Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for LEAP YEAR

First a couple of shorts:

POOL SHARKS (1915): W.C. Fields, much more famous as an early talkie star (with the unforgettable voice and catchphrases like, "My Little Chickadee...") did make the leap from vaudeville to silent films and had a pretty good career there but was just about washed up when the talkies made him huge again. POOL SHARKS was apparently based on one of his more popular vaudeville routines. And in the film he and a rival settle a romantic quarrel with a most bizarre game of pool, that ultimately ends in fisticuffs. Some funny stop-motion animation of the pool sequences, but ultimately it's not a master comic at the top of his game. It's a soon-to-be master comic in the beginning of his career.

ROUGHEST AFRICA (1923): Stan Laurel, before he teamed up with Oliver Hardy, leads a brave documentary crew through the wilds of Africa, all the way from Hollywood to Los Angeles (yup, they're right there on a map of Africa). He encounters monkeys, bears (huh?), ostriches, lions, etc. And he gets into all kinds of trouble, usually to the glee of his cameraman Jim Finlayson (longtime foil of Laurel and Hardy, both before and after they were a team). Pretty funny.

Then after intermission, our feature film:

LEAP YEAR (1921): Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle had this film in the can but it hadn't been released before his disastrous Labor Day party in San Francisco. Even after he was acquitted, he was too tarnished by his scandal, so this is only the second confirmed time this film has played in the Bay Area (it played once at the Pacific Film Archives back in the 90's). In it, Fatty plays the wealthy heir to a fortune, and he has a horrible stuttering problem when he gets excited. The thing that most excites him is his uncle's nurse. But his uncle hates women, and disapproves of how Fatty falls for every girl he meets. He swears to his beloved nurse that's not true. In fact, it's the women who can't help falling for him, and like clockwork within one day he is accidentally engaged to three different women. And now the wacky hijinx have to ensue. Hilarious, and a showcase for one of the top comics of his time (at the time, only Chaplin was competition for the title). It's a shame the scandal brought him down (after three trials he was found innocent, and in fact the jury took the remarkable step of writing an apology to him saying there was never enough evidence to even bring him to trial).

Total Running Time: 100 minutes
My Total Minutes: 247,565

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