Here’s a weekend recommendation for you—think of it as an extended Staff Pick, if you like.
Bill and Coo was made in 1948 to showcase “Burton’s Birds,” a troupe of trained lovebirds managed by former silent-movie actor George Burton. And does it ever! The tiny, Trucolor-hued town of Chirpendale is filled with bird characters of all kinds, doing all sorts of remarkable things: working in barber shops, wearing dunce caps, performing in circuses. In this idyll, we are told, “love, happiness and contentment blend together in harmony.” That is, until the Black Menace—a crow—descends and wreaks havoc. There’s romance (the eponymous Bill and Coo), adventure, song and dance. The film won a special Oscar. A New York Times critic deemed it “by conservative estimate, the God-damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.”
I adored Bill and Coo as a kid—we had a bootleg Betamax video of it—but I worried it wouldn’t hold up, or that as an adult I’d see signs of avian exploitation. (For the record, I’ve detected no indication of that, although maybe there’s an untold story that bears serious investigation.) I need not have—it is as weird, and as entertaining, as can be. A novelty, yes—but a wonderfully watchable one.
The whole film is readily available online—and you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you watch it from start to finish. But here’s a taste.