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!

 

 

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: Villainy Defined | Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life (1913)

Barney Oldfield — 1st car racer to break 60mph on an oval, and later 100mph at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — is the celebrity focus of the title, but it is Ford Sterling who steals the show, hamming it up as the sneering, mustache-twisting, henchmen-having villain.

This 4th Keystone Cops movie also features Mabel Normand and Mack Sennett, who pulls double-duty as Mabel’s boyfriend as well as the film’s Director. It contains one of the earliest examples of a young damsel (Normand) tied to the tracks of an oncoming locomotive train. The rescue chase is thrilling, and the ending left me jaw-dropped stunned.

September Slapstick: Keystone “Cops” | The Bangville Police (1913)

I place “Cops” — sometimes spelled “Kops” — in quotes only because the officers in The Bangville Police more closely resemble a militia or rural vigilantes instead of the uniformed bumblers of later movies.

Regardless, this is the oldest surviving appearance of the Keystone Cops (Hoffmeyer’s Legacy is considered their first appearance, but that film is currently lost), and Mabel Normand steals the show.

 

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.

Slapstick Summer Series: Key Stepping Stone | The Policemen’s Little Run (1907)

The first intersection of chase movies with slapstick – The Policeman’s Little Run (aka La Course des Sergents de Ville, literally “The Run of the Village Constables”), directed by Ferdinand Zecca.

Preceding the Keystone Cops by 6 years, this slapstick-chase also includes a surprising trick-film sequence for added measure. The wall-climbing effect was previously done by Georges Méliès (and later by Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman & Robin), but here its impact is amplified by the scrolling camera.

 

Slapstick Summer Series! – A Story Well Spun (1906), Pre-Iconic

A lesser-known work from the world’s first female filmmaker, but one which is expertly filmed and a herald of things to come. From the start we see a Tramp-ish character as the lead, immediately pulling our mind toward Chaplin. We are then treated to an excellent chase-less chase sequence almost a decade before The Keystone Cops popularized chase films as a genre. The “stunts”, primarily created with the stop-edit replacement tricks standard for the time, are of the type that Buster Keaton would later perform without the proverbial safety-net.

Bonus: Try to spot the man pushing the barrel on the railroad tracks at the 0:50 mark.

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