Slapsticon 2013 Reports Thread

Interact with your favorite SCM authors, producers, directors, historians, archivists and silent comedy savants. Or just read along. Whatever.
Richard M Roberts
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Slapsticon 2013 Reports Thread

Postby Richard M Roberts » Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:51 pm

David Kalat reports on a few of his favorites from this weekends Slapsticon 2013: ... icon-2013/

I'm sure more to come when other Slapsticonians have gotten home, sobered up, or had long naps.

RICHARD M ROBERTS (who has not yet done any of the three)

Rob Farr
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Location: Our Nation's Capitol

Re: Movie Morlocks First Slapsticon 2013 report

Postby Rob Farr » Mon Jul 01, 2013 5:24 pm

This is great. I'm in the process of compiling my own favorite Slapsticon moments...would be great to hear from as many people who care to share.
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep" - Harpo Marx

Louie Despres
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Re: Movie Morlocks First Slapsticon 2013 report

Postby Louie Despres » Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:34 pm

Is Groucho Marx/William F. Buckley interview the one currently available on DVD? I don't know how anybody could put up with Buckley's condescending interview style for more than 2 minutes.

Joe Migliore
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Re: Movie Morlocks First Slapsticon 2013 report

Postby Joe Migliore » Tue Jul 02, 2013 4:53 am

I thought the best feature film was ATTA BOY, with WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT running a close second. This was my first exposure to Walter Forde, and had only seen Monty Banks in a few shorts. (When the break came, I tore downstairs and bought the last Banks Grapevine DVD.)

I thought the Charley Chase and Lloyd Hamilton shorts were the most consistently funny, no surprise there.

Speaking of surprises, my favorites were: The Harry Myers short that Rob Stone brought; the Lupino Lane short that David Wyatt brought; and of course, Clyde Cook in SCARED STIFF, pulled from Hell's teeth to escape the ravages of decomposition.

Thank you everyone for an exceptional Slapsticon. It was truly an embarrassment of riches.

Wm. Charles Morrow
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Re: Movie Morlocks First Slapsticon 2013 report

Postby Wm. Charles Morrow » Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:27 am

My first-ever Slapsticon was a very enjoyable experience, so before I single out a few favorite selections from the bill of fare I’d like to extend my thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make it possible: Ringmaster Richard Roberts, Linda Shah, Rob Farr, accompanists Phillip Carli & Andrew Simpson, projectionist Eric Grayson, and everyone else. Special kudos to the staff at the IU Cinema, who were unfailingly pleasant and helpful. I should add that for me personally this was something of a sentimental journey, because I graduated from IU back in the mid-17th century. Strolling the grounds of the campus, and walking around the town, I felt both younger and older at the same time; younger when I would look at a building and think “That’s where I took my theatre classes!” or whatever, and older when I would look at the current students, and realize that they’re younger than my nieces.

Anyhow, I had many favorite selections, some of which have already been mentioned. It’s interesting to me that David Kalat should single out that Groucho interview with William F. Buckley as the highlight, because every time people have asked me about memorable material on the bill it’s the first thing I’ve mentioned. It was fascinating to watch Groucho spar with that odious man, who comes off like a villain in a James Bond flick. On a lighter note I got a real kick out of the Hollywood Palace clip of Groucho singing “Dr. Hackenbush,” which I probably saw in 1964 but not since.

Other favorites? Definitely Wanda Wiley, the Mr. & Mrs. Carter De Haven short about a less-than-ideal honeymoon, the Hollywood Picnic cartoon featuring movie star caricatures (which includes not only the usual suspects but truly off-the-wall selections like Edward Arnold and Herman Bing), the Lloyd Hamilton shorts, the Charlie Murray short with Dutch intertitles, the Walter Forde and Monty Banks features, Our Gang in Playin’ Hooky, and most especially Snappy Sneezer with Charley Chase. It’s instructive to see what a gifted and inventive comic talent could accomplish with just a rubber band. And that Harry Myers/Rosemary Theby short was amazing. Everybody knows about the swishy cowboy in The Soilers, but who knew about the ultra-fey Police Chief? His office looked like it was designed by Nazimova.

I could go on. There was lots of great stuff. Somewhat to my surprise, despite social engagements with old friends from college days, I managed to see almost everything, and managed to pace myself pretty well. Despite best intentions and strong coffee I nodded off briefly once or twice in mid-film, but generally managed to maintain focus.

A delightful experience, over all. I feel like I’ve been consuming celluloid through a straw for four days, in the company of like-minded folk who were happily doing the same. Combining Slapsticon with a visit to my alma mater was, for me, icing on a delectable and generously portioned cake.

P.S. I just re-read this and realized I need to re-phrase the metaphor in my final sentence: Combining a visit to my alma mater with Slapsticon was icing on the cake. That is, Slapsticon was the cake!

Joe Migliore
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Re: Movie Morlocks First Slapsticon 2013 report

Postby Joe Migliore » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:50 pm

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:
My first-ever Slapsticon was a very enjoyable experience, so before I single out a few favorite selections from the bill of fare I’d like to extend my thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make it possible: Ringmaster Richard Roberts, Linda Shah, Rob Farr, accompanists Phillip Carli & Andrew Simpson, projectionist Eric Grayson, and everyone else.

