Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for Comedy Shorts Night

A nice program of comedy shorts for a full house at the Niles Film Museum last Saturday. Even though I had seen all of these films before (I think I've finally been coming there enough that it's the first time that has happened) it was a really fun night.

THE VAGABOND (1916): Charlie Chaplin in his famous Tramp character. He's a street violinist who is upstaged by a German band but manages to take their intended donations anyway. Then he runs off to the country where a beautiful girl (Edna Purviance) is being held hostage by a gang of gypsies (led by Chaplin's #1 foil of the time--the giant and villainous Eric Campbell.) He rescues her and they seem to be starting a life together when a handsome young artist steps into the picture and gets in the way of their love. Fun movie, odd ending (which was redone after the studio thought the original was too much of a downer.) And the face-washing scene is probably my favorite Chaplin/Purviance scene ever.

THE LOVE NEST (1923): Buster Keaton looks to forget about his lost love by setting out to sea. In a surreal adventure, he runs afoul of an ill-tempered whaling captain before ending up stranded on the targets of a naval firing range. This was Keaton's final short before moving on to exclusively feature films. And, of course, he's masterful in it.

Then a brief intermission, and back for the final two movies.

BAD BODY (1925): Charley Chase, our favorite under-appreciated silent era comedian, is torn between the dreams his parents have for him. His father wants to be tough enough to take over his steel business, so puts him to work at the lowest, toughest levels of manual labor. His mother prefers his dainty, creative side, especially his dancing...which she forces him to showcase at a society party she's throwing. It all culminates in a local tough-guy dance hall where he pretends to be an infamous gangster before he's found out and wacky hijinx (i.e., an all-out brawl) ensues.

SAILORS, BEWARE! (1927): A Laurel and Hardy short, before they were officially a team. Hardy is a steward on a cruise ship, who's more interested in flirting with the ladies than doing his job. Laurel is a taxi driver who is accidentally loaded onto the ship and agrees to work as a steward instead of being executed as a stowaway (the captain employs a harsh form of maritime law, I guess.) They cause a remarkable amount of havoc, of course. And they even foil a con artist who's midget husband (Harry Earles of FREAKS...and a member of the Lollipop Guild) dresses as a baby as part of the con. He's definitely the weirdest part of the movie. This wasn't the first time Laurel and Hardy appeared in the same movie together, but one of the first times they really had a lot of scenes together. Hal Roach had certainly seen something in them by this time (if not a little earlier) and soon started making movies with them as an official team (i.e., friends and colleagues from way back.)

Total Running Time: 98 minutes
My Total Minutes: 324,184

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