If you run into me in a bar or somewhere and I have this hazy, far off look in the eyes or I don't remember your name or I'm just standing there softly muttering to myself--chances are I'm thinking about that monkey milking a goat sequence from Mr. Robinson Crusoe (1932). Not to be confused with other monkey milking goat sequences, this is the one that features Josephine the Monkey and Constance the Goat as comic foils to a decrepit Douglas Fairbanks. What appears to be a throwaway gag, this scene serves as much more--it's a pivotal moment in the character development between Jo and Connie and to a lesser extent Rooney the Dog. (Their subtle interplay has been previously discussed at length by failed auteur Peter Bogdanovich in his 1977 treatise Alone in a Darkened Room.) The Monkey and the Goat gave the Depression-ravaged audiences brief flashes of the inherent hilarity that only a monkey milking a goat can provide.
Lensed on the crest of the talkie takeover, Mr. Robinson Crusoe is remembered by sickos and film aficionados as Josephine's talkie debut. In 1929, Lionel Barrymore, inventor of the boom microphone (which is still in use today) tested his invention on Josephine and was instantly enchanted by her nuanced monkeyshines. She was known on the United Artists lot as a professional who wore clothing when required and kept her dung-flinging to a minimum between takes. The versatile capuchin had already appeared as an extra in Sadie Thompson (1928) and her success in Mr. Robinson Crusoe propelled her to featured roles in Washee Ironee (1933) and the talkie remake of Too Many Highballs (1933). Only days after signing a five year contract with Fox, Josephine met a watery demise when she was flushed down the toilet at a Lloyd Hamilton party that got out of hand.
Not much is known about Constance the Goat except that she was a runner-up for Miss Oak Ridge Tennessee of 1926. She quit the film business shortly after Crusoe's release but was drawn out of retirement in the late thirties when she was briefly paired with Charley Chase for a series of unfunny two-reelers at Educational.
If you're willing to part with seventy-six creaky minutes that you'll never get back, you might enjoy the entire public domain Mr. Robinson Crusoe. For the rest of you, please partake of this two minute clip and prepare to spend your remaining days softly muttering to yourself in a dark corner of your local bar.