Australian Screen

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Gone to the Dogs (1939)

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clip Monkey business

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Clip description

George (George Wallace) has to display the prize new gorilla to the zoo’s best patron, Mr Inchcape (Harold Meade), but the animal is sick, so George’s mate Henry (John Dobbie) dresses in a gorilla suit. George shows off in front of Inchcape’s beautiful daughter Irene (Kathleen Esler), until the real Pongo the gorilla reappears in the cage. Pandemonium follows.

Curator’s notes

Wallace often worked with a partner, as he had done in vaudeville, and John Dobbie shines as his enormous offsider, Henry. Dobbie had worked in American vaudeville before returning to Australia in the mid 1920s. He appeared in Jewelled Nights in 1925 in a small role, but most of his film work was in the 1930s with George Wallace. He plays Jim, Wallace’s mate in His Royal Highness (1932), where we first see the gag in which George leaps into Dobbie’s arms like a frightened schoolgirl (see His Royal Highness, 1932, clip two). Wallace and Lois Green repeat the gag in their song and dance number in this film (see clip two). Dobbie appeared again in Harmony Row (1933), Wallace’s second film for FW Thring, then A Ticket in Tatts (1934). Gone to the Dogs was his final film. He worked in Brisbane radio before his death in 1952. Dobbie was an agile performer for a man of his size, with a keen sense of physical comedy. Note the funny walk he uses in the last few seconds of this clip, squeezing every drop of humour he can from the role.

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