Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for Comedy Shorts Night--August 18, 2012

Yay, comedy! Everyone likes to laugh. And I do mean everyone. The Niles Film Museum and its Saturday night shows are becoming more and more popular. Especially comedy shorts night. And especially last night, when we had to turn quite a few people away. Let that be a lesson, if you're coming to comedy shorts night, buy tickets in advance. There's a Paypal link on the website (which is taken down the day of the show) or you can show up to the museum when it's open noon-4 pm, or you can call (510) 494-1411 and order tickets over the phone with a credit card.

Anyway, on to last night's movies. But I will say two things first. One, there was a common them of policemen in the movies. Not surprising, since cops and robbers was a common comedy setup back then. Second, it was great seeing these with a large, enthusiastic, laughing audience. I had seen 3 of the 4 before, but it's always better seeing silent films with an audience.

THE ADVENTURER (1917): Convict Charlie Chaplin escapes from the cops and rescues Edna Purviance, her mother, and her boyfriend (Eric Campbell) from drowning. He's set up in their house, where he passes himself off as a great adventurer, and starts wooing Edna, much to the displeasure of her boyfriend. Things get even wackier when he recognizes Charlie as the escaped convict in the newspaper, and calls in the cops.

Very funny, but on a tragic note this was Eric Campbell's last film appearance. He was Charlie Chaplin's greatest foil, a giant man with a bushy beard and huge eyebrows. He was known as "Chaplin's Goliath" and despite the gruff appearance and characters onscreen, everyone said in real life he was the nicest man you could know. But he had a fondness for fast cars and died in an automobile crash just months after shooting this movie. And this was pretty early in Chaplin's career, no doubt if he had survived they would've faced off many more times and he'd be way more famous today.

COPS (1922): Buster Keaton, in one of him most famous shorts. Through a series of missteps, he ends up stealing a policeman's wallet, "buying" a truckload of a furniture, and ending up in the policeman's parade. And that's just the start, as his wacky missteps lead to the entire police force chasing after him. All, of course, to make something of himself and win the hand of his girlfriend.

Then a brief intermission, and back to the second half of the show.

NUMBER, PLEASE? (1920): Harold Lloyd stars in the only movie last night I hadn't seen before. He and Roy Brooks are at the amusement park, both vying for the hand of the lovely Mildred Davis. She has a pass for a balloon ride, and will go with the first one of them who gets her mother's permission. So Roy runs off to her home, while Harold has the brilliant idea to just call her up on one of those new-fangled public pay telephones. Wackiness ensues, as it's a struggle just to get into the phone booth, much less get the attention of the operator, or get connected to the right number. SPOILER ALERT: This is one of the very few films where Harold Lloyd doesn't actually get the girl in the end. But don't worry, in real life he went on to marry Mildred Davis, and it wasn't any short-lived Hollywood affair either. They stayed married for 46 years, until she passed away. Oddly enough, Roy Brooks became Harold's social secretary and lived with them at their estate, and would keep Mildred company while Harold was away. But there was no hanky-panky--Roy was simply Mildred's old friend (they new each other as kids before they both moved to Hollywood) and he was gay.

BACON GRABBERS (1929): And finally, we end the night with the Boys--Laurel and Hardy. This time they're debt collectors sent to repossess a radio from a deadbeat, played by none other than Edgar Kennedy, master of the "slow burn." But he fights them off, keeping them out of the house and away from his radio. At least, for as long as he can. Brilliant, funny, and a great way to end the night.

Total Running Time: 97 minutes
My Total Minutes: 297,489

No comments: