Slapstick Encyclopedia, Volume 3: Sennett in the Twenties

Welcome to the third week of my exploration of the Slapstick Encyclopedia set! Volume 3, appearing on the second disc of the set, is titled “Sennett in the Twenties” and features six shorts produced, as the volume’s title would suggest, at Mack Sennett’s studio in the 1920s. All of these six films were produced mid-decade and released in 1925 or 1926.

On to the reviews!

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Saturday Afternoon (1926)
Directed by: Harry Edwards
Starring: Harry Langdon, Alice Ward and Vernon Dent
Run time: 30 minutes
The introduction to this film states, “Two of the greatest icons of silent film comedy were developed at Mack Sennett’s studio: Chaplin’s Little Tramp and Harry Langdon’s Little Elf.” This short, co-written by Frank Capra (!), stars Langdon as a man who schemes to get into a little bit of trouble with his best friend without his wife finding out. This short is conventional and predictable, but its thirty minutes are filled with laughs, and Alice Ward gives a great performance as Harry’s stern wife. There’s also a really great scene near the end where Langdon sits perched between two moving cars.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies (1925)
Directed by: Del Lord
Starring: Billy Bevan, Andy Clyde and Lillian Knight
Run time: 20 minutes
Here’s another film that Capra contributed to. Sennett, according to the introduction to Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies, told his actors to downplay their performances for this story, but they didn’t listen and as a result, “blood vessels are burst in the usual Sennett style.” Since the film follows an inventor, there is, of course, some great physical comedy to be had here (often in the form of electric shocks). My favorite scene has a pile-up of cars somehow being pushed by a single man, only to tumble over a cliff. I also really enjoyed the technological aspect of the story simply because the gadgets and inventions are fun to look at! There’s a bit of a quirk factor in the use of odd costumes and special effects, which are a lot of fun to watch. Andy Clyde is great as the inventor, Burbank Watts. One negative: beware the use of racial stereotypes during the Halloween party scene.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Wandering Willies (1926)
Directed by: Del Lord
Starring: Billy Bevan, Andy Clyde and Ruth Hiatt
Run time: 20 minutes
Del Lord was one of Sennett’s favorite directors to work with, according to the introduction to this short. The intro also states that though completed in the fall of 1925, this film wasn’t released until 1926 because the big chase scene was re-written and re-shot so many times. However long it took them to make a decision on that climactic scene, it all turned out for the best: the film is very funny. Once again I was impressed with Andy Clyde, who brought a lot of the laughs for me. He and Bevan make a good comedic team.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Circus Today (1926)
Directed by: Lloyd Bacon and Del Lord
Starring: Billy Bevan, Andy Clyde and Madeline Hurlock
Run time: 20 minutes
Circus Today has Bevan and Clyde co-starring again, this time as a pair of brothers born two years apart who have left home together and joined a circus. There are some crazy animal gags in this film — a monkey dancing around with a boot covering the majority of its body, for example — and plenty of very funny stunts carried out by the actors. More than anything else, I really enjoyed the score that accompanies this film in the Slapstick Encyclopedia set. The little organ-generated sound effects thrown in made me feel like I was watching the film with live accompaniment. The music is attributed to Eric Beheim.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

His Marriage Wow (1925)
Directed by: Harry Edwards
Starring: Harry Langdon, Natalie Kingston, Vernon Dent and William McCall
Run time: 21 minutes
Though not as packed full with gags as the rest of the films on this disc, His Marriage Wow is a great watch, possibly my favorite from Volume 3. The style of comedy is less zany, but is still hilarious. The story follows a man who nearly misses his wedding after turning up at the wrong church, and the lengths he must go to in order to correct his mistake. The story told is an interesting one, and Langdon gives a great performance as the bundle-of-nerves groom-to-be.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

All Night Long (1925)
Directed by: Harry Edwards
Starring: Harry Langdon, Natalie Kingston and Vernon Dent
Run time:  minutes 1:54 – 2:12
This film was included in the Slapstick Encyclopedia to show the development of Harry Langdon’s comedic style, from the frantic and gag-tastic trademark of Sennett’s films to his own slower, more understated style. Capra wrote the story for this flick, and Langdon does very well with the material. The change of pace works well for him, and he really shines here, whereas in some of his other work he winds up outshone by his supports. His facial expressions are a wonder to behold, especially in the scene where his character has dinner at Nanette’s house.

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4 thoughts on “Slapstick Encyclopedia, Volume 3: Sennett in the Twenties

  1. Your post inspired me to do a search on amazon for the Mack Sennett bio “King of Comedy” and it’s listed for a VERY reasonable price.

    Of course, there’s no point in ordering just one item from amazon, so here we go again…

    Like

    1. Haha, I both love and hate Amazon for that $35 free shipping rule! I always go on to check out the DVD deals and end up ordering five or six at a time so I can get the free shipping.

      Like

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