It was my first Slapsticon too, and found it to be a profoundly positive experience. The four-day program was absolutely crammed with gems, and the company was excellent. Anyone serious about silent comedy should make Slapsticon a priority. To pick up a thought from David Kalat's blog, you can see THE GOLD RUSH again, or you can see THE HONORABLE MR. BUGGS for quite possibly the only time in your life. Thanks again to everyone involved; I only wish I had read more attendees' nametags, as we'll probably meet again.

Oh, and the mead at the Irish Lion was superb.

Gary Johnson
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Location: Sonoma, CA

Re: Movie Morlocks First Slapsticon 2013 report

Postby Gary Johnson » Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:22 pm

As my great, great grand-pappy said (right before they pulled the switch), "The world is but a stage my friend, while elephants never forget because they write everything down"
He was a looney old sot.....

Which brings me to this year's gathering of SLAPSTICON.
There is a general misconception that this annual event consists just of four days sitting in the dark watching actors in white face hitting each other with goat bladders.
Far from it.
It's mostly about eating and schmoozing with like-minded folks - interspersed with watching endless hours of actors in white face hitting each other with goat bladders.

It is also a history lesson of the social mores during the turn of the century. We learn that, regardless of living in the Southern California heat, the proper attire for all well-heeled gentlemen is about nine layers of woolen clothing. It is an accepted rule of thumb that any rural country-types must dress in outfits three times too small (Nice going Victor Moore). And during The Roaring Twenties the distinguishing characteristic of the era is that all sweet, young, leggy flappers are instantly smitten with aging comic roues such as Charlie Murray, Hank Mann and Bud Duncan.
It must be their bedroom eyes - that pop out and perform double takes.

With that said, here is a day by day breakdown of what was watched, what wasn't watched, who was watching what wasn't being watched and where the heck did my watch go???

It wouldn't be SLAPSTICON without an opening salute to the filmmaker who was probably most responsible for introducing visual humor to the majority of us and set our course on a life-long passion -- Robert Youngson. LAUREL & HARDY'S LAUGHING 20's is one of Youngson's later compilations. He had moved his base of operations from FOX over to MGM but many of the same music cues and sound effects remain -- along with some of the same clips from previous outings. Was he running out of material to show?
But no one can complain over too much L&H. This time around fellow Roach alums Charley Chase and Max Davidson are along to help fill out the program........and no one is complaining.

We then get our first added attraction not listed in the program. GOODNESS, A GHOST (40) is a Langdon talkie made at RKO, not Columbia, and boasts a screenplay from the star - which is probably the reason it wasn't made at Columbia. Jules White liked signing former big names, but he rarely allowed them to use all of their talent they offered.
Even though the laughs are few in this outing it certainly has the Langdon touch. Only Langdon would forego the usual gags of 'haunted by pretend ghosts' by making the ghost absolutely real. Some production money was spent on this short making the ghost effect effective. The humor derives from the fact that only Harry (and us) can see the spirit, but in lieu of any "Poltergeist" angst developing from the situation, Harry's main problem seems to be figuring out when the apparition is going to suddenly appear. All in all, Harry deals with the spirit world much better than he does the real world.
If nothing else, this short confirms Langdon's status as a most original - and eccentric talent.

Talent of a different sort rears it's ugly head when Richard Roberts subjects his audience to his yearly obsession (or is it passion?.....or his passionate obsession) -- The Notorious Weiss Bros.
From the program notes to the live introduction, the point is driven home that these are very low budget shorts. And yet, as I watched the familiar faces (Turpin, Pollard) go through their familar paces in what would be their last starring series, the sense of production cheapness didn't really permeate as much since so much location shooting seemed to offset it. The Turpin short, TWO LONELY KNIGHTS (29), casts Ben as a land surveyor, so the undeveloped wilds of LA do just fine for background. A mansion is found as the back drop for SOUR MILK (28) which assists Bud Duncan (of Ham & Bud fame. Without his clown white on he looks like a squat Charles Winninger) to waste about an entire reel with a lackluster running gag of knocking some poor schmoo continuely into the swimming pool. In fact, where the low budgets really show is the lack of clever gags. We are warned that the Snub Pollard series was a direct rip-off of L&H routines and the example shown, SOCK AND RUN (29), really drives the point home. It's rather sad watching one of Roach's earliest most enduring performer being forced to re-enact gags associated with Roach's latest biggest stars.
Only NIZE PEOPLE (27), part of the Izzie and Lizzie series, held it's own for me and didn't need to apologize for existing. Even though it basically takes place on one set there is a frantic energy to it as the two families converge to throw a house party for their two children. It shows that some entertainment can be created on a low budget with a quick shooting schedule.

