Champagne

Gasser

Champagne (1928)

Champagne (1928)

The bubbly, golden fluid that is champagne is a standard analogy for all things tied to wealth. It is symbolic of all the glittery things afforded by those people who can in turn afford to order the high-ticket beverage. That is all you need know of the meaning of the title for Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1928 silent flick Champagne.

But to further draw the connection to the title, Hitchcock opens and closes the picture using an innovative technique by which he photographs the scenes through a champagne glass. Taking the view point of a person drinking the champagne, a bubble of glass at the base of the coupe captures dancers aboard a trans-Atlantic ship and the kissing couple at the film’s close. The master of suspense would later use a similar technique to capture the strangling scene in Strangers on a Train, which is depicted as reflected by the victim’s glasses.glass

Unlike his later films, Hitchcock made many non-thrillers in his early years, and Champagne is one of them. A comedy, the story tells of a frivolous millionairess who regularly angers her father by squandering their wealth and running around with a man whom the patriarch believes is only interested in the family fortune. To start the film, a ship headed from America to England makes a swift rescue of two passengers of a small aircraft that has crashed into the ocean. The pilot and the woman aboard are safely escorted to the vessel but not before The Girl (Betty Balfour) powders her nose and sheds the flight jacket, goggles and headgear she wears.

The Girl’s fashionable entrance on the boat was arranged just so she could catch up with her beau, The Boy (Jean Bradin). But when the young woman informs her love that she will arrange for the captain to marry them, The Boy is offended by her take-charge approach and the two part ways. Still on board the watercraft, The Girl finds a companion in a shady looking man that had been making eyes at her since her grand entrance. The two share a rocky meal upon the rough high seas, with The Boy unable to intervene because of sea sickness.

Once in Europe, The Girl carries on her absurdly wasteful lifestyle while her father frowns at the headlines she has made. He interrupts his daughter during a party involving the purchase of several new gowns and informs her he is now broke. The Girl weeps but offers to sell her jewelry.

Jumping forward, the father-daughter couple are living together in a small flat where The Girl tends to the home and endeavors to cook. In the next scene The Father (Gordon Harker), having left the home without breakfast, dines at a fancy bistro. It seems he has not actually been separated from his money but is instead attempting to teach his daughter a lesson.

The Boy eventually finds The Girl again and is still interested in being with her, but she repeatedly spurns him while yet again crossing paths with The Man (Theodore Van Alten) who took a shine to her on the boat. She garners a job distributing flowers to gentlemen at a night club, where she is only mildly successful. The Boy brings The Father to see what lifestyle his daughter has taken up, and he is disappointed to see his trick has resulted in a blow to her dignity. He reveals to her his ruse, and she reacts by being infuriated with both The Father and The Boy for the humiliation she has suffered.

She runs to The Man and convinces him to take her along on a ship-ride back to America, her home country. It just so happens The Boy is aboard as well, bringing us full circle to the film’s start. There the couple reunites and with The Father’s blessing. The Father also reveals The Man was his friend, who was sent on the original cruise to prevent by any means the marriage of our leading lady and man.

One of the most innovative scenes in Champagne is towards the film’s start when The Girl and The Man dine aboard the boat. The rollicking seas are conveyed by a swinging camera motion and the staggering and leaning of the people aboard the boat. The effect is so convincing it started to make me seasick.

Champagne is full of comical moments and has a decent story to tell. It is superficial and full of back and forth moments for the couple, and it is predictable. Still, any chance to see an early Hitchcock movie should not be passed up, and this one has some visual effects worth enjoying.

View the full film on YouTube:

Event: The Hitchcock 9

Blackmail (1929)

The Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, is gearing up to show some rare Hitchcock treats on the big screen. Nine silent pictures from the director’s repertoire will be showcased in October, and I gleefully report will allow me to view several of the master’s flicks I have yet to lay my hands on.

The British Film Institute’s restoration of The Hitchcock 9 is the largest restoration project the BFI has ever undertaken and was made possible by new digital technology, according to the Wex. The films are being made available to venues around the world and have been touring the U.S. since June. They are/were slated to hit Washington, DC, Berkeley, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, and Boston, among others.

As much as Hitchcock is known for his work in the thriller genre, he spent a good amount of his early British career dabbling in dramas and romantic comedies. One nevertheless can see the early genius of the master of suspense in The Lodger and others.

