Today is the anniversary of the release date of Stan Laurel ‘s one reel comedy short Just Rambling Along (1918). As of this writing Just Rambling Along is Laurel’s earliest extant film (he’d made seven before this). It was also his first comedy for producer Hal Roach, although he would go off and work with various other producers before coming back to Roach in a serious long-term way in the 1920s. And it’s nearly a decade before he formed at team with Oliver Hardy.
It’s easy to see from films like this one why everyone thought of Laurel as a comedian of promise early in his career. This film is chock full of funny gags. It’s essentially “fun in a cafeteria”. The premise is Chaplinesque—his character has no money to eat. He steals some from a child, goes in to the cafeteria, harasses a woman, tricks the guy for food, and so forth. The place is formatted like Katz’s Deli—you pay your bill to a cashier in order to exit. Laurel has a dime and only ordered coffee (he stole his food) but a girl switches tickets, causing him to owe more money anyway. So he tries to figure out ways to sneak out. Eventually he is kicked out into the arms of a waiting policeman. Laurel would have many miles to go before he creates the character of “Stanley”, so much better known and beloved by millions.
To learn more about comedy film history, including the films of Stan Laurel, please check out 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