September Slapstick: Laurel before Hardy, Hardy before Laurel

Laurel and Hardy were the first double act to gain worldwide fame through film. Together, they made over 100 movies — 32 were silent shorts, 23 were feature-length and contained sound. However, each was already well-established before joining as a duo:

Stanley Arthur “Stan” Jefferson [Laurel] was the older of the two. A music-hall understudy to Charlie Chaplin (pre-Keystone), he appeared in over 50 films. Buster Keaton commented on Laurel’s talent, “Chaplin wasn’t the funniest, I wasn’t the funniest, this man was the funniest.” Below is an early Larry Semon vehicle, Huns and Hyphens, which features a pre-L&H Laurel.

Oliver “Babe” Hardy, affectionately known as Ollie, began his movie career before Laurel, resulting in over 250 films before their team-up. He was from Georgia, my home (and current) state, but I won’t hold that against him. Below is The Servant Girl’s Legacy (dir. Arthur Hotaling), a short from 1914 featuring a 22-year-old Hardy.

September Slapstick: The Super Friends | A Film Johnnie (1914)

On this final day of September, I’m posting a couple entries on silent comedy teams — those two are coming later today.

Before that, I wanted to give a final shout-out to Mack Sennett and his repertory players, specifically Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, and Ford Sterling. They all make an appearance in A Film Johnnie, a meta-movie directed by George Nichols, in which Chaplin visits the Keystone Studios lot. The mayhem that follows is a prelude to the real-life relationship difficulties that soon existed between each of these stars.

September Slapstick: The Tramp Appears | Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914)

The first film appearance of Charlie Chaplin’s famous character, The Tramp.

Note that this was not the first time Chaplin donned the costume – that occurred for the filming of Mabel’s Strange Predicament. However, Kid Auto Races at Venice (directed by Henry Lehrman) was released on February 7th, 1914, two days before Mabel’s Strange Predicament.

September Slapstick: Chaplin’s First Film | Making a Living (1914)

An entire blog series can be created just for the shorts of Charles “Charlie” Chaplin, and I plan to do this for the next month starting with the letter ‘C’…maybe I should choose a different time.

Regardless, Chaplin made his film debut in the appropriately titled, Making a Living, playing a swindler and not his lovable tramp character. It was directed by Henry Lehrman and is the 6th of 12 movies featuring Mack Sennett’s Keystone Cops.

September Slapstick: Keystone Mack [Sennett] Daddy | The Water Nymph (1912)

With The Water Nymph (aka The Beach Flirt) — the very first Keystone Comedy — begins an era of dominance in movie slapstick by Mack Sennett and his repertory players.

Those who either received their first break in the movie business at Keystone, or rose to prominence therein, include Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd, Ford Sterling, Gloria Swanson, Ben Turpin, Harry Langdon, and Chester Conklin. And, of course, there’s the Sennett Bathing Beauties.

P.S. If anyone can find a higher quality version of this film, please let me know.



September Slapstick: Laugh With Linder | Troubles of a Grasswidower (1912)

The Golden Age of Slapstick was ushered in by Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle, better known by his stage name and most popular character: Max [Linder]. Widely considered the first international movie star, Linder appeared in over 500 films (100+ as the top-hatted, dandy), and by 1912 was earning a salary of one million francs. Charlie Chaplin called Max “his Professor”, and himself “Linder’s disciple”.

In Troubles of a Grasswidower, which was also directed by Linder, the influence upon Chaplin (and Sennett, Arbuckle, etc.) is easy to see:

Slapstick Summer Series: Before The Fame | Troublesome Secretaries (1911)

I was very surprised to stumble upon this [incomplete?] movie starring a pre-Keystone Mabel Normand alongside John Bunny, America’s 1st major film comedian. This was the first (and only surviving) pairing of these film comedy forebears as Normand left Vitagraph very soon after.

With an alternate title of How Betty Outwitted Her Father, The Troublesome Secretaries also features Ralph Ince — youngest of three filmmaking brothers — pulling double-duty as both actor and director.

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