Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jason goes to Niles for a little jazz-age fun with CHICAGO

Not the recent musical, the silent classic, of course. But first a couple of shorts:

THE BIG SWIM (1926): Mutt and Jeff swim across the Atlantic, with the sort of wacky hijinx only possible in cartoons. Very funny.

THE BALLOONATIC (1923): Buster Keaton...also with the sort of wacky hijinx only possible in cartoons (or in Buster Keaton's world.) Surprisingly, very little ballooning occurs in the movie, mostly serving to transport Buster from his crazy mishaps in an amusement park to the wilderness where he tries to survive and romance Phyllis Haver. Then it shows up again in a gag at the very end. It's not a very coherent story, even by silent short comedy standards, but it's a good collection of gags that makes your head spin.

Then a brief intermission, and on with the feature.

CHICAGO (1927): Hey, remember Phyllis Haver from THE BALLOONATIC. Well know she stars as the infamous Roxie Hart in the first film version based on the true-life story (from 1924, it had already been made into a stage play.) In this version her doting husband Amos (Victor Varconi) is much more of a sympathetic, driving force. First trying to take the blame for murder, claiming self-defense, even though Roxie shot the sugar-daddy she was cheating with. Then when the prosecutor tricks her into a confession, he contracts the shadiest, most expensive defense lawyer he can, even committing a bit of larceny to pay him. And for all his trouble...well [SPOILER ALERT: He actually does get a happy ending, while Roxie has to suffer the humiliation of being yesterday's news.] A really good, fun story. And there's something weirdly comforting in knowing that tabloid "trial of the century" trash was going on 90 years ago pretty much the same as tody.

Total Running Time: 138 minutes
My Total Minutes: 369,907

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