation concludes.

The ending is far too literal for the short, which never sets itself up to be a grand revelation into the paranormal. Or even a minor one.

It’s too bad, as Tourneur’s work is definitely impressive.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Jacques Tourneur; produced by Jack Chertok; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring William Henry (John Dough); narrated by Carey Wilson.

A Night at the Movies (1937, Roy Rowland)

A Night at the Movies opens with Robert Benchley in a domestic situation (Betty Ross Clarke does a fine job playing his wife). They’re trying to figure out what movie to go see. It’s a gently amusing scene—each has seen movies without the other so they’re trying to agree on an unseen one. It’s almost more interesting in a historical sense—did people really see so many movies or is Movies just, you know, advertising going to the movies.

But then they get to the theater and it takes a turn. The humor’s more absurdist (but still realistic), with Clarke now the wife whose husband can’t stop embarrassing himself in public. It’s incredibly funny—Benchley’s great, bumbling but still sympathetic amid the rude theater employees and moviegoers.

Rowland does a great job with composition, but the editing lacks any rhythm.

Benchley’s grounding makes the short’s outlandish final joke work.



Directed by Roy Rowland; written by Robert Benchley, Robert Lees and Frederic I. Rinaldo; produced by Jack Chertok; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Robert Benchley (Husband) and Betty Ross Clarke (Wife).

How to Sleep (1935, Nick Grinde)

How to Sleep isn’t just a funny little short featuring a man who can’t get to sleep, mostly because he keeps doing stupid things, but it’s also an interesting look at how a personality works on film.

Robert Benchley wrote the film, he hosts the bookends as though it’s a serious scientific exploration and he appears as the model sleeper. During the tossing and turning and snack eating and so on, Benchley comments on his own actions. However, he’s not commenting in the first person, but in the third—the narrator and the protagonist, though played by the same person, are different characters.

The barrier breaks when the protagonist starts yelling at the narrator. But more amusing is the narrator’s charge the protagonist is only having so many problems because he drinks so much—something the audience never sees and has to take the narrator’s word for….

It’s rather smart.



Directed by Nick Grinde; written by Robert Benchley; produced by Jack Chertok; produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Robert Benchley.

The Face Behind the Mask (1938, Jacques Tourneur)

Until seeing The Face Behind the Mask, I had no idea there really was a mystery man in an iron mask. I’ve seen at least two of the movie adaptations, maybe three, and am aware of the source novel… I just had no idea it was based in some kind of fact.

MGM calls the short a “historical mystery;” the narrator tells the story as the action plays out, in summary. Sometimes the narration directly affects the action, which is disconcerting. It’s not a bad approach for a non-fiction narrative and the short is well-produced.

Tourneur’s finest sequence is when the prisoner is taken to prison. The actors interact with the sets instead of pose as they later do, when the narrator has to introduce them.

It’s a mildly amusing short, with Tourneur really making the time count. Face imparts a lot of information in a short time.



Directed by Jacques Tourneur; written by Milton Gunzburg; director of photography, Paul Vogel; produced by Jack Chertok; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Narrated by John Nesbitt.

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