Today marks the anniversary of the release date of the Charlie Chaplin/ Keystone comedy Gentlemen of Nerve. This is one of what I call the ad hoc/ improv type silent comedies, shot at an actual car race. There is a nice feeling of ensemble in this little comedy, a confidence that bespeaks a gang of comedians that have been playing together for several months are just now coming into their own creatively.
Chester Conklin and Mabel Normand play a couple who come to watch the car race. As soon as they sit down in the stands, Chester starts flirting with a homely woman in a crazy hat (Phyllis Allen). Mabel pulls his nose to get him to stop. Meanwhile Chaplin and Mack Swain tussle about trying to enter the track. They shake hands. Then they try to sneak in through the fence. Whereupon Swain gets stuck. Charlie goes under his legs and through. A Keystone Kop helps Mack out. Then Chaplin begins flirting with Mabel, pushing Conklin out of the way. By the end of the film, with much fooling around in between, Chaplin winds up with TWO girls.
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.