Larry Semon and Oliver Hardy in “The Show”

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Larry Semon’s silent comedy short The Show was released on this day in 1922, co-directed by Semon and Norman Taurog.

As in all the Semon-Taurog collaborations this one doesn’t have much of a plot, but The Show more than compensates with the extravagance of its gags, and a particularly thrilling climax. The situation is one we know well from comedies by Chaplin, Arbuckle, Keaton and others. Semon is a prop man in a large scale Broadway type theatre. And then…STUFF HAPPENS. A 12 foot tall giant comes into the theatre, only to open his overcoat and have his entire snuck-in family jump out. Somebody drops a pile of goo onto a bald man’s head from the balcony. A magician’s rooster escapes and throws up in a man’s face. The chicken then goes backstage and eats nitroglycerin (because every theatre has nitroglycerin backstage) and spits up again, causing explosions.

Oliver Hardy plays the stage manager (five years before teaming up with Stan Laurel), but he’s also a crook and leader of a gang. The bad guys steal the diva (Lucille Carlisle)’s jewels. There next ensues one of the best comedy car chases I’ve ever seen.  Hair raising, excellent stunting, and endlessly inventive. In the end Larry finally climbs aboard the full tilt locomotive, gets the crooks at gunpoint, throws them off,  and the train smashes into a car full of dynamite. Kaboom! And the epilogue? What do you think? Watch it here on Youtube. 

For more on comedy film history see 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. For more on show biz historyconsult 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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