Today is the anniversary of the release date of the perfect Douglas Fairbanks comedy Wild and Woolly (1917).
This is one of Fairbanks’ Anita Loos–John Emerson vehicles. Doug plays the son of a New York railroad tycoon. The young man is obsessed with the wild west. When his dad wants to build a spur line to an Arizona mine, he sends the boy out west to investigate. The townfolk, seeking to impress the kid, put on a charade so their relatively modern town will seem like the old west. Meanwhile some actual bads guys, a crooked Indian agent and his hotel clerk lackey, conspire to do actual crimes while Fairbanks is distracted with fake ones. The hotel clerk kidnaps the beautiful girl Fairbanks is in love with; the Indian agent does a train robbery, giving his Indians real bullets with which to subdue the town. Fairbanks saves all and marries the girl. This is a formula Fairbanks would employ many times over (and would be emulated by many, including Harold Lloyd), but it was never realized with such formal clarity as it is in this film.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy don’t 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