"Why the Hell isn't this on DVD yet?" ---- Number 47
Wheeler and Woolsey lacked the distinctive screen personas of the other leading comedy teams of the 1930’s, and they made clunkers both before (DIXIANA) and after (MUMMY'S BOYS) their 1931-1934 peak. That said, their current obscurity is due more to bad luck (the aforementioned Code, Woolsey’s untimely death in 1938) than a lack of talent. COCKEYED CAVALIERS is the best supporting evidence of what they could do with strong material (with DIPLOMANIACS and PEACH-O-RENO not far behind).
It’s too bad the team never again worked with Sandrich, who, like Woolsey and Todd, died way too young. His other W & W flick, HIPS, HIPS, HOORAY, wasn't quite as big a creative triumph, but bested CAVALIERS slightly at the box office. One can only wonder what might have been if RKO had kept Bert and Bob working with Sandrich for a few more films. Instead, they moved on to a young George Stevens (GIANT) for two films, followed by an ill-advised and ill-fated fusion with short subject specialist Fred Guiol.
So…….why isn’t this on DVD yet?
Warners owns the rights, and the Archive gives us hope, but for the longest time Wheeler and Woolsey have been perhaps the ultimate DVD evaders. Until very recently only public domain copies of the likes of HOOK, LINE AND SINKER (far from one of their best, and very poor quality typical of PD bootlegs) and DIXIANA (embarrasingly creaky) readily available out of their 21 as a team. However, this may finally be changing....see next section.
It’s a minor gripe, but this is one film in which Woolsey’s catchphrase, “Whoa-ohh!” is overdone. I counted seven.
Why it should be on DVD:
A very well done period comedy, Wheeler and Woolsey’s finest cinematic hour, and yet another reminder of just how sexy AND hilarious Thelma Todd was. I mentioned that I prefer it to DEVIL’S BROTHER, and IMO it’s also arguably better than Laurel and Hardy's later BOHEMIAN GIRL.
Here’s hoping that the Warner Archive is eventually able to get this one out on DVD: I mean, if MEET THE BARON and SPEAK EASILY (just to name two) are available, there certainly should be room for this one. As Brian Paige astutely noted in the comments below, Warner has started the long-overdue process of getting W&W's peak period out with the double feature GIRL CRAZY/PEACH O'RENO, the first "official" DVD release. Hopefully there's a couple more to follow.
Bottom line, COCKEYED CAVALIERS is one the three funniest films of its year, high praise when the other two are TWENTIETH CENTURY and IT'S A GIFT.