International House was a comedy film released in 1933, directed by A. Edward Sutherland. The tagline of the film was “Grand Hotel of comedy”.
The film was a mix of numerous acts and bits, like a Vaudeville
variety show, interlaced through the ostensible plot line, which had to do with a Chinese inventor trying to sell an early version of television. Unlike real television, this imagined mechanism did not need a camera, but its monitor could zoom in on acts around the world. In addition to the typical Fieldsian comic lunacy, it also provides a snapshot of some popular stage and radio acts of the era, in the style of the Big Broadcast
pictures that were also released during the 1930s.
The setting was supposed to be a hotel in Wuhu, China, (from the dialogue, "Wuhu" was clearly chosen as a pun on the greeting "Yoo hoo") and the "international" in the title resonated with the international district of Shanghai, but of course it was filmed on the Hollywood back lot.
The film was produced in the days before the Hays Office
fully controlled filmmaking, and was notable for several risqué or questionable references (by 1933 standards). The most interesting of these, to film and music historians, is probably Cab Calloway
's song Reefer Man
, in which bass player Al Morgan
does a slap stringbass bit as if in a trance and Calloway sings about him being "high" on "reefers
During the filming of International House
, a small tremor struck the set of the film, while cameras were rolling. The moment, captured on camera, was shown in newsreels across the nation, and was possibly the first earthquake to be captured in action on film . However, some believe that this footage was faked, and that the chandelier
that sways back and forth, and the lamp that tips over were suspended on wires.
The same earthquake was centered in Long Beach, which was not very far away. 115 people were killed and most of the downtown section was destroyed. See also 1933 Long Beach earthquake.
Peggy Hopkins Joyce
... Prof. Henry R. Quail
... Tommy Nash
... Doctor Burns
... Nurse Allen
Sari Maritza ... Carol Fortescue
F. Chase Taylor ... Colonel Stoopnagle
Budd Hulick ... Budd
... Gen. Nicholas Petronovich
... Herself (billed as Baby Rose Marie)
... Hotel Manager
Edmund Breese ... Doctor Wong
Lumsden Hare ... Sir Mortimer Fortescue
... Coffee Mugg