Today marks the anniversary of the release of the Charlie Chaplin comedy His Musical Career, co-starring Mack Swain. They play a pair of piano movers who mix up their orders (note that this is 18 years before Laurel and Hardy made the very similar The Music Box, and with roughly the same relationship between the two men.) The pair delivers a piano to a crazy long haired professor whose piano they are supposed to be repossessing. And then they go a rich guy’s house and repossess his piano, where they are supposed to be delivering a new one. There follow all the requisite piano moving gags. A piano drops on top of Swain, and Charlie steps on him. Business with trying to move pianos in a two wheel donkey cart (the piano, weighing more than the donkey, lifts the poor creature into the air). Business with carrying a piano upstairs. In the end the rich man comes home and demands: “Where are you going with my piano?” and the two roll down a steep hill riding the piano all the way and wind up — as always — in a body of water.
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 Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To learn about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.