Friday, July 20, 2012

A Clown Named Jack Thum

I watched "Leave 'em Laughing" recently. It's a 1980s Mickey  Rooney TV movie and it's pretty good.

It's the true story of a man who worked as a children's clown for 22 years. The movie was like Patch Adams, but it didn't suck as much.

Whenever I see any movie, I always hit Google afterwards in an odd attempt to find out as much as I possibly can about the film in question. Always. It doesn't even matter if I liked the movie.

This time, I found out more about this wonderful man.

Image from eBay
Jack was an orphan as a child and said he spent "...17 years alone. No one came to visit. No one made me laugh."

Jack decided to make laughter his life's work.

Jack worked as a clown, entertaining kids at hospitals and at home. He and his wife took in 36 children from broken homes and had one daughter together.

The movie starts with Jack working as a clown and coughing... a sure sign that bad things were on the way. No one ever gets cough in a movie and lives to see the closing credits.

Sure enough, Jack had cancer and eventually succumbed to it in 1980 at age 54. A few months before he died, he worked the clown make up one last time (with his grand daughter) to entertain 400 kids at a Halloween party. Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne designated Halloween as Jack Thum Day.

Image from eBay
It's a nice movie and a better story. I like clowns. I never found them scary or creepy. In fact as a kid I wanted to be one.

I also wanted to be a Transformer.

I was a kid and kids are stupid. But thankfully there are nice people like Jack there to entertain them.

Here Come The Tigers

I recently watched a late 1970s Bad News Bears rip off entitled "Here Come the Tigers".

There were two scenes that really stood out to me- from a nostalgic point of view:

 #1 The Star Wars scene:
About halfway through the film we see the kids leaving a theater where they had just seen Star Wars.
They talk about "the force" and it actually plays into the ending of the film.

Regardless, it was really great to see the old lobby cards on display in the case outside an wonderful brick theater.

#2 The arcade:

Shortly after the Star Wars scene we get a scene in an arcade. In addition to some great pre-Pac Man cabinets we get a wacky over sized picture of Robert Redford.

We get a shot of a kid playing Foosball and a 1976 Bi Plane cabinet.

Here we see the kids at a pool table. In the background we see a shuffle bowling game and a Brunswick Air Handball game (which is basically a smaller air hockey game that can be placed against a wall.)

I like the really cool glass with the markings on it. My aunt had a mirror topped coffee table with a similar look. I remember staring at it and trying to find things in the shapes. I was often bored at my aunt's house.
I like seeing the reflections of the pinball machines and it's cool to see the old Sprite can!

It'm not sure if I can recommend the actual film.

It was silly and fun and I sure enjoyed it... but I suppose you'd be better off just seeing Bad News Bears.

Still, Wes Craven was a gaffer on this. That's worth something.

Guy Hutchinson
Guy Hutchinson