Silents Are Golden

On a lovely and warm summer evening twenty-nine (29) inquisitive yet courageous attendees, those with, dare I say, an impeccable taste in humor, convened to enjoy an evening of silent film comedy. Yes, it was a silent evening – except for the laughter, which was in abundance during the show.

We began by reminding and recounting to all the glorious exploits of “The Chimp Tent” during the past month, including the participation by 16 of our members in the Northside Fourth of July parade (pictures of which are still on this very website – see the Home page “news flash” link).

We acknowledged in our midst the one and only Mark Turner from our sister chapter in Columbus (“The Perfect Day” Tent) – thanks for coming down to join in our fun, Mark. Also mentioned at this point was the terrific Joan Chrislip, soon to make the evening most memorable by way of her wonderful live keyboard accompaniment to the films to be screened. The show then began with a rousing rendition of “The Sons of the Desert” song, enjoyed by all vocalists in our audience (especially the ones who were tone deaf).

We proceeded with the first of our silent Laurel and Hardy films for the evening, “Sugar Daddies” (15:53 running time), directed by Fred Guiol and Leo McCarey, written by H.M. Walker, and released September 10, 1927.

We observed how Stan and Ollie didn’t in any way look like a team. They played different personas than we were used to seeing and they both even had different hair styles. This is because the team wasn’t exactly a team yet. They’d made some films together but the familiar Laurel and Hardy formula was still in the future. Here, the film is more a film where they and James Finlayson star–a trio instead of a duo. It’s interesting that at one point when lawyer Stan runs into the room where Fin has been staying, and tells him, through a subtitle, “A fine mess you’ve made of things!” Remember, it’s Stan who says this! Shades of things to come…and this was the final film in which Stan and Ollie weren’t a team.

We moved directly into our next film, Our Gang’s “Barnum and Ringling, Inc.” (17:45), directed by Robert McGowan, produced by Robert McGowan and Hal Roach, written by H.M. Walker, and released April 7, 1928. Appearing among the cast were Jean Darling, Joe Cobb, Jackie Condon, Bobby Hutchins, Pete the Pup, Dorothy Coburn, Edna Marion, and Eugene Pallette. And someone else we recognized, in his final film without Stan Laurel until “Zenobia” a dozen years later, Oliver Hardy!

Laurel and Hardy reappeared in their December 29, 1928 release, “We Faw Down” (19:38), which was directed by Leo McCarey, produced by Hal Roach, and written by H.M. Walker. The film also starred Vivien Oakland, Bess Flowers, and Kay Deslys and was shot in August and September 1928.

Mention was made that this film served as the precursor to the later sound film “The Sons of the Desert”, and that other gags from this film were reused in later sound shorts (e.g. “Their First Mistake” and “Block-Heads”). Interestingly, the title “We Faw Down” came from the popular song “I Faw Down and Go Boom” by James Brockman and Leonard Stevens, which was published in 1928 and thus was very contemporaneous with the making of this film. The phrase is repeated, with variations, at least two times in the film. It also is referenced several times in the Laurel and Hardy films “From Soup To Nuts” (1928), and in the title of their 1929 short “They Go Boom”. Ollie also says “I faw down” in their cameo sequence from “Hollywood Revue of 1929”.

Finally, we noted that as originally filmed, this short had almost a reel’s worth of very funny material that did not make it into “We Faw Down”. This footage was saved, and the next short The Boys made was built around the gag of Laurel wearing Hardy’s pants, and vice-versa, along with a belligerent crab! And thus their film “Liberty” was born…

After a brief intermission, a ‘bonus extra’ film short was screened. Originally thought to be a Stan Laurel solo vehicle in Charley Chase’s October 5, 1927 release of “Now I’ll Tell One”, this film was thought to be lost. However, it was located in 1989 by David Wyatt who found it in a can labeled “Pardon Us”. He almost passed it over, but upon checking the first few frames realized it was “Now I’ll Tell One”. Further examination revealed that Oliver Hardy had a brief role as a policeman in the short! Thus, this film became film no. 106 of the Laurel and Hardy catalogue and was screened for the first time since World War II during the first European Laurel and Hardy fan convention in 1993. Unfortunately, the first reel of this film is still missing, but we did get to view the remaining second reel fragment.

Our good friend Charley Chase returned for an encore with “Bromo and Juliet” (23:16), directed by Leo McCarey, written by Charles Alphin and H.M. Walker, and released September 19, 1926. It was good fun to see life in the 1920s via the street scenes, and Charley’s battle with sponges wasn’t bad either! The film was very well received, with lots of good laughs especially in the Romeo and Juliet scenes. Interesting that, though this film was shot during Prohibition, alcohol figured so prominently in it.

We ended our evening of silent comedy with The Boys again, as they proved they were “Wrong Again” (19:29). This film was directed by Leo McCarey, written by Lewis R. Foster and Leo McCarey, and released February 23, 1929. It came from a story thought up by McCarey the previous October as he visited his dentist and noticed a picture of Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy” on the wall there. We certainly learned how ‘peculiar’ rich people are from this film…

And with that, another meeting came to an end. Time to mark your calendars for the next Chimp Tent meeting, which will take place on October 23 and feature Jean Harlow with The Boys in “Double Whoopee”, and the film highlight that night will be the screening of Laurel and Hardy’s “Block-Heads”, which means a fun evening for all. We hope to see you there and join in on the fun.


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