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Sinbad the Sailor / Topper Returns

A frightened Joan Blondell wearing a wedding veil next to a man holding a flashlight.
May 22, 2022 - 11:00 am

Restoration world premiere!

Sinbad the Sailor

U.S., 1935

Soon after his legendary falling out with Walt Disney over proper credit for designing and animating Mickey Mouse—among other issues—animation pioneer Ub Iwerks launched his own studio in 1930 hoping to recreate Mickey’s success. After his first few original characters, including Flip the Frog and Willie Whopper, failed to catch on, Iwerks turned to established fairy tale figures as his subjects in a series he dubbed ComiColor Cartoons. Featuring the titular adventurer, Sinbad the Sailor exudes Iwerks’ classic bouncy style in which anything—a skull and crossbones, a cannon, or an entire pirate sloop—can suddenly come to anarchic life.

35mm, color, 8 min. Production: The Ub Iwerks Studio. Distribution: Celebrity Pictures. Producer: Ub Iwerks. Director: Ub Iwerks.

Restoration funding provided by ASIFA-Hollywood. Restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Laboratory services by YCM Laboratories, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., Triage.

Restoration world premiere!

Topper Returns

U.S., 1941

This second sequel to the original (Topper, Norman Z. McLeod, 1937) finds Roland Young and Billie Burke reprising their roles as Cosmo Topper, a man who can see and communicate with ghosts, and Mrs. Clara Topper, his increasingly frustrated spouse who is unaware of her husband’s supernatural abilities. By 1941, the previous two films had familiarized audiences with Topper’s talents, meaning director Roy Del Ruth has an absolute ball placing Gail Richards (Joan Blondell) and Ann Carrington (Carole Landis) in plenty of perilous predicaments—a car crash, a falling chandelier—before one of them becomes the apparition that sets this fantastical farce in motion.

The Academy Award-nominated special effects, which make use of double exposure, puppetry and lighting tricks to portray the movements of our ghostly heroine, remain impressive over 80 years later, and the stacked cast of character actors lends the film a dash of eccentricity. Familiar faces include Black comedic performer Eddie “Rochester” Anderson (The Jack Benny Program), H.B. Warner (It’s a Wonderful Life) and Donald MacBride, who taps into his decades of experience playing various law enforcement officers for his role as the befuddled, consistently thwarted and ineffectual Sergeant Roberts.

The original Topper was one of the first features produced by Hal Roach Studios after its long success with comedy shorts, most notably those starring the kids from Our Gang, in the 1920s and ’30s. One year after the release of Topper Returns, Roach would lease his Culver City studio to the “Hollywood Commandos,” officially known as the First Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Forces, for use in the production of World War II training and propaganda films. Del Ruth, at the time one of Hollywood’s highest paid directors, is remembered for his contributions to the comedy and musical genres, and his pre-Code film, Employees’ Entrance (1933), was added to the National Film Registry in 2019.

K.J. Relth-Miller

35mm, b&w, 95 min. Production: Hal Roach Studios, Inc. Distribution: United Artists Corp. Producer: Hal Roach. Director: Roy Del Ruth. Screenwriter: Jonathan Latimer, Gordon Douglas. With: Joan Blondell, Roland Young, Carole Landis, Billie Burke, Dennis O’Keefe.

Restoration funding provided by The Packard Humanities Institute. Restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Laboratory services by The PHI Stoa Film Lab, Audio Mechanics, Simon Daniel Sound. Special thanks to Sonar Entertainment.