Unsung Comic Genius Gains Recognition


Beyond the silent pratfall trinity of Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd, competition was fierce on the supposed second tier of comic auteurs, and a major player (and ripe candidate for re-recognition) was Charley Chase. A longtime director with the prolific Hal Roach Studios (mostly for Snub Pollard), Chase eventually graduated from bit parts to slapstick hero after the career of his near identical brother, Paul Parrott, began to stumble due to persistent WW I ailments. On film, Chase was an anomaly—a straight-man farceur who had the blue-eyed good looks of John Gilbert and the cosmic bad luck of Job. The five two-reelers collected here, all directed by Leo McCarey between 1925 and 1926, are models of the much missed 20-to-30-minute form: meaty in narrative scope yet compact, brisk, and never redundant, with Chase facing absurd sitcom calamity with understandable outrage and exhaustion. (The best of the lot, 1925’s His Wooden Wedding, begins with an idiotic wedding-gone-wrong scenario and ends up with Chase raising drunken hell on the deck of an actual ocean liner.) Filling out the disc is a rare 1922 short, Shine ‘Em Up, starring Chase’s brother Paul, and a new thumbnail mini-doc outlining the brothers’ lives. Kino is also releasing similar volumes dipping into the Roach-produced silent careers of Oliver Hardy (including his first collaboration with Stan Laurel, 1926’s 45 Minutes From Hollywood) and Harold Lloyd (10 early films, on two discs).

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 20, 2005

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