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Twit . . . James Twit
And who among us doesn’t recognize that classic introductory phrase from the cinema of the ‘60s (voted in 2001 ‘best-loved one-liner in cinema’ by a nation of Brits)?
First uttered by our sappy-dressing leading man over a stirring game of scrabble in that bookkeeping snoozer, Dr. Maibee, it brought us a totally forgettable dweeb of stupefying simplicity. Chewing the curtain, our anti-hero slowly moves his dum-dum sucker from cheek to cheek, slurping and smacking with obvious enjoyment, rolling his teeny BB eyes right, then left, before murmuring, “The name’s Twit . . . James Twit”. And in the process, this doofus becomes an immortal icon of all that is plain and bland and boring in filmic history. Audiences could barely stay awake for the final confrontation between Twit and Maibee in the shallow end of the kid’s pool at the Crab Key Community Center.
Our ace accountant double-oh-zero reprised his white-bread role in the classic From the Archives, Stat!, released the following year. After a long and convoluted descent into the murk and muddle of middle-management Medicaid fraud, the intrepid Twit has a fateful showdown on board a stalled ambulance with the Russian-born clerk, Kal Q. Layter (who, unbeknownst to Twit just happens to conceal in his double-entry ledger a ruler with a very finely honed edge). Once again, crowds of moviegoers were noticeably underwhelmed.
But that didn’t stop the culinarily-named co-producing duo of Teddy Cauliflower and Gerry Garlic from producing still another Twit movie: Inkfinger. With the blockbuster release of Inkfinger in 1964 — over the strenuous objections of Lord Llewelynn Desmond, Twit creator — the franchise finally broke into the black, as Twit matched dim wits with the swizzle-stick-thin Stannic Inkfinger, an apothecary and amateur calligrapher with a puzzling Thai-Portuguese accent. The plot was a hashed-up muddle about adding tin to the ink supply to the U.S. mint, but nobody really cared. Instead, a generation of cineastes were captivated solely by the fleeting sight of naked Twitgirl Pen Pal coated in a sheen of fine India ink.
Critics generally agree that the Twit series lost its way in 1969, with the casting of a much doughier and paler Scat Fatby in the lead role. Fatby could never quite manage the delicate balance of cluelessness and asexuality required by the part, so after the flatline release of In an IRS Audit, the film production company’s 412 employees unanimously agreed to return to the original portrayer of Twit, Sid Fliddery, for ensuing movies in the series.
Sid was the Twit for another dozen years or more, putting audiences to sleep with such fare as Numbers Are Endless and That Makes Six and Carry the Two. But, upon reaching his mid-50s, the Iowan with the laconic farmer’s drawl could no longer seem to evoke Twit’s ideal unthreatening drone. The actor’s lapses of memory prevented him from keeping his figures straight — something crucial to each storyline — so Fliddery was eventually retired from the role, and a replacement was actively sought.
Since Fliddery (and Fatby), we have seen four additional Twits (of variable caliber) in 14 different films (of equal insomnia-relieving power). However, for true fans, good ol’ Sid Fliddery will ever be “Twit . . . James Twit”.
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