Speechless

A beautiful Spring evening attracted thirty-five (35) pleased patrons to this all-silent film program focusing in on the early days of Laurel and Hardy. Many thanks to Ken Runyan for assembling the film selections and putting them together on a single disc – makes it so easy and convenient!

Given that the tax filing deadline of April 17 was only a week away, The Chimp Tent provided 2 public service announcements during the evening describing how to do your taxes. The first was from “Fractured Flickers” (4:23 running time), and the second one, released March 19, 1938 was “How To Figure Income Tax” and featured Robert Benchley describing how his 1936 tax return was completed to his advantage – until the IRS came calling to dispute this!

Our stalwart keyboardist, Joan Chrislip then flexed her muscles (and musical skills) and played live keyboard accompaniment to the first of our 6 silent films this evening, “The Lucky Dog” (18:11), released Oct 1921 and directed by Jess Robins, produced by Broncho Billy Anderson, and starring Stan Laurel, Florence Gillet, Jack Lloyd, and a bit player named Oliver Hardy. Stan Laurel is the star, while Ollie – thinner than in his heyday, but still a hefty chap – plays a supporting role as a heavy.

The Lucky Dog was the first film to include both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Though they appeared in scenes together, they played independent of each other and not as the comedic team that they would later become.

We noted that at this point in his career, Laurel had appeared in relatively few films while Hardy was a seasoned and professional film comedian, having spent most of the previous five or six years in hundreds of films, probably all comedies.

We also discussed Laurel’s eye make-up for this film: he sports a blind eyes look from what was called orthochromatic film stock that movies were filmed with until the mid-1920s. Stan had blue eyes, and they looked almost white when this type of film was used. Fortunately, by the time Laurel and Hardy got together, film stock was the better “panchromatic” type that rendered more accurate gray tones for colors and you were able to see Stan’s eyes as they naturally appeared (except without the color, of course).

Joan continued to tickle the ivories in Charley Chase’s July 8, 1926 released, “Mighty Like A Moose” (22:18). Starring Chase, Vivien Oakland, and Ann Howe, the film chronicles a case of marital mistaken identification and actions that may have had infidelity repercussions. But fear not, this IS a Charley Chase comedy after all. The film received many laughs and a thunderous ovation at its conclusion, reaffirming its reputation as one of, if not the greatest, of Charley Chase’s silent films. This film is so highly thought of that in 2007, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, which recognizes American films deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Joan took a break while we next viewed Max Davidson’s “Call Of The Cuckoo” (18:41), released October 15, 1927, directed by Clyde Bruckman, produced by Hal Roach and starred Davidson, Lillian Elliot, Spec O’Donnell and had the notable cameo appearances by Laurel and Hardy, Charley Chase, James Finlayson, and Charlie Hall.

Papa Gimplewart (Max Davidson) wants to sell his house because it is next door to an insane asylum, and the inmates (Charley Chase, James Finlayson, Laurel and Hardy) are getting on his nerves. The first house buyer is almost immediately put off by the neighbours, but the next one comes to trade his house for theirs, no questions asked. So Papa, Mama (Lillian Elliott) and Love’s Greatest Mistake (Spec O’Donnell) move to the new house, and all sorts of problems come along. The film ends with new neighbor moving in, the asylum inmates!

This film was made just days after Laurel and Hardy had finished filming The Second Hundred Years (1927), in which they play shaven-headed convicts. This is why for the boys’ sport buzz-cut hairdos in this film.

The intermission and ‘fabulous’ raffle followed, with many lucky attendees able to call themselves ‘winners’ with regards to books, display plates, posters, and DVDs related to Laurel and Hardy and other Roach stars and series. If you didn’t win anything this evening, remember to purchase additional raffle tickets next time!

OK, after Robert Benchley’s “How To Figure Income Tax” (7:36), we embarked on the second half of the program. We began with “Flying Elephants” (17:05), which was filmed May 9-14, 1927, retakes shot June 9, and released February 12, 1928. Laurel and Hardy were among the many Roach lot All-Stars appearing in the film, along with James Finlayson, Dorothy Coburn (who gave Stan a wrestling lesson he’d sooner forget!), Viola Richard, & Tiny Sandford.

Although both Stan and Ollie appear in this stone-age comedy, it isn’t really a Laurel & Hardy film, because there’s no sense yet of the boys working as a comedy partnership. This was a notable, inexplicable step backwards in the evolution of the team…especially odd when you learn that they started filming it only a few days after completing Do Detectives Think?, in which they worked so well together. In Flying Elephants Stan and Ollie are cavemen competing for the affections of the same woman (Finlayson’s daughter) but they share very few scenes and show almost no personality. A side note involving this film is that besides Atoll K, this is the only L&H movie filmed outside of California.

Joan took over the live piano again for “Early To Bed” (18:34), which was released October 6, 1928, directed by Emmett J. Flynn, produced by Hal Roach and starred Laurel and Hardy. In fact, ONLY Laurel and Hardy featured in this film, joining Brats and The Tree In A Test Tube as the only movies the boys made where no other actors are featured.

We mentioned how Ollie does not treat Stan like he would once their partnership was firmly established. In this film he is almost cruel to Stan and takes advantage of him. They were still creating their characters, and fortunately Ollie turned in the sweet soul we now know so well.

Our final film for the evening was “Should Married Men Go Home?” (19:33), which was filmed in March and May 1928 and released September 8 of that year. It was directed by Leo McCarey & James Parrott, produced by Hal Roach, and starred Laurel and Hardy, Kay Deslys, Edna Marion, Viola Richard, Edgar Kennedy, Charlie Hall, and Dorothy Coburn.

Golf was never so messy as in this film. Interestingly, 2 scenes were remade in later Laurel and Hardy sound films: 1) the gag of Stan slipping a note under the door, only to see it get pulled further in from the inside where the Hardys are hiding from him, would find new life and a return engagement in the 1931 talkie “Come Clean” when the Hardys again pretend not to be home when the Laurels come calling; and 2) the soda fountain scene was remade 2 years later in their talkie “Men O’War”.

And so ended another fun evening. The next meeting will take place on June 18, and hold on to your hats – will feature Mae Busch in several of her great roles in Laurel and Hardy films. Don’t miss it – you KNOW you don’t want to make Mae mad! Hope to see you then!

Photos

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