For those in the vicinity or who would travel to see such rare screenings, the schedule follows. And another gem for you from BFI, the press book for 1928′s The Farmer’s Wife and ones for The Manxman and Champagne. I fully intend to witness Blackmail, Downhill, Champagne and The Pleasure Garden because I have not seen them before.

  • Oct. 10 at 4 p.m. | Film Studies Lecture Tania Modleski: Representations of Women in Hitchcock’s Blackmail
  • Oct . 10 at  7 p.m.  & Oct. 12  at 7 p.m. | Blackmail (1929) Live musical accompaniment by Derek DiCenzo
  • Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. & Oct. 12 at 4 p.m. | The Lodger (1926)
  • Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. | Downhill (1927)
  • Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. | The Ring (1927) Accompaniment by Larry Marotta
  • Oct. 17 at 9:10 p.m. | The Manxman (1929) Accompaniment by Larry Marotta
  • Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. | The Farmer’s Wife (1928) Accompaniment by Sue Harshe
  • Oct. 23 at 9:10 p.m. | Champagne (1928) Accompaniment by Sue Harshe
  • Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. | The Pleasure Garden (1926) Accompaniment by Derek DiCenzo
  • Oct. 25 at 8:45 p.m. | Easy Virtue (1927) Accompaniment by Derek DiCenzo

Yo Yo

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Yo Yo (1965)

Yo Yo (1965)

I often marvel at Charlie Chaplin’s ability to find success with silent pictures after the close of the silent era. When 1929 rolled around and with it the sound technology, all studios realized in order to compete they must produce talking pictures. Chaplin nevertheless issued City Lights and Modern Times with no spoken words after the end of the era in which he reigned supreme.

Fast forward to the 1960s and a French actor/movie maker repeated Chaplin’s success. Pierre Étaix with a background in film and clowning wrote, directed and starred in Yo Yo.  The black and white movie begins in 1925 and is absent any dialogue –emulating a silent film by including intertitles. His unexpressive face reminds us perhaps more of old Stoneface Buster Keaton, but his movements emulate the great silent comedians and we cannot help but laugh at his movements and lifestyle as a lonely millionaire.

The scenes are not absent all noise, however, with the sound of a squeak toy used for the opening and closing of every door and the opening of drawers, etc. The sound effects alone drive many laughs. But the picture does not remain dialogue-free. Come 1929, the intertitles tell us talking movies came in, perhaps as a way of justifying the new presence of spoken words. The stock market crash is the next historical event to affect the picture, sending our millionaire into poverty.

The man reunites with his ex-lover, a bareback rider (Luce Klein), and their young son (Philippe Dionnet) –of which the millionaire was unaware–and joins the traveling circus that employs them. The son, Yo Yo, maintains a photo of his father’s mansion and dreams of restoring the wealth he witnessed there. Time goes on and Yo Yo grows up (also played by Étaix) and becomes a star of stage and screen. When he finally secures the old mansion and throws a party for his parents, they refuse to enter, preferring instead to stay in their trailer and with the circus, thus leaving Yo Yo as alone and miserable as his father once was.

The films of Étaix have recently become available after a long-standing legal dispute with his distribution company. The man is wonderfully entertaining to watch and it is delightful to see a filmmaker embrace the silent way of life as late as the 60s.

The Unknown

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The Unknown (1927)

The Unknown (1927)

Despite how harsh I came down on circus movies in my last post, I recently enjoyed a very old but very good flick that falls in the sometimes successful circus-as-horror category. The Unknown pairs silent screen great Lon Chaney with a woman with a couple dozen silent movies to her credit: Joan Crawford.

The plot is a great one that scares and upsets the viewer with what is ultimately a very sad story. Chaney is Alonzo, the armless man at the circus. His lack of arms does not hinder him, however, because his feet have become substitutes adroit with such everyday activities as lighting a cigarette.

Also working for the circus is Crawford’s Nanon, who is the pretty girl who has knives hurled at her by thrower Malabar (Norman Kerry). The beautiful Nanon, whose father owns the circus, has had a past filled with the groping hands of men. The occurrences were so disturbing to her that she now fears the hands of all men. Although Malabar is in love with the girl, he sends her running in horror every time he touches her.

