Silent Comedy Classics: 12 Classic Shorts [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Be Your Age
This entertaining Charley Chase comedy features an old star (pretty Gladys Hulette, whose career was on its downslide) and an up-and-coming luminary (Oliver Hardy, who hadn't yet teamed up with Stan Laurel). Charley discovers that his family is in desperate need of 10,000 dollars. Meanwhile, his boss, financier Mr. Blaylock (Frank Brownlee), has been courting a wealthy widow, Mrs. Swartzkopple (Lillian Leighton), but she turns down his marriage proposal. Blaylock, who wants to get his hands on the widow's money somehow, gives Charley a loan and strongly urges him to woo Mrs. Swartzkopple so he can bring her business to his firm. Charley very reluctantly agrees to court the much-older woman. He attends a party at her sumptuous home, where he runs afoul of the widow's mamma-boy of a son (Hardy) and falls in love with her secretary (Hulette). Fortunately, Mrs. Swartzkopple decides to marry Blaylock after all, and Charley is free to see the secretary. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Prince Pistachio
Fluttering Hearts
This especially funny Charley Chase two-reeler features Oliver Hardy in a supporting role. A girl (Martha Sleeper) rushes off to a white sale, but is stopped by a cop (Eugene Pallette) for speeding. Charley, a wealthy young man (Chase), gets involved, and soon the three of them are heading off to battle housewives at the sale. When Charley finds out that Martha's father (William Burress) wants her to wed a self-made man, he gets a job as his chauffeur. Big Bill, a blackmailer (Hardy), has a letter which incriminates the father, and Charley sets out to retrieve it. He winds up at the speakeasy that Big Bill haunts, and, through a few tricks involving a mannequin, manages to get the letter and win the girl. As a director, Chase would rework part of this picture for Thelma Todd and ZaSu Pitts -- the result was The Bargain of the Century. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

When She Was Twenty
Mighty Like a Moose
In one of his best silent films, Charley Chase plays homely Mr. Moose, whose buck teeth make him a laughingstock. But Mrs. Moose (Vivien Oakland) isn't any better off -- her nose really does rival a moose's. Each of them decide to have plastic surgery and surprise their unsuspecting mate. The results, however, are so radical that when they meet on the street they don't recognize each other. Flush with their brand-new looks, they begin a flirtation and plan to attend a party together. Both of them rush home to get ready, carefully avoiding the other. But the party they go to is raided and they find their photo splashed across the front page of the paper. Back home, Charley finally realizes that the girl he's been flirting with is his wife and he hypocritically decides to teach her a lesson for going around behind his back. He still has a set of bucktooth dentures (the dentist gave them to him for "identification purposes") and he puts on a wild, quick-change show for his wife in which her husband and "lover" fiercely battle it out in front of her. Mrs. Moose is properly mortified until she notices that the newspaper also has a "before and after" ad featuring Charley's dental work. Then she really lets him have it. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Face on the Barroom Floor
The G. Marion Burton poem served as inspiration for several films (including the 1914 comic satire by Charles Chaplin), but this melodrama, directed by John Ford, was the most sincerely done. In a barroom, artist Robert Stevens (Henry Walthall) drunkenly relates his sad story -- he was engaged to marry a society girl, Marion (Ruth Clifford), when her brother took advantage of a fisherman's daughter, who commits suicide. To protect Marion's brother, Stevens takes the blame for the girl's sad end. Marion leaves him and he begins his descent into the gutter. Stevens is falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned. He is pardoned, however, because he has saved the life of the governor (Norval McGregor). Stevens completes his sorry tale by painting Marion's face on the barroom floor. Because someone recognizes the likeness he is able to locate her. He manages to pull himself out of his alcoholic haze and the couple are reconciled. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Post No Bills
The Caretaker's Daughter
Charley Chase plays a young married man with a suspicious wife (Katherine Grant) in this Hal Roach silent. The couple's car finally bites the dust (and their garage along with it), so Charley take it to a secondhand sales lot. He gets a tough looking character (the imposing George Siegmann) to buy it and it immediately collapses into pieces. Unfortunately for Charley, that's not the last he's seen of the tough, whose wife (Symona Boniface) is carrying on with Charley's boss (William J. Kelly). Charley winds up driving the philandering young lady to the mountains, with his boss following after -- along with her husband and Charley's wife. In their attempts to escape, Charley and the tough's wife both disguise themselves to look like the lodge's caretaker (James Parrott, Chase's real-life brother). In addition, there's also a "prohibition sleuth" (James Finlayson), who dresses up like the caretaker, too. The result is a hilarious chase throughout the lodge involving four caretakers and mass confusion. Charley makes his getaway, but not unscathed -- his wife knocks him senseless before taking him home. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Laughing Gas
Charlie Chaplin's 20th film for Keystone marks a turning point in his career. From this point on, with one exception, he was to write and direct all his future films. In Laughing Gas Chaplin plays a dentist's assistant who is first seen entering the office officiously. The patients are fooled into thinking he is the dentist himself, until he picks up the spittoons and exits to a back room. He confronts a midget-size co-worker there. The Dentist finally arrives and the first patient is admitted. Laughing gas is administered, and the extraction performed, but the dentist is not able to awaken the patient. He sends Chaplin out to the pharmacy for an antidote. Chaplin encounters Mack Swain who is standing in front of the pharmacy, blocking the entrance. Chaplin gains entrance by performing some of his famous hat tricks, which non plus Swain. Exiting the pharmacy Chaplin gets into a fight with Swain which evolves into brick throwing, during which Swain and an innocent bystander, Slim Summerville, are both hit in the face, turning them both into dental patients. On his way back to the office, Chaplin encounters and flirts with the dentist's wife and accidentally tears off her skirt. When Chaplin arrives with the medicine, the patient has left, and the dentist has been called away to attend his distraught wife. Chaplin admits a beautiful female patient who he pretends to examine but with whom he flirts by grasping her nose with a pair of pliers and kissing her, to her apparent amusement. Summerville and Swain then arrive at the office and Swain catches sight of Chaplin in the back room. The dentist and his wife arrive and a melee ensues in which everyone is literally kicked out onto the pavement, except Chaplin and the wife who collapse in the waiting room. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

Forgotten Sweeties
Mitchell Lewis was known for his menacing characters in many a silent drama. Here, he plays one in a two-reel Hal Roach comedy starring Charley Chase. It's a pretty typical farcical tale -- Chase's former sweetheart (Anita Garvin) has married a big brute (Lewis), and they move in down the hall from him. The ex-girlfriend's presence makes Chase's wife (Shirley Palmer) jealous, and the girl's ill-tempered husband isn't too thrilled with the situation, either. Ultimately, Chase's wife moves into another apartment, while the ex-girlfriend and her husband take over Chase's old place. A note informing Chase that he has moved never gets to him, so he goes to his old apartment and proceeds to get ready for bed. When the husband finds the interloper making himself at home, Chase's very existence is at risk. Much mayhem ensues as Chase tries to save his skin. Eventually everything gets straightened out. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

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