THE MEANEST GAL IN TOWN. RKO, 1934. ZaSu Pitts. Pert Kelton, El Brendel, James Gleason, “Skeets” Gallagher. Director: Russell Mack. Shown at Cinevent 40, Columbus OH, May 2008.

   ZaSu Pitts hadn’t yet reduced her acting to the fluttering “dear me” mannerisms that most people associate with her, and she does a decent job of playing a small-town shop owner who’s getting tired of waiting for long-time beau Chris (El Brendel), the local barber who won’t ask Tillie to marry him until he’s successful enough to afford a second chair.

   Tired of waiting, Tillie buys the chair for him, but her plan is railroaded by the arrival of out-of-work actress Lulu White (Pert Kelton), who promotes herself into a job as manicurist at Chris’s shop. Other complications follow, just enough of them to stretch the film to a thin 62 minutes, with an improbable ending that keeps Pitts off-screen for much of the last section of the film.

   Comedian El Brendel was less irritating than in other films in which I’ve seen him, but the paring of Pitts and Brendel was not a match made in cinematic heaven. Jim Goodrich, who attended this showing with me, was not happy that ZaSu Pitts was wasted in an unpleasant role.