Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for a Laurel and Hardy afternoon with The Sounds of Silents.

The second Sunday of every month is the Laurel & Hardy "talkie" afternoon at Niles. But last Sunday, these weren't technically talkies--they were sound films with a recorded Vitaphone soundtrack, but no talking. These are films that were shot as silents and had soundtracks recorded for them after the fact. It's an interesting little window looking into the transition period between silent and talkie films. In fact, a couple of them I had seen as silent films before.

LIBERTY (1929): Laurel & Hardy are great proponents of liberty. You would be too, if you'd just busted out of prison. First things first--they have to change out of their prison uniforms and into street clothes. Problem, the accidentally switch pants (so Stan can't keep Ollie's giant pants up, and Ollie barely fits into Stan's), which leads to a lot of comedy based on them trying to disrobe and trade pants in public. Eventually the action takes them onto a skyscraper under construction. They actually built a fake skyscraper set on the roof of another building. So they really were dangling ~10-15 feet over the roof, and the shots of the ground below are real (not back-projected.) As someone with slight acrophobia, these always get me.

BARNUM & RINGLING (1928): Our Gang sets up their own circus inside a fancy hotel. Lots of wacky hijinx with animals. And a cameo appearance by Oliver Hardy.

Then after a brief intermission, two more shorts!

CAT, DOG & CO. (1929): Our Gang, working with animals again. This time they're taught to be kind to animals and are deputized into the Be Kind to Animals Society. So they run around and try to free animals from all sorts of situations, including many where they were supposed to be in cages.

BACON GRABBERS (1929): Laurel & Hardy are officers sent to repossess a radio from Edgar Kennedy. He certainly doesn't make it easy for them, and a good bit of hilarious destruction ensues.

Total Running Time: 74 minutes
My Total Minutes: 310,637

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