Arbuckle, Keaton and St. John in “Oh Doctor!”

Posted in Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , on September 30, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Comique comedy short Oh Doctor! (1917) starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and featuring Buster Keaton and Al St. John. 

In this one Arbuckle plays the titular Doc, who has both a betting and a lady problem. The most rewarding feature of the film however is Buster Keaton as the doctor’s son, a little dandy who bursts into tears at the drop of a hat. The bit has a feeling of polish to it — one wonders if it was something he brought with him from vaudeville. At any rate, it’s a rare chance to see Buster express any emotion on film.

Arbuckle brings the family to a horse race where Al St. John and his vamp accomplice (Alice Mann) are inspired to fleece him. Later St John will pose as a patient and steal a necklace from the doctor’s home. In the end, Roscoe dresses as a policeman to catch the crook (just because) and ends up making a ton of loot.

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Stan Laurel in “Roughest Africa”

Posted in African American Interest, Blackface & Minstrelsy, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film on September 30, 2014 by travsd

Stan Laurel, Roughest Africa, 1923 [320x200]

Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Stan Laurel solo comedy short Roughest Africa (1923).

Laurel’s best solo comedies tend to be parodies; this one is a send-up of travelogues, already a non-fiction cinematic staple since the earliest days of the movies. The African setting is an excellent one for gags and later teams like Abbott and Costello, and Wheeler and Woolsey, would later follow up on the lines of investigation begun by Laurel and his cohort Jimmy Finlayson here. The elaborate sets and exotic creatures in the film make me speculate that some arrangement was made by Hal Roach to piggyback onto another producer’s production, but that’s just speculation on my part. I’ve found nothing that affirms that.

The most striking aspect of the film to most modern viewers will be the racist portrayals of the explorer’s native African “bearers”. It’s important to keep in mind both that such portrayals were near universal at the time, and that this film is a parody of other existing films. Roach’s Our Gang franchise ought to balance out the karma somewhat.

Because this is a parody of a plotless cinematic form, it’s mostly just a succession of gags. The bulk of the comedy highlights a series of encounters with animals. A porcupine shoots quills at Laurel. A bear lick’s Fin’s face, then they wrestle. An ostrich chases Laurel (beware, Stan! You know what happened to Billy Ritchie!). Then bear chases all of them. Bear falls down trap. Then laurel falls down same one (monkey pulls lever). After much more shenanigans with the bear, they meet up with an elephant, a lion, then more lions, then crocodiles, then a skunk. As comedy fans know, after you have encountered a skunk, there is nowhere ot go but home,

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Harold Lloyd in “By the Sad Sea Waves”

Posted in Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , on September 30, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the released date of the early Harold Lloyd “glasses” comedy By the Sad Sea Waves (1917).

The title may refer to any of the By the Sad Sea Waves that came before: an 1850 song by Jules Benedict, an 1894 song by Lester Barrett and Lester Thomas, popularized by Vesta Tilley; or the “ragtime opera” produced by Mathews and Bulgar in 1898.

In Harold’s version, a brawny life guard is beating Harold’s time with a girl (Bebe Daniels) so he masquerades as a lifeguard so he can rate. A couple of fake rescues, then he rescues the girl for real. They pair up in the end, pursued, for some reason, by a cop. Snub Pollard also stars.

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Douglas Fairbanks in “The Man from Painted Post”

Posted in Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , on September 30, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Douglas Fairbanks comedy The Man from Painted Post (1917).

The movie is a clever twist on the usual Fairbanks formula. Instead of playing a guy who starts out as a milksop and then grows hair on his chest, he plays an actual detective with the Cattleman’s Association who goes UNDERCOVER as such a man, pretending that he has no western experience or skills in order to catch rustlers (forshadowing his later role as Zorro in two movies). The back story is that a certain bad guy killed his sister and gave him a scar. Now Fairbanks comes around as “Fancy Jim”, pretending to be a greenhorn from Maryland, who can’t ride, rope or shoot. Drinks tea, is deceptively polite. The rustler he is after kidnaps a schoolmarm (Eileen Forbes) with evil intent. Fairbanks brings him to justice and rides off into sunset with the girl.  While ostensibly a comedy in the usual early Fairbanks mode (and it does have its funny moments especially in the opening beats), the film cleaves so closely to the straight western formula, that it essentially is one. Thus it points ahead to Fairbanks later work at United Artists as a straight ahead action hero.

To learn more about early film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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“Say Goodnight, Gracie” Tonight and Tomorrow

Posted in Comedy, Indie Theatre, Jews/ Show Biz, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, PLUGS with tags , , , , , on September 27, 2014 by travsd

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Tonight and tomorrow night, Alan Safier stars as George Burns in the one man show Say Goodnight, Gracie at the Queens Theatre. For info and tickets go here. 

Cartoon Carnival Tonight

Posted in BROOKLYN, Hollywood (History), Movies, PLUGS, VISUAL ART with tags , , , on September 27, 2014 by travsd

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Tomorrow: “Jolson, My Dad & Me”

Posted in Contemporary Variety, Music, PLUGS, Singers with tags , , , , , , on September 26, 2014 by travsd

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