It’s no wonder then that Nanon is so fond of Alonzo. There is clearly a stark age difference, but the man has been in love with the girl for years. She seems to cling to him as a sort of fatherly figure, however. One night after Malabar has put his hands on Nanon to her dismay, Alonzo leaves his trailer to teach the man a lesson. We have seen him free his hidden arms from a corset device and now is fully equipped to take on any man. But the person who actually discovers his secret is Nanon’s father Zanzi (Nick de Ruiz). Alonzo strangles him to death, revealing to us why he hides his arms–a genetic defect that has given him a double thumb and can tie him to a variety of thefts.

With the circus disbanded, Alonzo takes Nanon away from the life she has known and tries to start his progression towards a relationship. He ultimately learns, however, she will care for no man with hands. This sparks the idea to have his arms surgically removed. In a very creepy, dramatic scene, Alonzo instructs a surgeon –whom he has coerced into the deed– as to where to remove the limbs. Once he has healed, Alonzo returns to find Nanon has warmed to Malabar and no longer fears his hands. The intertitled dialogue only further drives a stake into Alonzo’s heart as he realizes his grave mistake.

The costuming for The Unknown is magnificent and expertly hides Chaney’s arms from sight while the man is clothed. Chaney plays the part wonderfully, making us feel his anger, his dark side and his anguish. The close of the picture features the actor laughing maniacally as he realizes he has removed his arms for nothing and still has been rejected by the girl he loves. His face is so full of emotion that we can understand without hearing it that his laughter is not driven by joy. Chaney accomplished all of the feet-as-hands action with the help of an actual armless man, who lent his legs for the scenes. Chaney nevertheless is perfectly in synch with the movements so that they do not appear to be coming from two separate bodies.

Crawford really proves herself to be a talented actress in this silent flick. You might not recognize her if you weren’t looking for her, but she makes for a very lovely young woman. Crawford’s character is a sympathetic one, so we hold no malice against her when she opts for the other man.

Source: Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces documentary

City Lights

Wowza!

City Lights (1931)

City Lights (1931)

Only Charlie Chaplin could make a hit out of a silent movie after the transition to sound. City Lights was his first movie since talkies were invented. They had become the norm by 1929, but despite pressures to convert his flick to include audible dialogue, the star stuck to what he knew. Owning the studio helped Chaplin get his way and also gave him the freedom to do what he wished with his films and take his time in producing them.

The movie is not without some sound of its own, however. It had a recorded soundtrack –composed by Chaplin– that also includes sound effects. Poking fun at talking pictures, Chaplin employed saxophones to stand in for the speaking voices of two characters who are unveiling a statue. When the Tramp swallows a whistle, the soundtrack includes the tweeting it makes with every breath. Gunshots and the bell at a boxing ring are also incorporated into the prerecorded sound.

In City Lights, the Tramp constructs his adventure around a blind flower sales girl and a drunken millionaire. The man meets the girl (Virginia Cherrill) peddling flowers on the corner and is instantly in love. Later, the Tramp interrupts an “Eccentric Millionaire” (Harry Myers) as he prepares to drown himself. The Tramp tries to stop the drunken man from throwing in the river a large rock tied to a rope connected to the man’s neck. He fails and the two end up in the water and out and back in.

Now fast friends, the Millionaire and Tramp return to the wealthy man’s home and do some additional drinking. When the morning arrives, they are still drunk and the man tells the Tramp he may have his car. He also provides him with $10 to buy flowers from his sweetheart. After buying out her stock, the Tramp drives the blind girl home, leading her to conclude he must be rich. When the girl becomes ill and unable to work, the Tramp secures a job to help make her well. He visits her regularly when her grandmother is not home, and one day discovers without a $22 payment, the women will be evicted from their home.

The Tramp is able to secure $1,000 from his wealthy friend –who does not care for him when he is sober– but a snobbish butler (Allan Garcia), two thieves and the police send the Tramp on the run. The romantic nevertheless gets the money to his love and tells her to pay the rent and get her eyesight fixed with the remainder. He next goes to jail.

