From Muted Mayhem to Silent Screams

Way back on the first day of Summer, I began a “Slapstick Series” to explore the earliest days of that comedic genre within film. Along the way, I took a break to focus on THIS — which still takes up much of my time and attention (please help!) — and didn’t quite make it all the way to my intended grand finale double-feature.

Speaking of which, I’d planned to end with the 1st Harold Lloyd appearance as his “Glasses” character, followed by the 1st movie written, directed, and starring Buster Keaton. Looks like now I’ve got a pretty strong opening bill lined up for next Summer instead.

But now it’s October and my favorite time of year. The days shorten, the leaves are dying and falling to the ground where they’ll decompose. Soon it’ll be Halloween. And thus the perfect time to explore Horror movies in their infancy, which I plan to do in a “Silent Screams” series starting tomorrow.

As for the 2012 Summer Slapstick Series — R.I.P., you were loved. Below are each of its entries, listed alongside the silent film spotlighted within:

  1. The 1st Movie ComedyThe Sprinkler Sprinkled (1895)
  2. Wrestling w/ MeliesThe Fat and Lean Wrestling Match (1900)
  3. The 1st True SlapstickAn Interesting Story (1904)
  4. Pre-IconicA Story Well Spun (1906)
  5. Exhibit E. PorterGetting Evidence (1906)
  6. Key Stepping StoneThe Policemen’s Little Run (1907)
  7. A Killer JokeThat Fatal Sneeze (1907)
  8. The Original Queen of ComedyLaughing Gas (1907)
  9. Dark ComedyThe Thieving Hand (1908)
  10. A Step BackThe Runaway Horse (1908)
  11. TimelessA Very Fine Lady (1908)
  12. Outside The TableauChimney Sweep (1906)
  13. Key Foundation CornerstoneThe Bricklayers (1905)
  14. VaudevilliansRobetta and Doretto, No. 2 (1895)
  15. The 1st Pie FaceMr. Flip (1909)
  16. Ladies, Please!Those Awful Hats (1909)
  17. Multilevel ComedyThe Irresistible Piano (1907)
  18. Semi-MetaA Fall from Five Floors (1906)
  19. Don’t Sleep on TheseThe Rolling Bed (1907)
  20. A Vehicle for ComedyThe ‘?’ Motorist (1906)
  21. Passing the TorchThe Race for the Sausage (1907)
  22. Laugh OlympicsAn Obstacle Course (1906)
  23. When Harry Met ZeccaSlippery Jim (1910)
  24. Character DevelopmentHow Bumptious Papered the Parlour (1910)
  25. Moving OnAlkali Ike’s Auto (1911)
  26. Comedic Timing – Onésime, Clockmaker (1912)
  27. Before The FameTroublesome Secretaries (1911)
  28. Laugh With LinderTroubles of a Grasswidower (1912)
  29. Keystone Mack [Sennett] DaddyThe Water Nymph (1912)
  30. Keystone “Cops”The Bangville Police (1913)
  31. Villainy DefinedBarney Oldfield’s Race for a Life (1913)
  32. The 1st FattyPeeping Pete (1913)
  33. Chaplin’s First FilmMaking a Living (1914)
  34. The Tramp AppearsKid Auto Races at Venice (1914)
  35. Creating The TrampMabel’s Strange Predicament (1914)
  36. The Movie DickPool Sharks (1915)
  37. The Super FriendsA Film Johnnie (1914)
  38. Two of a KindFox Trot Finesse (1915)
  39. Laurel before Hardy, Hardy before Laurel – The Servant Girl’s Legacy (1914)
Hope you enjoy, and thank you!

 

 

Slapstick Summer Series: Laugh Olympics | An Obstacle Course (1906)

In honor of tonight’s Opening Ceremonies — Guy’s Une course d’obstacle.

Slapstick Summer Series: Passing the Torch | The Race for the Sausage (1907)

The similarities to The Policemen’s Little Run, released earlier the same year, are obvious. Each have their own merits and choosing one over the other ultimately comes down to personal preference.

More significant than the movie itself are the circumstances revolving at the time around the film’s production company, Gaumontand co-Directors, Alice Guy and Louis Feuillade. Guy, serving as Gaumont’s Artistic Director since 1896, first bought scripts from Feuillade beginning in 1905, and then finally convinced him to give directing a shot as well.

Still, most of the Gaumont films from this period, such as The Race for the Sausage, were either explicitly directed or closely supervised by Guy. In preparation for her upcoming move to the United Stated to serve as Production Manager for Gaumont’s New York operations — and to be with new husband, Herbert Blaché — Guy was also molding her successor. When the time came for her to bid France a farewell, she suggested Feuillade as her replacement. By late 1907, Guy-Blaché was living on a different continent, and Feuillade was Gaumont’s new Artistic Director.

Slapstick Summer Series: Don’t Sleep on These | The Rolling Bed (1907)

Let’s say you’re Louis Feuillade and you want to top two previous movies centered around mattress hi-jinks (Guy’s The Drunken Mattress and Melies’s The Tramp and the Mattress Makers). How would you go about doing this? Why, utilizing the entire bed of course! With the shortest run-time of the three, we are reminded that bigger isn’t always better, and in this case, smaller is actually bedder. <- Oh yes, I went there.

Slapstick Summer Series: Semi-Meta | A Fall from Five Floors (1906)

As one might expect, the pioneers of motion pictures (being photographers themselves) often used the photographing process itself as a plot device within their films. With the evolution of prank-based comedies towards slaptick, a natural transition existed for these meta-ish films to introduce situations whereby the intended targets of still-shots instead remain in motion, resulting in chaos for the cameraman [anyone with kids can easily relate to this dilemma].

Melies was not the first to explore this subject [see Guy’s At the Photographer’s and two films by Porter: Photographing a Country Couple and The Old Maid Having Her Picture Taken], but his Une chute de cinq étages is surely the most elaborate and entertaining of the bunch. “Toro! Toro!” anyone?

Slapstick Summer Series: Multilevel Comedy | The Irresistible Piano (1907)

Alice Guy continues her exploration and expansion of the slapstick genre by moving from horizontal space (as utilized in the “chase” films) to vertical space. In Le piano irrésistible, music seeps through walls and ceilings to charm all those within hearing range. On a related note, Guy also worked with up-and-comer Louis Feuillade to provide multi-floored comedy involving the world’s worst cleaning man.

Slapstick Summer Series: Key Foundation Cornerstone | The Bricklayers (1905)

Alice Guy’s Les Maçons provides plenty of comedic action, and with slapsticky coppers pre-dating those of Keystone by a decade.