After dinner we convene for an evening of Marx Brothers rarities. Using that moniker can only mean one thing to a long time fan of the Four Marxes -- they are going to show the complete unedited version of HORSEFEATHERS (32).
No such luck.
Instead we settle down to revisit trailers and promos and TV appearances of the Brothers - singularly and as a group. Three segments did stand out to me as true rarities. I have seen clips before of Groucho appearing on 'Firing Line' in the late '60's being interviewed by William F. Buckley but never this long of a segment and it was good television. Unlike some others here, I didn't see it as a good liberal being attacked by an evil conservative. To my mind Buckley truly respected his guest, but didn't want to have a soft celebrity chat. He wanted to engage in a conversation with deep meaning about.......hold onto your hats......humor and how it relates to the world we live in. And Groucho is no dummy. He knew this was not going to be just another appearance on the Cavatt show where he gets to relate tales from the vaudeville stage. He was going to have to be serious and expouse his views on the world. And he does. For about a good five minutes. And then he gets bored. And he knows that we in the audience are getting bored. And he also know that there is nothing more deadly than discussing humor seriously. So, as Buckley is searching through his voluminous notes and quotes about what Groucho once said, Groucho begins turning the tables and decides that instead of talking about humor he would show it in action. And Buckley never knows what hits him from then on.
Just as entertaining is Harpo's appearance on the Spike Jones show back in 1954 (I believe). Harpo was always a problem as a solo act since he always depended on his oldest brother to get his humor across. Here he finds the perfect show (wacky and off the cuff) and the right host (the irrelevant Jones) to feed him the right cues. If Harpo hadn't been so lazy and wanted to work more often this is one of the few programs that could had carried him in re-occuring appearances - like Tim Conway on the Carol Burnett Show.
The other clip that was new to me is one of the last television appearances of Chico. It's from a BBC entertainment show hosted by a typical genial Brit who, like most of their TV personalities, show nothing but admiration and reverance to the great show business legends of lore. Here Chico is casually interviewed (leaning against a stage) and performs a few numbers on the piano, What really stands out is that, despite his reputation as a gambler and acting irresponsible his whole life, he is truly show biz savvy. He knows when to go for the joke and how to entertain without the support of his more famous brothers. I truly enjoyed my time in his company and I wish that segment had ran longer.

Our first evening winds down with a couple of films using the characters from the classic comic strip BRINGING UP FATHER. One doesn't need to be that familiar with the strip to enjoy either of these films. Maggie and Jiggs are the stereotyped rolling pin toting wife and her carousing idler of a husband. The first film is a Christies short comedy from 1920, FATHER'S CLOSE SHAVE. Much talk was made over the make-up on Johnny Ray to appropriate the comic strip look of Jiggs. It was no different from the lengths Warren Beatty went through seventy years later when he brought DICK TRACY to the big screen. Some thought Ray looked too creepy. To me he looked more like Flip from LITTLE NEMO. Anyway, it was a fun, fast paced harmless short at the time even though I don't remember too much of it now.
The next adaption, BRINGING UP FATHER (46) was part of Mongram's series of Maggie and Jigg's adventures. Mickey Rooney's Pa, Joe Yule, essays the role with full Irish gusto and bravado and a large heaping of corned beef. Keaton's favorite co-director Eddie Cline, helms this installment and fills the cast with familiar bit players. There is even a silent character who hangs out at Dinty's Tavern which was obviously to be played by Keaton, but wasn't. But it's interesting to see the bits of business this character is given by Cline in order to see how much help he was to Keaton back when they were making his classic shorts.
But that said the heavy dose of schmaltz essayed by The Mick's dad made me sleepy beyond belief and made me wish they had actually read the strip. George McManus never lowered himself to such Irish malarkey.

So endeth our first day. A light appetizer before the main meal. It would only get better...

Gary Johnson
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Re: Movie Morlocks First Slapsticon 2013 report

Postby Gary Johnson » Sat Jul 06, 2013 6:28 pm


After recovering from sleep deprivation due to arriving on the Red Eye the day before, I awaken hale and hearty, full of vim and vigor and bursting with energy.
Guess I'll go sit in a cushy theater seat for the next 12 hours.....

Our first full day of non-stop, wall-to-wall laughs MOS. The men who tickle the ivories get a major workout today as very little of Lee De Forest's inovations make an appearance today.

