American Slapstick, Vol. 2 [3 Discs] [DVD]

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The Bond
This short promotional film Charlie Chaplin made for the U.S. Liberty Loan bond campaign was shot in a few days during the shooting of Shoulder Arms. Using rather stark, expressionistic sets and props, it tells the story of the various types of bonds between people. The bond of friendship, shows Chaplin meeting friend Albert Austin who tells him jokes, borrows money, then invites him for a drink with the money he's borrowed. The bond of love is represented by Charlie and Edna, who are struck by cupid's arrows and soon enter into the bond of matrimony. But the "most important of all" is the Liberty Bond. Edna is Miss Liberty, threatened by the Kaiser who has subdued a soldier in uniform. Charlie is seen buying bonds from Uncle Sam who gives the money in turn to a worker, who gives guns to a soldier and sailor. Finally, Charlie KOs the Kaiser with a mallet inscribed "Liberty Bonds" and extorts the audience to help the cause. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

Caught in the Rain
Charlie Chaplin's 13th film for Keystone marked his first solo effort as writer and director. It follows the well-trodden path of the classic Keystone park/hotel farces with a few twists added in. The film opens in Westlake Park where a couple (Mack Swain and Alice Davenport) are seated on a bench. When hubby gets up to buy refreshments at a nearby stand, we first see the Tramp by a drinking fountain as he flirts with Alice. Mack returns and chases Charlie off, fighting with Alice all the while, and the arguing couple return to their hotel, while The Tramp goes off to a saloon. Later arriving at the hotel, where it turns out, they are all guests, Charlie wreaks a bit of havoc in the lobby, flirting with the ladies and upsetting the desk clerk. His acrobatic efforts to mount the stairs in his inebriated condition anticipates his classic short One A.M. When he finally makes it upstairs, he enters the wrong room, interrupting the now reconciled Mack and Alice. Mack, jealous again, ejects the interloper from the room and Charlie returns to his own room across the hall where he comically prepares for bed. Meanwhile Mack has gone out for a drink, and his sleepwalking wife now enters Charlie's room, sits on his bed waking him up, and begins searching his pants for money. Just as Charlie wakes her up and is about to escort her back to her room, Mack appears in the hall. Panicked, Alice pushes Charlie, still in his pajamas, out the window and onto the balcony, in the middle of a drenching deluge. The suspicious Mack again takes up the fight with his wife. Spotting Charlie on the balcony, a Keystone Kop on the sidewalk below assumes he's a burglar and begins firing his pistol, forcing Charlie to burst back into the room. A melee ensues in which the cops are scared away, Mack collapses in Charlie's room, and Charlie and Alice pass out on the hallway floor. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi

A Submarine Pirate
Hoping to cash in on the popularity of his former employee Charlie Chaplin, producer Mack Sennett hired Charlie's half-brother Sydney Chaplin, an excellent farceur in his own right, to star in series of Keystone comedies. Syd's best-remembered effort from this era was the 4-reel "special" A Submarine Pirate, a spoof of contemporary war melodramas. Cast in his familiar "Gussle" characterization (wing-tipped moustache, baggy pants and all), Chaplin plays a clumsy waiter who happens to overhear a band of pirates who plan to seize control of a submarine. Armed primarily with kitchen utensils and an excess of nerve, our hero boards the captured sub, rounds up the villains, and blows up the vessel, all in record time. Sydney Chaplin served as co-director of A Submarine Pirate, while future director Wesley Ruggles essayed a supporting role. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

This is one of the more well-known Stan Laurel solo comedies, but in truncated form -- much of the Army footage is usually left out. It actually begins with Smithy (Laurel) as a private, making life miserable for his irascible sergeant (James Finlayson, who had a special talent for irascibility). When he finally enters civilian life, he has a hard time finding a job but finally lands work on a construction crew. But Smithy is no better at building a house than he was in the army -- he can barely get a roll of tar paper up to the roof. To make matters even more interesting, his old sergeant winds up being one of the workers, too, and once again he finds himself at the mercy of Smithy's eternal ineptitude. The owner of the firm decides to promote a certain Smith (Glenn Tryon) to foreman, but the secretary (Ena Gregory) thinks he means Smithy, and hands him the letter containing the promotion. Smithy has a field day with his new title, and immediately fires his old sergeant. The freshly built house keels over into a heap and Smithy (along with his old sergeant) both rejoin the service. Some of the jokes in this two-reeler wound up in the Laurel and Hardy silent, The Finishing Touch. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Heavy Love
Reckless Rosie
Beauty and the Bump
The Non-Skid Kid
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

Pay Your Dues
The Lizzies of Mack Sennett
Sold at Auction
Richard Stanley (William Conklin), destroyed emotionally by his wife's infidelity, sends his infant daughter to be raised by the cruel Mrs. Hopkins. The girl, Nan, grows up to be a beautiful woman (Lois Meredith) and is romanced by Hal Norris, a reporter (Frank Mayo). But Mrs. Hopkins has been making Nan do all the drudgery and doesn't want to lose her services, or the father's remittance, so she tells the girl that she is a mulatto. Nan, upset by this lie, runs away to the city and falls into the hands of a woman who supposedly runs a matrimonial agency. But instead, she finds herself being auctioned off in a roomful of drunken men -- her father included among them. Hal has followed her this whole time, however, and saves her. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Cupid's Rival
Charles Chaplin's best imitator, Billy West, stars in this two-reel comedy. As the janitor of the De Luxe Apartments, however, West has little to do with the plot, which involves the soap-opera-like lives of the apartment's tenants. Daub, a poor artist, can only pay the rent by painting a picture of the landlord. But his inspiration is dampened when he thinks that his sweetheart, Ethel (Ethel Burton), is having an affair with Hyflyer, another, more successful artist who lives in the same apartments. The pair fight it out and Daub ruins one of Hyflyer's paintings of Ethel. Meanwhile, the elevator operator has destroyed Daub's painting of the landlord while chasing after a mouse. To save the situation, the elevator boy dresses up as the landlord and pretends to be the painting. Ethel does the same for the destroyed painting of her. As can only happen in a silent comedy, the ruse works! All throughout the film, Billy -- who has a rivalry going on with the elevator boy -- has been creating havoc. When he discovers that his nemesis is pretending to be a painting, he proceeds to let him have it. Havoc ensues. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Luke's Movie Muddle
Although Larry Semon was already showing his penchant for big-budget productions, which eventually got in the way of his comedy, for his first two-reeler under his new Vitagraph contract, he made a simple, amusing picture that came in on time (a few days early, in fact), and on budget. Semon is a young man who, much to the annoyance of his family, practices his golf game indoors. When a neighbor (Oliver Hardy) comes over to eat, he winds up in the way of Larry's practice. A suitor (Vernon Dent) arrives to woo Larry's sister (Lucille Carlisle), which does not thrill the neighbor, who wants the girl for himself. Larry goes to the golf course, where he proceeds to annoy the other golfers. His sister and her sweetheart plan to elope, but she is kidnapped by the neighbor. Larry and the suitor give chase, and with the use of a train, are able to rescue the sister. Semon really was an avid golfer. He introduced Oliver Hardy (who worked with him on many films) to the game. Hardy, who later teamed with Stan Laurel in one of the most successful comic duos of all time, became one of the best golfers in Hollywood. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

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