Mack Sennett

All Night Long (1924, Harry Edwards)

Harry Edwards flops on every sight gag in All Night Long, seemingly a combination of his inability to direct comedy and star Harry Langdon’s lack of comic timing. However, otherwise Edwards does a great job with the short. He’s got an excellent dinner table sequence and a lot of special effect work is outstanding.

Long has a couple bookends but primarily takes place during World War I in France. Marines Langdon and Vernon Dent fight over a girl. Dent and Natalie Kingston, who plays the girl, are both excellent. Dent’s comic timing is spot on and he makes up for Langdon.

Langdon isn’t so much bad, just unfunny. Long‘s narrative is relatively complicated–a comic take on a melodrama–and Langdon’s wrong for it.

Edwards’s comic failings are mostly forgivable, except when he tries turning grotesque war imagery into belabored sight gags. It’s awkward and tiresome, while Long otherwise isn’t.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Harry Edwards; written by Hal Conklin and Vernon Smith; directors of photography, Lee Davis and William Williams; edited by William Hornbeck; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Harry Langdon (Harry Hall), Natalie Kingston (Nanette Burgundy), Vernon Dent (Gale Wyndham), Fanny Kelly (Mrs. Burgundy) and Leo Sulky (Mr. Burgundy).


Recreation (1914, Charles Chaplin)

Chaplin’s got a real problem with visual continuity in Recreation. At first, he does really well. The actors move–through a park–from left to right. Helen Carruthers is on a bench with a prospective beau (Charles Bennett), then she leaves him and moves right. Chaplin (as the Tramp) enters and moves right to follow her.

Eventually he has to move further right, where he starts throwing bricks at Bennett. Recreation makes me wonder if brick throwing was a big thing in the teens.

Anyway, there’s a bunch of action between the different shots and it’s really great. Then Chaplin breaks it for the finish, multiple times, and the jump is rather annoying.

Otherwise, Recreation is a good deal of fun. Chaplin and his actors have a great time with the physical comedy; the Tramp’s undeniably charming. Shame an island appeared out of nowhere to set up the final gag.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Written, edited and directed by Charles Chaplin; director of photography, Frank D. Williams; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Mutual Film.

Starring Charles Chaplin (Tramp), Helen Carruthers (Girl), Charles Bennett (Seaman), Edwin Frazee (Short Cop) and Edward Nolan (Tall Cop).


Cruel, Cruel Love (1914, George Nichols)

Cruel, Cruel Love has a lot of possibilities. Sadly, director Nichols doesn’t realize any of them. He’s interested in broad physical humor–wrestling, actually–and having Charlie Chaplin mug for the camera. Chaplin does a fine enough job mugging, but it goes on forever.

Love concerns an engaged couple, Chaplin and Minta Durfee. When Durfee sees him helping her maid (after the maid trips), Durfee ends the engagement. Already, Love‘s on its own plane of reality.

Chaplin responds by drinking poison, hence the mugging as he convulses. Except he didn’t really take poison, his butler (Edgar Kennedy) tricked him. Maybe he wanted to see Chaplin mug for the camera too.

The viewer knows Chaplin’s fine almost immediately, which kills Love‘s suspense. I kept waiting for Nichols and writer Craig Hutchinson to do something smart with the plot. I’m still waiting.

Love‘s not a terrible short, but it’s a lame one.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by George Nichols; written by Craig Hutchinson; director of photography, Frank D. Williams; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Mutual Film.

Starring Charles Chaplin (The Lord), Edgar Kennedy (The Butler), Minta Durfee (The Lady), Eva Nelson (The Maid) and William Hauber (The Gardener).


Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies (1925, Del Lord)

Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies explores the dangers of electric cars. Basically, they can be taken over by radio waves and made to do crazy things. If it weren’t for the gasoline dealer (John J. Richardson) being the villain, one could almost see it as twenties gas company propaganda.