The ending of City Lights is one of the most touching endings to a film in movie history. In quite the contrast to the comedy of the rest of the picture, I became a bit choked up at the sweetly romantic final moments. The girl, now seeing and running a flower shop, runs into the Tramp and recognizes him by the feel of his hands. Chaplin affects the most adorable visage as he nervously faces the love of his life after so long apart. He says “You can see now?” She responds, “Yes, I can see now.” The double meaning is all we get to assure us that the girl is not offput by the dilapidated duds worn by our hero. As the viewer, we find ourselves as nervous as the Tramp in wondering what she will think.

Chaplin is a fantastic actor particularly in those closing, serious moments. All of a sudden the mood is changed and we’re grinning ear-to-ear for a reason other than laughter. The Tramp’s confidence is shattered outside the safety of the girl’s inability to see him, but his fictional wealth is no longer something she needs. Cherrill is even better than Chaplin. Throughout the picture she plays a convincing blind girl, but her power is shown best also in that end scene. She plays all the right emotions on her face so that we can understand what is occurring through the very little dialogue we have to explain it. Cherrill, unfortunately, did not make many more movies (but she married Cary Grant).

I don’t think I need to tell you City Lights is also full of laughs. Chaplin uses his physical prowess to construct some terribly amusing scenes. Best of all is a perfectly choreographed boxing match during which the Tramp hides behind the referee.

Source: Robert Osborne, TCM.com

Run, Girl, Run

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When trying to work my way through the lists of movies in which my favorite stars appear, I find myself unendingly frustrated by the often extensive number of pictures made before 1929, ie. the silent era. Silent films, although regularly featured on TCM, nevertheless are low on the priority list in terms of availability to the public. Even worse are the silent shorts, which stars like Carole Lombard tallied up quickly in the early days of filmmaking. TCM thankfully came through for me in playing that star’s Run, Girl, Run, 30-minute short she made under producer Mack Sennett. Lombard was a part of his company and learned the ways of comedy under his tutelage. Read more about it at

Lombard, with her glorious good looks, plays here as she often did, the pretty girl with a boyfriend. She attends a girls’ boarding school that focuses on athletics, particularly track and field, and might be the star runner among her other lofty titles. Despite being in the glamorous role, Lombard still manages to solicit some laugh from us, but the majority of comedy credit lies with costar Daphne Pollard as the coach.

Pollard is short and small but makes clear to the audience right off that she is not one to be trifled with. The actress uses great physical comedy to elicit the majority of the movie’s laughs, such as when running toward a hurdle her sweater inches its way down until it has the effect of a potato sack.

After an initial scene of the girl athletes training, evening arrives and Lombard’s Norma attempts to sneak out to meet her sweetheart. The coach catches her in the hall, brings the young woman into her room, and after some arguing, strips the girl and puts her to bed. To ensure she will not escape to the beau outside, the coach holds Norma’s hand as they fall asleep. The boyfriend, however, helps Norma to replace her hand with an inflated rubber glove, which has the coach duped until the dean awakes her.

Following the night’s shenanigans, the girls face a rival school and the coach feels the pressure of the dean’s threat to fire her if the team loses. Norma narrowly loses one race because she powders her nose en route but pulls through in the end.

I find that photographs of Lombard from early in her career often do not look like the woman we came to know through the talking picture days. That is also the case in Run, Girl, Run, which required some eye squinting to determine the lead was in fact Lombard. Although the picture shown on TCM had new intertitles, the actual film was of a fair quality also hindering my ability to make a positive ID.

Run, Girl, Run was a fun movie even if Lombard wasn’t the best part. I like it better than Matchmaking Mama that had enough other characters for Lombard to get a bit lost on screen.

Wings

Wowza!

Wings (1927)

     What makes a movie worthy of the first ever Academy Award for Best Picture? What constituted greatness in 1929? Apparently a couple million dollars and more effort than perhaps has ever been put into the production of a film.

     Wings would not have been possible had so many parties not come together to make it happen. Whether it was the director with flying experience William Wellman,  the starring actors who took flying lessons and filmed themselves in the air, the stuntmen whose spiraling-toward-death aerial moves were caught on film, or the $15 million-worth of equipment and personnel the military supplied to make the war flick as realistic as possible.

     This Paramount Picture was released on Blu-Ray this year and luckily with it came the release of a DVD reprint, copies of which have been hard to come by. This latest remastering produced images so clear they sort of blew my mind given they are 85 years old. The opening shot in particular is spectacular in clarity. The new edition also allows the viewer to watch the scenes with a re-recorded symphonic score complete with sound effects or an organ rendition. With the sound effects, one can almost forget she is watching a silent flick.

