Bright Lights Film Journal

Move On Over, Edna Mae!

Don’t get me wrong. Charlie Sellon was no Edna Mae Oliver. His Betsy Trotwood in the 1931 Broadway production of David Copperfield helped sink that ill-fated production like a stone. But when it came to waving a shotgun, old Charlie took second place to no one, not even old Edna Mae.

Sellon’s scattergun histrionics are on near-constant display in Will Rogers’ last film, In Old Kentucky (1935). The real draws are Rogers himself, pretty funny most of the time, even in blackface, and some serious tapping from Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, although we do have to put up with Robinson being called “boy” on several occasions.*

Sellon’s greatest moment, for which he receives virtually zero credit, came a year earlier in It’s A Gift as the cantankerous (of course) Mr. Muckle, the blind man who nearly destroys W. C. Fields’ grocery store in search of a bag of kumquats.

*In Old Kentucky is available in a four-disc set, The Will Rogers Collection: Volume 1, which also includes John Ford’s Steamboat Round the Bend, also pretty funny, most of the time, but painfully marred by the presence of Stepin Fetchit, whom I do not like, regardless of what anyone says.