The short is a special effects extravaganza and director Lord does pretty well with it. There are all sorts of car effects, some okay wirework and a few other things. Sadly, the rampant racism overshadows any of the short’s positive qualities.

At one point, co-writers Frank Capra and Jefferson Moffitt posit blacks are actually not living creatures. Where’s Robert Riskin when you need him….

There’s also some anti-Semitism, but it might be from title card writers Felix Adler and Al Giebler.

The first half is mildly amusing with the special effects. But the second half makes it Lizzies unpleasant overall.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Del Lord; screenplay by Frank Capra and Jefferson Moffitt; titles by Felix Adler and Al Giebler; directors of photography, George Spear and George Unholz; edited by William Hornbeck; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Billy Bevan (Hiram Case), Andy Clyde (Burbank Watts), Lillian Knight (Minnie Watts) and John J. Richardson (T. Potter Doam).


His Trysting Place (1914, Charles Chaplin)

The best thing about His Trysting Place is probably Frank D. Williams’s photography. Chaplin’s athletics are impressive, but he doesn’t have much use for them. They’re most exciting during his food fight with Mack Swain. The food fight itself isn’t particularly funny–until the end–but Chaplin looks like he’s flying at times.

Trysting is about two dumb husbands–Chaplin and Swain–who cross paths to bad effect. Chaplin’s married to Mabel Normand and he’s obtuse. He can’t get his relaxing done at home, what with Normand caring for their baby. Swain’s just a buffoon, even a lovable one.

They mix up their coats after the food fight and Chaplin goes home with a note from Swain’s maid to her lover. Normand finds it… antics ensue.

Trysting is lengthy at twenty minutes. Normand’s not particularly good; her performances hurts the film.

But it’s genial and Williams’s photography makes it beautiful.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Written, edited and directed by Charles Chaplin; director of photography, Frank D. Williams; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Mutual Film.

Starring Charles Chaplin (Clarence, the Husband), Mabel Normand (Mabel, The Wife), Mack Swain (Ambrose) and Phyllis Allen (Ambrose’s Wife).


Saturday Afternoon (1926, Harry Edwards)

Even though Saturday Afternoon is astoundingly bad on every expected level and a few unexpected ones, I guess I’m glad to know there were always terrible comedies. It’s not some recent invention, post-television. There was always tripe.

The story is pretty simple. Harry Langdon is a moron married to an evil witch of a wife, played by Alice Ward. There’s also this very interesting inference Ward has been around a little and picked Langdon because of his stupidity.

Oh, I forgot to mention, writers Arthur Ripley and Frank Capra slather on the misogyny (not just Ward) with a wide brush.

Except Langdon’s trying to step out on Ward and the audience is supposed to sympathize. But he’s so stupid, it’s impossible.

Technically, Langdon’s performance is bad. He doesn’t have any timing. His sidekick, Vernon Dent, is worse. Edwards’s direction goes beyond bad to incompetent.

Afternoon‘s an unbearable 1,800 seconds.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Harry Edwards; written by Arthur Ripley and Frank Capra; titles by Al Giebler; director of photography, William Williams; edited by William Hornbeck; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Harry Langdon (Harry Higgins), Alice Ward (Mrs. Harry Higgins), Vernon Dent (Steve Smith), Ruth Hiatt (Pearl), Peggy Montgomery (Ruby) and Leo Willis (The Rival).


His Marriage Wow (1925, Harry Edwards)

I wonder how His Marriage Wow would play without Vernon Dent. His character is an inexplicably omnipresent professor who counsels leading man Harry Langdon as to his future wife’s murderous intentions.

Of course, Marriage is never scary and never tries to be scary, so the whole groom in danger aspect is just a waste of time. And the short opens with even more time wasting as Langdon can’t find the right chapel for his wedding.

Having a directionally challenges and dimwitted protagonist does Marriage no favors. But at least Langdon’s good, unlike Dent, who just gets worse and worse.