     Wingstells a story of love and war. Two young men are in love with the same high-class girl and both leave for WWI together. This Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston), is preparing a locket with her photo in it for David (Richard Arlen) but when Jack (Buddy Rogers) arrives at her home first, he misunderstands the gift –and Sylvia’s affections– as being for him. Sylvia convinces David her love lie truly with him, but the men head to training with a rivalry brewing.

     After their tensions grow to a boiling point, the pilot trainees box each other until David is down and out. From then on the two are best pals. But the thrill of learning to fly –a lifelong dream of Jack’s– is sobered by the near instantaneous death of tent-mate Cadet White, played for a minute and a half by Gary Cooper, who crashes during a training exercise minutes after meeting the boys.

     Once overseas, American flyers Jack and David make a great pair but Jack is proving himself an obvious hero. During their time in France, a girl from the men’s hometown, Mary (Clara Bow), arrives as part of volunteer women’s group. Mary has been in love with Jack and good friends with the young man who is oblivious to her feelings. Mary comes across Jack drunk in the arms of a French woman at the Folies Bergere and fights to get him back by herself getting gussied up. The evening ends with Mary discovered changing back into her uniform in Jack’s room, leading her to resign in disgrace. Jack meanwhile was too drunk to know it was she who visited him.

     Jack and David’s relationship also gets a black eye when the two have a spat over Sylvia’s picture as David seeks to prevent his pal from discovering it was meant for him. The two head to the skies without their ritual “All set?” “OK”  routine and David crashes amidst enemy fire. He survives but flees the Germans on foot. He will later commandeer an enemy plane to get back to the Allied side, but Jack will see the lone plane as a target.

     The practical effects in Wings are beyond belief. Wellman had cameras bolted to the wings and bodies of planes to get all the amazing aerial shots of the battles and crashes. Planes were created with two cock pits for the actual pilot and the actor, Arlen had been a pilot in WWI and Rogers was also trained to fly the vehicles. In doing so, they would operate a camera affixed directly in front of them and do their own multiple takes as they conveyed expressions of victory and concern. When one German plane spirals from the sky, the stunt pilot is filmed face on and we can see the actual spinning background. Much of that is thanks to Wellman’s insistence that filming take place only with blue skies and clouds. Without clouds, he knew, there would be no context for the planes’ movement.

     I’m so excited to finally cross the first movie to win Best Picture from my Oscar list. True that the first ceremony was held in 1929, butWings spent two years in theaters at ticket prices of a hefty $2. It also one for Best Special Effects. I cannot imagine how blown away audiences were with the flight scenes in the movie at that time because they sure take my breath away now.

Source: DVD Extra “Wings: Grandeur in the Sky”; TCM.com

Weekend’s Best Bet Continued…

In running through TCM’s lineup for this weekend, I came across far too many good flicks to list in my regular viewing recommendations in the left column. Not only are there a number of gems showing this weekend, but I have already written about them. So click on the links below to learn more about the movies and consider checking them out yourself this weekend. P.S. All times are Eastern Standard Time and on the U.S. programming schedule.

Beware, My Lovely
6:30 pm Friday on TCM
Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan

The Lost Weekend
10 pm Friday on TCM
Ray Milland, Jane Wyman

Sunrise
8 pm Saturday on TCM
Janet Gaynor, George O’Brien

The Great Race
1 pm Sunday on TCM
Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon

Butterfield 8
10 pm Sunday on TCM
Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey

 

Shoulder Arms

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Shoulder Arms (1918)

The Little Tramp has never looked so well kempt as when he is in uniform, but Charlie Chaplin‘s daring war comedy Shoulder Arms risked offending audiences at the time. Ready for release in 1918, World War I was not quite over and Chaplin was advised that audiences might not want to see him make light of the serious subject. Others said Americans needed the pick-me-up, and so Chaplin went through with the scheduled release on Oct. 20 that year. It was very well received.

Forget the usual raggedy slouch pants and scruffy derby hat the Tramp usually wears, Chaplin’s character this time wears slightly oversized uniform pants and a jacket a size too small. His shoes are their usual oversized sort, and the helmet of “Doughboy” is not far from his usual chapeau either.

