Musical short films can be many things. Sometimes their stories are light, and sometimes they’re complex, but delivered in concise little packages. Sometimes they’re sweet, and sometimes they’re strange. One thing is certain: they’re virtually always fun to watch.
Falling on the “light and strange” side of the spectrum is 1939’s Happily Buried, a musical short all about waffles.
The last word of that sentence will have most people doing a double-take, but your eyes have not deceived you. Happily Buried truly is a story of waffles and romance. Directed by Felix E. Feist, this wacky 20-minute film was written by Feist along with Jack Woodford and Richard Goldstone. The music and lyrics are by Bob Wright and Chet Forrest.
Tragedy strikes when the “Magic Circle” and “Four Square” waffle-maker companies both see huge dips in sales. Evelyn Foster (Rita Oehman) and Richard Wright (John Hubbard), the presidents of each of these companies, decide to make a business merger — and a personal one.
The young lovebirds are planning to marry and start creating waffle irons together. But she’s stuck on her family’s tradition of creating circle-shaped waffle irons, while he insists that men want no part in breakfasts of circular waffles, and that the irons must be square. Evelyn calls off the wedding and the merger over this issue, and it’ll take a little bit of magic for the relationship to be mended.
The story told here is very simple and the film is often quite amusing. But, it has a few trademark moments of 20th century Hollywood political incorrectness and outdated thinking. Richard, for instance, meets a yogi — the only person who can help him win Evelyn back. Later, when the yogi is offered money, he talks about how many wives these riches will allow him to have when he returns to his home country.
And then there’s Evelyn herself — a dedicated business woman who is all too quick to give her career up and marry Richard, transitioning to her “true” purpose of being a wife and (eventually) a stay-at-home mother. Even after Richard publicly humiliates her and generally acts like a tool, she races toward those wedding bells. There’s nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home mom, but if you’re going to do it, do it because it’s truly what you want to do — and at least marry someone who is worthy of your time!
The best moments are those which involve music. Happily Buried begins with a hilarious opening song. “We may be waffle conscious, but our customers are definitely not!,” the staff of Magic Circle sings in the boardroom. Later, there’s a sweet romantic ballad thrown in for good measure… sung by Richard, who is living underground for two weeks and broadcasting love songs to Evelyn over the radio (which also serves as a publicity stunt for his business). One more song-and-dance number takes place inside of AN ENORMOUS WAFFLE IRON (see above).
Not quite as enjoyable as the pun-filled musical short New Shoes (my personal favorite, and a member of the Classics of the Corn hall of shame), Happily Buried is still more than a little bit ridiculous. For that reason it’s worth a watch, despite its problems.