Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in “Leap Year”

Roscoe Arbuckle - Escena de Leap Year (1921)

Today is the anniversary of the first release date (in 1924) of the Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle feature-length comedy Leap Year. The release, however, was in France, not the U.S. — and you know why. This was after the scandal that ruined his career. (The film, directed by the great James Cruze, had actually been made prior to that.)

Ironically, it’s a completely innocuous comedy, and quite funny. Although I’m not quite sure why it’s called Leap Year. The story is very farcical. Roscoe plays a shy, awkward rich boy who falls into every girl he meets, and stutters when excited, though he gets cured by a glass of water. When he falls in love with his ailing father’s nurse, the old man sends him to an island to get away from predatory women. And it of course turns out to be a resort which is crawling with predatory women. He manages to make three different women think he’s proposing (of course, they all make the assumption based on flimsy encouragement on his part). He escapes, but they all follow him back to his house. So he pretends to be sick and still has to juggle them all. By the end , all three have resolved to marry other men and Roscoe will marry the original nurse. The climactic scene is quite hilarious, with about 15 people chasing the unfortunate Roscoe around his house in the approved farcical fashion.

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 Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult 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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