We start the day, appropriately enough, with early comedies from the Teens. We run the gamut from the polite situations of the Mr. & Mrs.....(the Drews and the DeHavens) right up to the monstrosity that is Ham & Bud. Some are so subtle in their spoofing that I'm not sure I'm watching a comedy. A CHARMING VILLAIN (16) and FAINT HEART AND FAIR LADY (17) come across more as a Biograph romance to me. However, Sidney Drew's HER ANNIVERSARIES (17) is so spot on with it's look at compatibility among one's spouses that it hasn't aged at all. Many of the laughs come from the witty title cards but they don't intrude or slow up the storyline - no mean feat. HONEY-MOONING (19) covers the now familiar territory of a big family wedding. The first half is fine enjoyable social comedy. When the DeHavens honeymoon up at the rustic cabin belonging to the brides' family they run up against an officious innkeeper who doesn't believe the couple is married and keeps them apart for the night toting a shotgun. As if this prim and prissy couple would ever dream of skirting social conventions of the day by shacking up without a license. The very idea!! But as I watched I kept thinking what Charley Chase could had made out of that situation. Come to think of it, I think he did use this idea eventually. CUPID's HOLD UP (19) is a Christie comedy with Bobby Vernon, who I never really cared for, and I seemed to have gloss over this as it unreeled.
On to more rougher stuff. RISKS AND ROUGHNECKS (17) is obviously a Larry Semon because of the alliteration in the title. It must had been easy being a titlewriter for the Semon unit.
"Hey! What letter haven't we used yet? S? OK! SAPS AND SOREHEADS....."
This one-reeler was made shortly after Larry moved from behind the camera to in front of it so he is still feeling his way around his character (Larry has a character??). The full costume isn't there yet but his gang of stuntmen are in full force. In fact, the Big V Riot Squad is promently featured in the opening credits, as if they are as big a draw as Semon is. And they should be for after a few preliminary scenes involving a kidnapping, the short quickly boils down to a massive donnybroke involving Larry vs. every goon on the Vitagraph lot. I never knew there were so many ways to swat a thug and roll him down the street into a waiting jail cell. If anyone deserved the rough treatment it is the holy terror of a brat in L-KO's THE CHILD NEEDS A MOTHER (15). At first I thought I was watching a Keystone Arbuckle in drag but this turns out to be from his arch rival, Henry Lehrman, along with his anti-Arbuckle creation Fatty Voss. This monsterous Pickford creation scares the living daylights out of all who come in contact with her. Lehrman is quite demented and really seems to have it out for his former employer, anyone he ever directed and the world in general. I would really love to have heard what contemporary audiences of the day thought of his comedies. Did these films also scare the bejesus out of them? Nightmares of a different ilk arrive in the world of Musty Suffer. In LOCAL SHOWERS (16) Musty goes to the dentist and enters a surreal world of pulleys and cranes and slide contraptions that should all be set to Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse". But first things first. When Musty enters the waiting room the nurse attaches a rope around his ankles and hoists him upside down to shake out the money for payment due.
I see HMO's have been working the same way ever since.
Which brings us to our favorite homicidal maniacs. HAM AMONG THE REDSKINS (15) pretty well sums up who takes the beatings in this opus. The Boys decide it would be good sport to grab themselves a couple of clubs and go terrorize the local natives because......well, you know, they are just savages and they deserve it whereas Ham & Bud are cultural elites who knows what's best for society. They must read Nietzsche. There is a jaw-dropping moment when the Boys go out to capture 'a small indian' that they can practice on. They return with an 8 year old kid and drop him like a rock with one swat from the club. Now they feel confident to take on bigger game. Actually, the one who seems to take the worst beating here is the heroine. It's a schizophrenic relationship. First she is gallantly saved by our hero's and then she repeatedly takes blows to the head whenever it seems that she is talking too much. Keaton has nothing on these guys concerning the treatment of his women. They may get slightly waterlogged appearing with Buster but at least there is no chance of brain damage from concusions.

In conclusion, it is easy to see how in time the humor of surreal happenings, fast paced actions and violent interactions slowly dissapated from the American comedy scene as the Thirties progressed. It was merely displaced by the animated cartoon, where it continued on for another twenty years.

One of the most consistently entertaining comedy series of all time was Hal Roach's Our Gang. And especially the silents rarely fail to please. Which is why so many other studios tried their hand at cloning the same success. THE HOME WRECKERS (25) follows a typical McGowan storyline to the letter. A cranky old art collector is forced to watch his sisters three kids. They immediately link up with the neighborhood hooligans (the Hey Fellas gang) and invite them over to their Uncles place because there is a lot of neat things that they can break. In a matter of moments Unc's precious collection of urns and statues are reduce to rubble. There is very little finese here and absolutely no heart - which the Roach unit would had added - but it is fine fast paced laughs all the same. NO CHILDREN (29) takes on a different tack by including indifferent parents along with the mischievious kids. A displaced family of vaudevillains are tossed from every hotel in town because of their 'no children' rule (what's that about?). Father sneaks his two boys in by making them act as ventriloquist's dummies. The house dick is suspicious and the chase is on. The lead boy is the recognizable Donald Haines, who would go on to appear in early Our Gang talkies. This is a fun short. The Gang themselves, I mean the original, finally makes their appearance with YOUNG SHERLOCKS (22). This one is early in the series and is a showcase for the charismatic Sunshine Sammy. Ernie and little Jackie Condon are detectives in training. Meanwhile the Gang is operating a secret society and before Ernie can join he relates a tale of the time he foiled a plot to kidnap rich girl Peggy Cartwright (Mary Kornman had yet to join). More fanciful and dream-like than later entries but still very enjoyable, especially the closing scene where Ernie describes 'Free Town' - which is a precursor to the ending of Cantor's KID MILLIONS (34). Finally, in order to give the duo of Carli and Simpson a break MICKEY'S TENT SHOW (33) (with The Mick himself) is run.
As do I. It's time for lunch.