Sadly, Natalie Kingston’s bride has nothing to do. The filmmakers seem to think Langdon and Dent are a better pair, but never even try to explain why Dent would be around.

Edwards’s direction is mediocre but occasionally inventive.

Marriage isn’t exactly disappointing, but Dent’s terrible performance does overshadow any redeeming qualities.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Harry Edwards; written by Arthur Ripley; titles by Al Giebler; directors of photography, Lee Davis and William Williams; edited by William Hornbeck; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Harry Langdon (The Groom), Natalie Kingston (The Bride), William McCall (Her Father) and Vernon Dent (A Pessimist).


His Prehistoric Past (1914, Charles Chaplin)

Chaplin opens His Prehistoric Past setting it up as a dream sequence, which lets the viewer know the outcome can’t be too dramatic. But the setup is immediate–Chaplin falls asleep on a park bench–so the more relatable elements in the dream don’t have much substance.

In the dream (the majority of Past), Chaplin is a macho man, who beats up all cavemen and wows all the cavewomen. But there’s no establishing the character as wanting to beat all the men and wow all the women… though I suppose the latter is implied.

The short drags quite a bit after the initial fight scene, as Chaplin pals around with the king (Mack Swain) and make goo goo eyes at the king’s favorite concubine (Gene Marsh). Marsh’s performance suggests Past has subtle depth–at times she’s frightened of Chaplin’s affections.

The production values are strong, but otherwise, it’s mostly undistinguished.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written, edited and directed by Charles Chaplin; director of photography, Frank D. Williams; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Mutual Film.

Starring Charles Chaplin (Weakchin), Mack Swain (King Lowbrow), Gene Marsh (Sum-Babee), Fritz Schade (Ku-Ku), Cecile Arnold (Cavewoman) and Al St. John (Caveman).


Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914, Henry Lehrman)

Okay, Kid Auto Races at Venice makes a little more sense now… it was ad-libbed. Charlie Chaplin really was just doing annoying gags in front of people who are watching a baby-cart race.

Most the film consists of Chaplin acting like a jerk. He’s funny and appealing enough, but the short’s particular because of its handling of the camera. Initially, with Chaplin mugging for the camera, it appears he’s breaking the fourth wall. It then becomes clear he’s acting out in front of a camera.

Kid Auto Races director Lehrman plays the suffering director in Kid Auto Races, adding another layer to the whole thing.

It’s amazing Chaplin and Lehrman are able to keep it fresh, since it’s really just Lehrman eventually getting fed up and dragging Chaplin out of the shot.

The short also raises the historical question–did jerks often interfere with silent era newsreel photographers?

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Henry Lehrman; written by Lehrman and Charles Chaplin; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Mutual Film.

Starring Charles Chaplin (Tramp) and Henry Lehrman (Film Director).


The Dentist (1932, Leslie Pearce)

The first third of The Dentist takes place on a golf course, without establishing W.C. Fields is a dentist. He talks about having to get back to his office, but it’s not clear. It doesn’t matter, as Fields being a belligerent golf jerk is funny.

When it does get to the dental practice, Fields’s first patient is Dorothy Granger and it quickly becomes clear the short’s pre-code. Granger’s in one constantly compromised position or another. The next patient, played by Elise Cavanna, is less blatant… but just as creatively contorted. Fields remains somewhat oblivious, at least once he starts getting annoyed, and it works rather well.

The absurdism comes in with the final patient. The patient’s got birds living in his enormous beard, which leads Fields to shoot.

The Dentist has a brisk pace. While it’s never raucous, it’s always amusing, often rather funny. Fields does a fantastic job.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Leslie Pearce; written by W.C. Fields; director of photography, John W. Boyle; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring W.C. Fields (Dentist), Marjorie Kane (Mary), Arnold Gray (Arthur the Iceman), Dorothy Granger (Miss Peppitone), Elise Cavanna (Miss Mason), Zedna Farley (Dental Assistant) and Billy Bletcher (Mr. Foliage).


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