Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Movies is Good: FOXY GRANDPA

 by JB

This week we take a deep dive into silent movie esoterica.

I have been intrigued with the early, silent Foxy Grandpa films (1902-1904) since first reading about them in Gerald Mast’s seminal book, The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies. Here is Mast’s description of a typical title in the series, Foxy Grandpa Shows the Boys a Trick or Two with the Tramp: “Foxy accosts a tramp sleeping on a bench, fights him, and drives him offscreen. The title is almost longer than the film (it is certainly more interesting).”
I wished then, and still wish today, that American films were not so tied to short, punchy titles and could take a cue from these early masterworks with crazy long, descriptive titles like Foxy Grandpa Tells the Boys a Funny Story; Foxy Grandpa and Polly in a Little Hilarity; and The Boys Think They Have One on Foxy Grandpa, but He Fools Them. Few of these films still exist. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, you can see the last one on the YouTube machine.

It was only while researching this column that I fell down the “Foxy Grandpa” rabbit hole. (Indeed, one of these primitive shorts could very well have been called Foxy Grandpa Falls Down the Rabbit Hole with the Boys.) Foxy Grandpa actually had a literary origin, starting life as a daily comic strip by cartoonist Carl E. Schultze. It was hugely popular and spun off both stage and screen adaptations and a party game. The comic strips were later collected in book form, which ran to more than thirty volumes. In 1923, a Foxy Grandpa radio program began broadcasting.

That’s a lot of Foxy Grandpa.
The comic strips are the essence of simplicity. Foxy Grandpa’s two mischievous grandsons, Chub and Bunt, try to trick him, but Foxy Grandpa always manages to put one over on them. NOTE TO SELF: I am planning to start a campaign to return “Chub” and “Bunt” to the list of most popular boy’s names in the US. Take that, “CAYDEN”!

I throw down the gauntlet here to all boutique physical media companies that are content to release and rerelease the same twelve or fifteen popular cult movies on disc. Why not perform a deep dive into cultural history and restore and release “The Complete Foxy Grandpa?” I’m waiting for the day when that shiny brown UPS truck delivers a beautiful box set with every known FG film transferred in 4K with plentiful bonus materials, including a newly commissioned documentary from Daniel Griffith’s Ballyhoo Films, titled Just Who in the Hell was Foxy Grandpa Anyway? I expect nothing less than audio commentaries for every short, featuring Paul Thomas Anderson, Rudy Behlmer, Peter Bogdanovich, Patrick Bromley, John Carpenter, Francis Ford Coppola, Joe Dante, David Desser, Kat Ellinger, Lee Gambin, Tom Gunning, Werner Herzog, Peter Jackson, Elric Kane, John Landis, Richard Linklater, Ben Mankewicz, Leonard Maltin, Paul Schrader, Martin Scorsese, Robert Sklar, Jacqueline Stewart, Quentin Tarantino, Tom Weaver, Edgar Wright, and Yours Truly.
Imagine having the entire panoply—the complete crazy caravan of Foxy Grandpa shorts—gathered in front of you on nine to fifteen shiny little discs (remember, each film is a little more than a minute long.) You’d get Foxy Grandpa Antagonizes a Chimpanzee; Foxy Grandpa Should Never Visit the Zoo—Let’s Just Leave It at That; Foxy Grandpa Entertains the Boys with an Improvised Lecture on How Milk is Collected and Packaged for Distribution and Sale; Foxy Grandpa Buckles Down to Work and Fixes the Privvy; Foxy Grandpa Purchases a Hat that Makes Him Look Like a Sissy; Foxy Grandpa Defends Himself Against Bullies and Sends Two of Them to the Morgue; Foxy Grandpa and the Coppers and the Boys and Second-Degree Murder; Foxy Grandpa Has A Devil of a Time Opening a Jar; Foxy Grandpa Keeps Running His Mouth; Foxy Grandpa and the Ether Frolic; Foxy Grandpa Shows the Boys that the Soda Fountain in Woolworths is Really Substandard; Foxy Grandpa Bends Spoons With His Mind; Foxy Grandpa Thinks the Earth is Flat; Foxy Grandpa Has a Little Chat with the Police about Polly and is Cleared of All the Charges; Foxy Grandpa Rides the Boat; Foxy Grandpa Rides the Goat; Foxy Grandpa Buys a Coat; Foxy Grandpa Raises a Hullabaloo in the Barn; Foxy Grandpa Chases the Dragon; Foxy Grandpa Keeps a Roll of Quarters in a Sock in the Top Drawer of his Nightstand; Foxy Grandpa Falls Down a Well, Much to the Chagrin of the Boys; Don’t Look for Foxy Grandpa Because You Will Never Find Him; Foxy Grandpa Finds Out What’s in the Churn; Foxy Grandpa Buys a New Pair of Spectacles and Makes a Spectacle of Himself; Foxy Grandpa Explains to the Boys that Boys Will Be Boys; Foxy Grandpa Shows the Tax Collector a Trick or Two with a Revolver; Foxy Grandpa Hoo-Doo’s the Boys so Bad, They Don’t Even Know Their Names; Foxy Grandpa Explains the Hygienic Benefits of Indoor Plumbing to the Hoi Polloi; Foxy Grandpa Makes a Bet; Foxy Grandpa Makes a Bed; Foxy Grandpa Makes a Better Mouse Trap; Foxy Grandpa Prefers His Noodles Al Dente, Thank You Very Much; Foxy Grandpa Tells the Boys All About the French Ladies Who Were Whores; Foxy Grandpa Drinks Bleach; Foxy Grandpa: Flip, Flap, & Fly; and Foxy Grandpa Retires to Boca Raton. Well, the list goes on and on; there are just too many to list here. This is just a representative sampling.
I realize that the ultimate Foxy Grandpa boxset in my head may never become a reality, but a man can dream. Can’t he? If, gentle reader, your own research into this fascinating subject happens to unearth STILL MORE Foxy Grandpa titles, please list them in the comments section below?


  1. I can’t wait for this boxset! I hope they include some of my old favorites:

    Foxy Grandpa Improvises an Explosive
    Foxy Grandpa Thinks Hummus is Too Fattening
    Foxy Grandpa Climbs the Burj Khalifa
    Foxy Grandpa Visited Reykjavik and All He Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt
    Foxy Grandpa Loses a Debate to Marjorie Taylor Greene
    Foxy Grandpa Won’t Take His Pills and There’s Nothing You Can Do About It
    Foxy Grandpa Goes Sex Toy Shopping
    Foxy Grandpa Committed Some Minor Tax Fraud and Now He Lives in Sarasota
    Foxy Grandpa Gets Kicked Out of Spin Class
    Foxy Grandpa is Dead, Long Live Foxy Grandpa

    1. not gonna lie...this box set makes me think its worth double dipping for the upgrade.

      LOL Rob...well played for sure!!!!!!!