The first of many rain showers appear in the area and so we head inside for an enjoyable afternoon of Roach comedies. It's fun whenever a Harold Lloyd one-reeler appears that I haven't seen. FOLLOW THE CROWD (18) is typical Lloyd fare as Harold battles a secret society (which is an underlaying theme to many of the shorts we watch this weekend -- along with kidnapping). I just can't think of any stand-out gags from this one. ALL IN A DAY (20) is a pure joy. Snub Pollard and Ernie Morrison cavort around the Venice amusement park. At first Snub and Ernie are adversaries but when they come up against tougher elements they quickly team up. Marie Mosquini is brought into the fold when her gun-toting boyfriend arrives. Scenes such as when the Boys take over an ice cream counter seem both casual and improvised. I always seem willing to give credit to Charley Chase for the fluidity to Pollard's solo shorts - even when I know that Chase hadn't arrived at Roach yet. I think I will anyways. Charley's brother is featured in ARE PARENTS PICKLES? (25), a Paul Parrot short made back in '21 but not released until '25. Parrott invents a new fire extinquisher and then sets fire to his bosses home in order to demonstrate it's usefulness. You can see where this is going. Wait, the fire retardant is housed inside a trombone case.....and the boss happens to play a trombone as one lays around the house. Also, Parrott spends the first reel going through an initiation with a secret society. All of these shorts are starting to coalesce together into one big whole. Any kids in this one? Charlie Murray appears in his only Hal Roach short in SOMEWHERE IN SOMEWHERE (25) in this installment of the All-Star series. A much better example of that series is NEVER TOO OLD (26) in which the very familar face of Claude Gillingwater (he was always trying to adopt Shirley Temple in her films from the mid-30's) plays the old fool who marries gold-digger Vivian Oakland. But it doesn't play out in that manner at all. Gillingwater's silly ass of a son arrives and makes eyes at 'mommy' but that doesn't play out either. Instead Oakland suffers from a severe case of sleepwalking at night with a butcher knife in hand and everyone spends a restful night fleeing for their lives. Laurel worked on this short behind the scenes (and must had remembered it when they were making OLIVER THE EIGHTH ) and Jimmy Finlayson is placed front and center in front of the camera for a fine, silly frantic time. Finally, a Chase talkie, GIRL SHOCK (30) is one short I've been chasing down for some time. Charley's embarrassment quota is set on high in this outing as the mere touch from a women sets him screaming and swooning. This malady is the result of a war trauma, in a flashback that has to be seen to believe. Edgar Kennedy is on hand, along with a crazy doctor (there is always a crazy doctor around trying to cure Chase of something or other). While this short is not the funniest one he made in 1930 (that would be DOLLAR DIZZY) it is definitely quirky in the Chase manner and I'm glad I finally caught up with it. As an added bonus an Our Gang-er is shown PLAYING HOOKY (28). Once again someone wants to shoot the Gang's dog only this time it is Joe Cobb's own Pa. Substituting shot gun pellets with blanks, Joe instructs his dog to 'play dead'. I love when animals fake their own death. This leads to an audition for a movie role for the mutt and we are back causing havoc inside a movie studio. This is a late silent Gang comedy as the original gang of actors were being forced out because of age. The camera is so fickle about showing one's wrinkles.

In keeping with the rich movie history of comedy shorts sharing the bill along side live vaudeville acts, SLAPSTICON regularily indulges in this type of horseplay with the duo of Roberts and Carli frequently kibitzing across the aisle from each other before the next film. Then there is the yearly appearance of the acerbic Rob Stone who brings a cache of unseen treasures from the LOC, all the while trying not to plug his latest book on "The Lost Films of Minnie Moskowitz". This year there were surviving clips from Max Davidson and Oliver Hardy together in LOVE 'EM & FEED 'EM (27). Tantalyzing and much too short. Mr. Stone also brought scenes of Gale Henry, Monty Banks, the Hallroom Boys, Snub Pollard, Jimmie Aubrey w/ Huey Mack, a Pokes & Jabs and something called DEVILED CRABS.
At times it's hard to laugh at these clips knowing how much of film history has gone the way of the dust heap. So instead we just laughed at Mr. Stone.

After dinner we convene for a couple of special treats. First up is everyone's favorite lost comic Lloyd Hamilton. The survival rate of his solo comedies is not good so we savor any of his films that survived the sands of time. DYNAMITE (20) is early in Hamilton's Mermaid series and like the Semon film from earlier, Lloyd is still developing the waddling, fastidious and fatalistic tendencies that would soon come together in a wholly original way. In the meantime we watch as Hamilton begins to slow his responses down as he fishes just like Buster Keaton and Stan Laurel would - by catching flies, tossing them in the water and then clubbing them to death (it is hard to lose all Ham & Bud aspects of life....). By the way, this short is set inside a dynamite factory. Why didn't Lehrman think of that?