Shoulder Arms opens on Doughboy in training and having a hard time holding his weapon properly or turning about face. He is often scolded by his superior officer for walking pigeon-toed, which naturally brings all the silliness possible to a march. Going for a nap, Doughboy next takes us to the trenches “over there.” A nice tracking shot follows Chaplin as he strolls obliviously through the trench and back, with explosions happening just behind him all the time –indicated audibly by a slide whistle and drum-cymbal crash.

The troops have a decent underground bunk room where Doughboy sets up his back-scratching cheese grater and finds his feet might be too long for the bed. The bunk room is decent until the rain starts pouring in. By the time Doughboy gets leave to rest, his bed is underwater. This does not phase him as he fluffs his soaked pillow and pulls the submerged blankets over him. His snoring neighbor gets disrupted, however, when Doughboy’s annoyance at the noise results in a wave of water sloshing over the other soldier’s face.

The rest of this 36-minute short includes Doughboy’s leaving the trenches for the field of battle –where he disguises himself as a tree– only to end up finding Edna Purviance’s character and taking refuge in her home. As can be expected of the tramp character, his bumbling ways result in his capturing the top German foe and delivering them to his superiors.

Chaplin is his usual great self, bringing us a character who behaves so nonchalantly while disturbing everything around him. Chaplin often had his Tramp behave in this way where he goes about some unnatural activity with the greatest of ease. In this case it was getting into an underwater bed. In The Kid it was preparing a meal in the manner that poverty dictated he must. These straight-faced scenes offer great amusement in both the well-rehearsed movement of the star as well as the absurdity of the activities. Watch the entire movie here:

Source: Robert Osborne

Hard Luck & The Bell Boy

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Hard Luck (1921)

Hard Luck is a Buster Keaton gem released by Metro in 1921 before it became one of the Ms in MGM. The short-subject flick was lost for about 60 years before it was refurbished although not in its entirety, depending on the source of your version.

Buster starts out having just been jilted by a lady and seeing no hope for life henceforth. He attempts to be hit by a trolley that stops just short of him before stealing some rope to use as a noose. He cannot seem to get the mechanics on hanging himself right before a couple police officers come after him. When noticing a waiter’s bottle of “poison” on a shelf, Buster then tries to do himself in by oral means but is unaware the bottle is just disguised booze.

Now drunk, Buster wanders into a dinner with the high hats that run the local zoo. They need a man to hunt down an armadillo to complete the facility’s collection, and Buster takes the job. Fishing for his dinner during this expedition, Buster uses the fish he catches to hook increasingly larger versions until he ends up with nothing. The man next wanders into a country club and its fox hunt. Seeing a new lady he likes, he joins the hunt, or tries to. Using his acrobatic skills, Buster has to find creative ways to board his horse, of which he is repeatedly knocked off. His next adventure involves fighting some wanted criminals while in a saloon.

The picture is meant to close on Keaton, his character having been let down by another woman, jumping from a high dive only to land beside the pool, making a deep hole. The version aired on TCM indicated three minutes of the picture went missing and all we were left with is an intertitle saying “A year later” and a still shot of Buster with Chinese wife and children. You can see the missing footage in the version available on YouTube, although it is certainly of lower quality than the rest of the picture.

     Bell Boy from 1918 is my first exposure to Roscoe Arbuckle, and this flick that pairs him with Keaton and other acrobatic actors was a lot of fun. The set for this hotel where the action takes place reminded me considerably of Keaton’s The Haunted House, and I kept waiting for the massive stairway to convert into a slide. Both Fatty Arbuckle and Buster work as bell boys at this sort of slapdash lodging where the elevator is operated by a horse outside pulling on a rope.

The two have their mishaps and gags working with a man who looks like Rasputin –who through Arbuckle’s shave-and-haircut work becomes Ulysses S. Grant and Abe Lincoln– and in flirting with the new manicurist. The two are pretty well matched with Al “Fuzzy” St. John as the hotel desk clerk, who is just as athletic as Keaton. There are all sorts of leaping and slipping and prying Buster’s head from the elevator.  It is hard to do anything but praise these short films because they are so entertaining without having to keep the audience engaged with an enthralling plot for more than 30 minutes. We are not here to see the resolution of the romantic story but to take in the gags.

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