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Film / The Sex Life of the Polyp

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The Sex Life of the Polyp is a 1928 short film directed by Thomas Chalmers, written by and starring Robert Benchley.

In this one Benchley is Robert Benchley, a professor who is giving a lecture to a ladies' club (this kind of thing was popular back in the day) about, well, the sex life of the polyp. As the professor bumbles and stammers his way through the presentation, it eventually becomes clear that he is embarrassed by the subject matter and he knows little about it.

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Example of the limitations of crude early talking pictures (note how the actors rarely move while talking). Second short film made by Benchley, a humorist who made dozens of short comic films in the 1930s.


Tropes:

  • Anything That Moves: After exposing their male polyp to a female polyp, they expose him to a less attractive female polyp, then a button, then a crumb of cornbread. After the male fails to attract the button or the crumb of bread, he changes into a female.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Polyps don't move around. (Think "coral".)
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Benchley, like when he says he named his test polyp Mary, "after Ethel Barrymore."
  • Hermaphrodite: Benchley has to tell his audience that polyps can be male or female at will. This obviously makes him very uncomfortable.
  • Parody: Of scientific lectures to private clubs.
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