Our feature film of the night is Monty Banks in ATTA BOY (26). A general crowd pleaser in every sense of the way. In his intro Mr. Roberts informs us that Banks features were extremely popular at the time and I can see why -- they basically follow the Lloyd template of hero trying to make good, suffers embarrassing disappointments and then bounces back to save the day. But it is more than just following a set plotline, this film also has the trademark of long gag sequences which Lloyd excelled in. In this case Banks stages a long sequence in the lobby of a posh hotel. He is trying to get to the top penthouse to attain an interview for his paper (he is a reporter - or so he thinks). Standing in his way is the hotel detective looking for bootleggers. Just then Monty comes into contact with a bottle of illegal hooch. You would think it would be easy to ditch a bottle and then move on? But then you would have a really short film because for the next two reels Monty cannot get rid of that bottle for the life of him. Where ever he stashes it, it finds its way back. The practioners of silent comedy were experts at milking these types of situations without ever repeating themselves. Running gags and variations were the order of the day. Of all the lost arts, this ability to 'milk' is the lost-est.
The film has to wind up with a big climax and there seems to be more than a few as our hero solves a kidnapping (another kidnapping. Someone warn Lindberg about this epidemic). Eventually Monty ends up careening down some dusty canyon roads with the cops in pursuit and Monty hanging from a ladder. All in the days work for this hard-working clown.

The evening ends with a showing of one of Keaton's last film appearances WAR, ITALIAN STYLE (67). And NO! Sophia Loren does not appear in it to perfrom a striptease (drat the luck!). I am quite familiar with Keaton's performance in this badly dubbed Italian comedy (aren't they all badly dubbed?) as it played often in my TV market as a kid. I probably saw all of Keaton's works from the Sixties long before I was able to catch up with his silents. That just sounds wrong.
Time to go hit the town.

Gary Johnson
Posts: 656
Joined: Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:15 am
Location: Sonoma, CA

Re: Movie Morlocks First Slapsticon 2013 report

Postby Gary Johnson » Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:18 pm


The forecast is for the skies to open up intermittently throughout the day and wash our sins away. If you are leary of being judged by televangelists and Southern Baptists, you best wear water wings today....

Saturday morn opens with the traditional cartoon show. It seems every classic film fest worth their salt holds an annual Sat. morn cartoon show. And why not? Classic film and animation go hand in hand. Where as I usually go foot in mouth. This year's program is in honor of long time SLAPSTICON friend Dave Snyder. All of the shorts scheduled are from the Golden Age of Animation. Pretty much all of the major studios are represented (Fleischer is given the shaft, as usual. I understand Betty Boop and the Talkartoons are finally getting an official DVD release this month - The Essential Collection. We'll find out how official it is by what shape the films are in). I was familiar with everything shown on today's program and yet, I enjoyed every moment. I learned to love watching cartoons on TV as a kid, but I learned to admire animation by seeing it on the big screen. Rep Houses and museum showings in the 1970's made viewing something like Clampett's TIN PAN ALLEY CATS (43) in a large theater setting come alive in a way that one could not experience from their old RCA's. Of course, back then our TV's didn't grow beyond 36 inches. The latest generation will have to write in with their own reminiscence of first seeing RED HOT RIDING HOOD (43) when they were five years old on their Hi-Def 64 inch Sony and then complain that it was nothing like when it finally aired on their dad's I-Max screen down in the basement.

With that little sermon over with, the day's program began proper with Sennett shorts at the time he was cutting ties with the Triangle association. Brent Walker did the honors with the intro's because for some reason people seem to feel he knows something about this subject. Films like A JANITOR'S WIFE'S TEMPTATION (15), WON BY A FOWL (17) and HIS ONE NIGHT STAND (17) cover familiar ground that was trampled over by the Keystones - romantic misunderstandings involving two or three couple, a lot of flirting in the park and some of kind of climatic free-for-all involving guns and cops. The only difference is the casts have changed. Paddy McQuire, Fred Mace and Harry mcCoy are not real substitutes for farceurs like Chaplin, Sterling and Normand. Other thoughts crept into my tiny mind when watching a short like WON BY A FOWL - like why would someone like short, squat and homely Fritz Schade be dissatisfied with his blonde, attractive wife and feel compelled to chase after his brunette waitress? Very perplexing.... Men must of had a high opinion of themselves back in the day.
What I really found interesting in the program were the short promo films that had been made in 1917. They are called Woodley specials, named after an LA theater that Sennett had recently purchased. They run a split reel and feature the Bathing Beauties. For once the girls do more than just pose and smile at the camera. Here they actively take part in gags, indulge in a little pratfalls into the water and even partake in a short chase when their young charge takes off in a runaway wagon. It's hard to believe when so many films made over a hundred years ago have disappeared for good that we are still recovering promotional films from that era. What's next? Sennett outtakes?
We then move to the Sennett-Paramount years, which suffered the worst survival record of all of Sennet releases. GEE WHIZ (20) is a Charlie Murray farce involving bootlegging, relatives and divorce. It was hard to follow all of the goings-on as our print was without titles. In most comedies that would be a blessing but many Sennett's get so convoluted with plot that you can't watch the ballgame without a program. Before it all comes to a head with Murray getting caught in someone's bedroom (someone who's name and character I do not know....) there is a scene that takes place in a divorce court - which is rather unusual for a comedy. The opposing attorney's are James Finlayson and a fella who resembles Billy Bevan - but he wasn't listed in the program so I assume it's not him. SHE LOVED HIM PLENTY (18) features Ben Turpin right at the time that he was on the cusp of becoming Sennett's next big star. Here he shares screen time with Heinie Conklin. The first half revisits gags from Chaplin's THE PAWNSHOP (16) and then for very little reason, but very typical of shorts made at that time, switches over to the boardwalk for the second half. We finish up with Del Lord's frantic WALL STREET BLUES (24) - a very familiar short due to it's inclusion in a few Youngson films. This was a reconstruction brought over to us by one of our visiting Brits, David Glas (While out pubbing one evening I witnessed David partaking in warm milk and mustard sandwiches. Quite the diet they have overseas. No wonder we broke from the King). I believe it was mentioned that this is a work in progress and they hope to find more footage in the future.

