Long ago, before color moviemaking became commonplace, before f-bombs replaced the incensed g-d exclamations, before bloopers made their way to television shows and special features, there was the "Breakdown." The what? In 1936, a Breakdown was "when one or more people get 'tetched in the head' at a most opportune time -- causing the director, the assistant director, the unit manager, the producer, etc., to lose their mental balance and their digestive organs fail to function."
I just learned this today through a killer movie
breakdown compilation from 1936, one that features the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, James Cagney, Frederic March, and other greats, which you can see after the jump. In other words, a blooper reel full of a bunch of old-school, black and white mistakes on set. But better than watching the classic actors fumble their lines is seeing the humanity that bleeds out in those moments when the delivery breaks into reality. The source of this reel discovery, How to be a Retronaut,
says it nicely: "It catches the past off-guard. It shows us the people behind the accents, the plots, the conventions of 75 years ago. And it reminds us that the business of being human remains entirely the same across time."