Today marks the anniversary of the release of the Keystone comedy A Film Johnnie. This was the first of many improvised comedies starring Charlie Chaplin and his cohorts as they do nothing more than cavort around a movie studio. Arbuckle, Normand and company play themselves. Charlie is a stagestuck “film Johnny” who comes on set and (much as he had in Kid Auto Races) spoils shot after shot, much to our delight and much to the irritation of the “director”, played by Edgar Kennedy, in the very same mode we would later cherish him in his later RKO shorts. The actual director of the film is George Nichols. This is also the first movie in which Chaplin does his familiar “water and ear” trick!
For more on silent and slapstick comedy don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To learn more about show biz history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.