After getting caught in the rain (again) during lunch, we scurry back to the theater to dry off and be treated by another program of rarities, this time brought to us by the OTHER visiting Brit, David Wyatt. I missed all of David's opening remarks because of my drip dry condition and as I got to my seat the first film was already running, A Roach All-Star that I believe was THE HONORABLE MR BUGGS (27). Oliver Hardy plays the butler to our hero (Matt Moore or Tyler Brooke?) who's fiancee and her mother has stopped in just when Anna May Wong crashes the scene as a slinky jewel thief. For some reason Ollie plays this role in blackface, which makes it look like he has just arrived from a L&H set after some disasterous encounter with a mud hole. He does have one funny scene when he distracts the girl and mother by jousting with a stuffed giraffe placed upon a rocking chair. David then played some prints of American films found in foreign archives and translated the titles for us as the films unreeled. Very helpful. I could had used him to translate the Charlie Murray film for me the other day. I misplaced my notes on everything David showed (they got wet and floated away) so if anyone wants to jump in here and fill us in, feel free.

Lloyd Hamilton returns (and will keep re-appearing the rest of the day) in APRIL FOOL (20), an enjoyable shanghaied outing directed by Charley Chase. It plays similar to Keaton's THE LOVE NEST (23) with Ham ineffectually dealing with the gruff, slightly murderous sea captain. And unlike so many other comedians, Ham isn't so much shanghaied as he is the one who shanghai's himself. He wanders on board to return a wallet and the ship sails off with him, just as his newly developed character would learn to do - go with the flow.

Harold Lloyd's troubles adapting his silent screen success to the sound era have been well documented. Each succeeding talkie earned less than the preceeding film. After the box office failure of PROFESSOR BEWARE (38) Lloyd and Paramount parted ways and Lloyd headed into semi-retirement. Like the Keaton film from Friday night, this showing is an attempt to prove that PROFESSOR BEWARE has an undeserved reputation as a stinker. For starters, it is basically a road picture (Lloyd's professor of archeology must get to NY by an appointed time) which makes it episodic by nature, a format that plays to the strengths of Lloyd and his gag writers. It is set in Depression America, which was still affecting the country at this time. It's a world of cheap diners, hitchhiking, hoboes riding the rails and pilfering food. And since this is a Lloyd feature, Harold is allowed to indulge in some longer set-pieces such as trying to change clothes with a drunken William Frawley in the back seat of a sedan, being given a ride by a county sheriff while hiding a stolen chicken under his coat and a climatic brawl.
For many the hilight of the film is the middle portions when he teams up with rascally con men of the road Raymond Walburn and Lionel Stander, who is his usual good natured sort. After Harold helps them aboard a moving freight train Lionel wants to repay him by booting him off the fast moving train. So is PROFESSOR BEWARE a horrible embarrassment of a film? Of course not. (That honor will always fall to WHAT? NO BEER! (33)). It's a pleasant enough outing by a former star who had slowly lost his way. Where the film really bogs down is by the constant talk over an egyptian curse. There could had been much easier reasons to get Harold out on the road without all of this constant plot mumbo-jumbo. And while many enjoy the climatic fight aboard the yacht, whenever I watch it I always think how much cleaner in execution the whole scene would had been performed by Lloyd in the silent years. Which is generally what I always think of whenever I watch any of Lloyd's talkies.

The day is winding down and an excellent selection of films are set for our evenings enjoyment.
Two more Lloyd Hamiltons are unreeled. All four films shown this weekend are from his first year as a solo comedian with Educational. They all show Hamilton slowing the process down considerably from his Kalem and L-KO comedies. MOONSHINE (21) is the other short that was directed by Chase and it opens like we are in the midst of a Tex Avery toon depicting a sham battle between the moonshiners and the revenuers. Gags abound, including a tote board keeping track of the score as the bullets fly. The fella in the bushy mustache running the board looks suspiciously like a piano-playing pal of Leo McCarey's. Our hero is born during this melee and grows up to be a chip off the old still, selling hooch by the oddest conveyances and continually outwitting the Federal agent who is after him (and who looks suspiciously like the other suspiciously bushy fella from earlier). THE SIMP (20) continues his winning streak of clever shorts. Ham tends to take standard comic situations, such as flirting with a girl in the park, and stand them on their heads. Ham is interested in the girl but spends more time with her bothersome dog. When the girl isn't looking he disposes of the dog by heaving it into the lake (you can take the Ham out of Bud but it's hard to instanly lose that level of Ham & Bud malice). After blow drying the dog (by wringing it out) a cannibal fish comes along and drags the pup back into the water by it's tail. With all of this going on who has time for flirting?

