Pete Smith

by Michael D Walker on May 9, 2012

Pete Smith

Pete Smith, no relation to Thorne Smith, produced and narrated short subject MGM films. He and Thorne Smith wound up collaborating on a few of these short MGM films during Thorne’s brief time working in Hollywood.

Pete Smith originally started out as a publicist for MGM films but got his big break providing the voice-overs for the Dogville comedies.  These were short films featuring trained dogs performing an array of tricks and stunts, while dressed up to mimic or parody the stars of popular films of that era.  Many people loved these films, which I admit can seem quite odd, bizarre, and funny depending on your frame of mind while watching them.

The Dogville comedies drew controversy due to concerns of animal cruelty regarding the techniques the filmmakers were accused of using to make the dogs do their tricks, such as moving their mouths as if they were talking, playing musical instruments, dancing, and an assortment of unusual poses dogs wouldn’t normally assume.

According to Warner Brothers, “A nationwide theatre owners poll in 1930 rated the Dogvilles as the best short subjects over more legendary comedy and musical series.” Audiences today remain divided over whether these are cute and funny films or exhibitions of animal cruelty for moviegoers’ amusement.

Based on the success of the Dogville comedies, Pete Smith was given his own series of films to create. Thus Pete Smith Specialties was born. In the years from 1931 to 1955, Pete Smith made 150 short subject MGM films.

Thorne Smith began working for MGM in late 1932. While I have yet to track down exactly how many MGM films Thorne Smith may have worked on, I have seen correspondence indicating there may have been four short films completed.

The one Thorne Smith film short we do have access to is 1933’s “Menu.”  Produced by Pete Smith, “Menu” was directed by Nick Grinde.  Franklin Pangborn, Luis Alberni and Una Merkel starred in the film, which was nominated for an Oscar Award in 1934 in the category of Best Short Subject, Novelty.

“Menu” is available on DVD as part of the Katherine Hepburn 100th Anniversary Collection DVD set.  You can watch a less than pristine version of “Menu” at http://www.thornesmith.net/Pete-Smith-Films-Menu.html

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

LED Home Lighting May 9, 2012 at 12:04 PM

‘Menu’ sounds like a great film!

EcoFriendlyLink- the genuinely green website

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Body Language: 9 Tips To Successful Job Interview May 9, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Michael,
coming from Bulgaria I have never heard of Dogville comedies. Thank you for the video and the opportunity to see a few minutes fro Menu. Cool stuff!

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Web Dating Expert Advice Los Angeles May 9, 2012 at 2:06 PM

Hi Michael,

The Los Angeles entertainment industry of Hollywood certainly has produced a number of very funny comedies. Intriguing to hear how Peter Smith collaborated with Thorne Smith back in the Classic Hollywood days of the movie industry.

Happy Dating and Relationships,

April Braswell
LA Dating Expert Singles Class Los Angeles

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Hipnosis May 9, 2012 at 4:36 PM

I’ll watch that Michael!
Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

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Lyle R. Johnson: The Sales Wizard & Mentor May 9, 2012 at 5:45 PM

Best line in “Menu” I feel is “and the head is removed, so it is a dead duck” – – my kind of humor.

Lyle R. Johnson

Sales Lost because of Interruptions

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Cherie Miranda May 9, 2012 at 11:48 PM

Thanks for sharing the fun short film and more information about Thorne Smith’s work in film.

Cherie Miranda
Meditation and Music

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Body language of successful men May 10, 2012 at 12:25 PM

Michael, great job on the history of Thorne Smith and knowing what projects that he has worked on.
Scott Sylvan Bell
Body language of men’s accessories
Now go implement!

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Start Living A Healthier Life Today May 10, 2012 at 8:42 PM

Michael,

By far you are THE quintessential expert when it comes to Thorne Smith. Thank you for another interesting insight into the man and his work.

Yours In Health!

G.E. Moon I

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The 7 Steps To Amazing Health May 10, 2012 at 9:00 PM

Old movies were so much better than the movies of today. But with today they can digitize the dog moving its mouth instead of getting it to do it somehow. No animals can be hurt that way.

Yours In Health!

Dr. Wendy

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Kevin Hogan May 11, 2012 at 3:36 AM

Never heard of Dogville, and that Thorne Smiths short film was nominated for an Oscar!

Mark Hogan

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Lisa McLellan May 16, 2012 at 6:38 AM

I always thought the gave the dogs peanut butter to make them look like they were talking – or was that horses. Maybe that was a “Mr. Ed” thing. 🙂 Lots of old movie shorts are great, hopefully I’ll get to check some of these out sometime.

Lisa McLellan
Child Care Expert
Nanny Services

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