Bloopers Are Nothing New and These Classic Hollywood Blunders Are Proof

Little provides more insight into human nature then witnessing our mistakes, which makes bloopers compiled from the Golden Age of Hollywood surprisingly compelling time capsules of lost personalities and eras.

Unlike modern blooper reels, which have become as anticipated as trailers and an expected part of a movie's home release—often leading to blooper reels full of self-conscious mentions of the blooper reel—compilations of mistakes from studio films of the 1920s through 50s are uncomplicatedly outtakes, never meant for audience eyes and ears.

In compilations collected by Boing Boing and YouTubers like Golden Age Hollywood we can glimpse between the cracks of a machine designed to be opaque to the public. Bracketed by the dawn of feature-length talkies in 1927 and the collapse of RKO—one of the Big Five studios—in 1957, Hollywood's studio era was defined by a uniformity of production and creative styles, as talent was held on long-term contracts and movies were shot assembly-line style on sprawling studio lots. Its era's stars were micromanaged brands, whose public image was carefully controlled to maintain sparkling machismo, or sex appeal or sophistication.

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Which makes it especially fun to see Golden Age movie stars like Edward G. Robinson (Key Largo, Double Indemnity, Soylent Green), Bette Davis (All About Eve, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?), Claude Rains (The Invisible Man, Casablanca), Humphrey Bogart (The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), James Cagney (The Public Enemy, White Heat) and Errol Flynn (The Adventures of Robin Hood, Captain Blood).

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Highlights include Flynn falling off a horse, Davis' rueful "Ah nuts," Cagney's evident frustration with himself and Carol Lombard dropping her posh accent after struggling to use a fork.

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Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson in 1948's 'Key Largo,' directed by John Huston. Bettmann / Contributor

While it's easy to "know" that movie stars of that era were people who joke, flub and have personalities unlike their stoic, heroic, debonair, sophisticated characters the stylization of the Golden Age movie can be a hard veneer to see through. Which makes it surprising and delightful when they fall back on the same responses familiar from modern blooper reels, like babbling nonsense, swearing, trailing off or cracking under off-camera laughter.

While the studio system that defined the Golden Age of Hollywood makes bloopers of the era feel like illicit glimpses into secret worlds and lives, there's also something to be said for the more self-conscious bloopers of the modern era, especially for pioneers of the outtake like Jackie Chan. Known for his high-risk stunts, Chan often ended his movies with outtakes revealing the numerous injuries and painful landings that went into making some of movie history's greatest action movies.

Sure, some actors flub lines and say a swear, but when's the last time Humphrey Bogart dove atop hot coals for your entertainment?

Bloopers Are Nothing New and These Classic Hollywood Blunders Are Proof | Culture