Next SLAPSTICON proudly presents one of the main tenets of it's very existence; to showcase comedy films and comics little known by the majority of us. Walter Forde was a very popular silent comedian from across the pond - or so I just read because until that evening I was not familiar with his work at all. He made two-reel shorts off and on through the Twenties and graduated to features right before sound arrived. He doesn't look like a comedian - more like a juvenile lead. He carries no distinguishing facial hairs or accoutrements - such as glasses. He is built solid like Joe Rock, with a long, square chin like John Cleese. He is definately agile. He runs and leaps around a lot, but doesn't perform any major pratfalls, at least in this film.
WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT? (29) is considered one of his finest features. It plays in the Monty Banks mode......which plays in the Harold Lloyd mode - so Walter is in good stead. Forde plays an inventor of wireless remotes (no kidding. Everything new is old....). He also clerks in the toy dept. of a major store. We are treated to a long introductory gag sequence of our hero dealing with customers, meeting the girl, and creating havoc when the toys run wild. Once his invention is perfected he is off to demonstrate it to the British War Office but he is waylaid by foreign spies, which sets off a dazzling sequence set inside the London Tube as Walter constantly sprints up and down twenty flights of stairs while recovering and losing his invention. When I wrote earlier of the art of milking a gag - this would be a prime example. Forde keeps finding variations of one basic idea - running up and down the stairs. The climax involves a runaway tank when his invention goes temporarily awry, but nothing in this clever and satisfying picture goes awry for long.

We end the night with Columbia shorts, which is usually my cue to exit but Jules White only helms one of them so I stay interested. Unfortunately, the one film White directs happens to involve our Harry Langdon, which has got to be one of the worst ideas for a film partnership since DW Griffith and Stepin Fetchit. BLITZ ON THE FRITZ (43) is interesting for those who love wartime propaganda. Life on the homefront conducting scrap drives and rationing is not just a screenwriters nod to being topical, it was practically demanded by our Federal Government if Hollywood expected to get cooperation from the Armed Services for any of their productions. Meanwhile, with White in the director's chair Harry has no chance of sneaking in any Langdon moments so he goes through the paces of having objects bounce off his head as if he were the Forth Stooge. MANY SAPPY RETURNS (38) teams Chase with Del Lord (a much better combo) in a remake of his Roach short FAST WORK (30). Charley runs the full gamut of emotions here when he finds out that the guy he has been entertaining all day in his cab is not his girl's father but an escaped lunatic. The fella playing the nut case was very eccentric and funny. For a fellow who made more shorts than anyone else in the entire world, I have not seen a lot of Andy Clyde's talkies - either with Sennett or Columbia. They just never played in my market growing up. TRAMP,TRAMP, TRAMP (35) is a fine example of why he was popular for so long. Frustrations mount when Andy's good-hearted wife begins opening the doors to all of the poor souls who are struggling through the Depression and, in typical human nature, soon everyone in town is taking advantage of her and eating the Clydes out of house and home. The production values are still solid at this time and the sight gags elaborate. The notorious Columbia cheapness wouldn't fully take hold until during the war. Finally, Leon Errol has ONE TOO MANY (34) as a businessman who can't come home to the wife without stopping in for a quick one with the Boys. Errol's 'drunk act' is on full display here. So is an unsettling unpleasantness over the constant humilation he causes his wife which eventually sucks the comedy out of the cork.

The nights over. Time to go hit the pubs. But just ONE mind you......
(I have my own cache back in my hotel room.)

Joe Migliore
Posts: 194
Joined: Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:57 pm

Re: Movie Morlocks First Slapsticon 2013 report

Postby Joe Migliore » Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:04 am

Gary Johnson wrote:
I misplaced my notes on everything David showed (they got wet and floated away) so if anyone wants to jump in here and fill us in, feel free.

I will jump in here, Gary, because I think we would be remiss not to mention the screening of YOUR OWN BACK YARD (1925), the elusive Our Gang short that was unavailable for viewing through both editions of the Maltin & Bann book. The inherent racism of the subject matter made for some uncomfortable viewing, but I would say that is an argument for preserving such a film. In the short, Farina's mother warns him to stay in his own back yard, and not to wander out of it, where every kind of danger lurks. The reality of this fear quickly becomes apparent, as the other members of the Gang, all white, pick on him mercilessly, producing some heartbreaking scenes of Farina producing fat, wet tears while he stands up for himself. Allen Hoskins, who played Farina, is the star of this short, and easily one of the greatest child actors to ever grace the silent screen. There is one scene where he goes from crying to laughing in a matter of seconds, which I found comforting, as it made me remember that he was acting. David Wyatt did a great job marrying the first reel, a cleaned-up small gauge print, to the second, which I believe was a 35mm nitrate print. (Anyone correct me if I'm wrong.)

He also brought a Lupino Lane short, without titles, which was his take on westerns. If clocked for laughs, this was certainly one of the highlights of Slapsticon 2013. It made me realize that this was another artist worth seeking out, the same feeling I got watching ATTA BOY with Monty Banks the night before.

Mr. Wyatt also brought an unidentified Al St. John short, and he asked the audience to help him identify it. I don't think anyone could place it, but I think Mr. Arkus made the sensible suggestion that the absent Mr. Massa get a crack at it.

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