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The Legend of Bruce and Babe

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Bruce Cronin and Babe Sargent have been friends for most of their lives. They enjoy a peculiar sort of fame -- as Babe puts it, "Within a 20-mile radius, I do fairly well." The center of the radius is somewhere around Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire. Their local fame is a result of two short comedy films they made together in the 1970s, The Wild Goose and Henry Phipps Goes Skiing. Bruce was writer/director, and Babe was the star, a natural actor with a gift for comedy. They've never made a third film, but they've done a series of "Evenings with Bruce and Babe" featuring the two films, outtakes, and original comedy bits. Here's a passage about their first movie. 

 

 

Most of the film was shot in the Sullivan County Nursing Home, and many of its residents were given small parts -- as nursing-home residents. It was a memorable break from the routine. "After the first filming, many of the folks there would check in to see if we needed them," says Babe. "They had a great time. I spoke with a nurse not too long ago who worked there at the time, and she said, 'You don't know what enjoyment you brought to those folks.' "

 

 The film is full of slapstick humor -- flying bedpans, misplaced false teeth, and the like. Three Stooges-type stuff, but very well-executed. And although he was in his 40s at the time, Babe is completely convincing as a crotchety old man plotting to escape. At the end of the movie, he does: plowing through an outdoor wedding on a motorized wheelchair and puttering off into the sunset. 

 

"The very last scene, where Babe disappears around a bend in the road, was shot on Route 103A in Sunapee," says Bruce. "We had the local police chief blocking the road so no cars could drive up and wipe him out. And I'm photographing Babe going down the road, around the bend. And all I could picture was people who had been waiting there for about 20 minutes, wondering what's going on, suddenly seeing a guy coming around the corner in a wheelchair!" 


The Wild Goose may have been a short, home-cooked movie to fulfill a degree requirement, but it turned out to be a success. It was released in 1973 by Films, Incorporated, the major non-theatrical film distributor in the country, and made a modest profit. 

  Babe: "You never told me that!" 

Bruce: "Yeah, I was trying to keep that from Babe, the money thing." 

Cat's out of the bag now, Bruce. 

  

Although The Wild Goose was meant to be pure entertainment, it delivered a serious message to a certain audience. "I say somewhat facetiously that it played the 'nursing home circuit,'" says Bruce. "Nursing home directors were showing it to their staff. We made it as a comedy, but they wanted their staff to see what it was like from a patient's standpoint, I guess." 

Read the rest of their story in my book, including Cronin's career as a professional magician and Sargent's decision, as a young adult, to take charge of the family business and forego an acting career. 

Contact me by e-mail at john (at) johnswalters (dot) com