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The Better 'ole

Overview

The Better 'Ole was based on a play by Bruce Bairnsfather and Arthur Elliot, which was itself inspired by a cartoon character created by Bairnsfather during WWI. Decked out in a lavish paintbrush mustache, Sydney Chaplin is cast as Bairnsfather's immortal British army sergeant Old Bill, whose philosophy is "If you know of a better 'ole [foxhole, that is], go find it!" Convinced that his CO Charles Gerrard is a spy for the Kaiser, Old Bill dons a German uniform and sneaks behind enemy lines. The upshot of all this...
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Overview

The Better 'Ole was based on a play by Bruce Bairnsfather and Arthur Elliot, which was itself inspired by a cartoon character created by Bairnsfather during WWI. Decked out in a lavish paintbrush mustache, Sydney Chaplin is cast as Bairnsfather's immortal British army sergeant Old Bill, whose philosophy is "If you know of a better 'ole [foxhole, that is], go find it!" Convinced that his CO Charles Gerrard is a spy for the Kaiser, Old Bill dons a German uniform and sneaks behind enemy lines. The upshot of all this is that our hero is captured by his own men and sentenced to a firing squad! Through sheer dumb luck, Old Bill clears himself and reveals the identity of the actual spy. For many years, The Better Ole was available only in the incomplete version stored at the University of Wisconsin; recently, however, the film was restored to its original length and pictorial quality, and its Vitaphone musical soundtrack complete with overture was likewise saved from extinction. The film was directed by Chuck Reisner, who began his career as an assistant to Sydney Chaplin's brother Charlie Chaplin.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Janiss Garza
Sydney Chaplin was as skilled a pantomimist as his more famous younger brother, Charles Chaplin. The elder sibling, however, lacked the drive to become a star (in fact, he much preferred staying behind the scenes as Charles' business advisor). Nevertheless, Sydney turned in some impressive comedy performances during the silent era, and he shines as Old Bill in this second version of Bruce Bairnsfater's famed play and comic strip. With his natural good looks hidden behind a bushy mustache, Chaplin fully becomes the character -- a bumbling old soldier who gets no respect from anyone (and who isn't particularly willing to dish out any respect, either). Old Bill has a number of brilliant moments, the most memorable being his pantomime of a superior officer (you can almost see the monocle falling out of his eye), and his adventures with Alf (Jack Ackroyd) when they're both dressed up in a horse's costume and frantically trying to escape some drunken Germans. Chaplin dominates the film -- Ackroyd is merely an able assistant, and as Bert, Harold Goodwin is merely handsome window dressing. Only Edgar Kennedy as the irascible Corporal Quint, manages to hold his own. Lovers of silent comedy who want to venture outside of the Charlie Chaplin-Harold Lloyd-Buster Keaton canon, will want to catch this film on one of the rare occasions it runs on TV or in a revival theater.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/16/2009
  • UPC: 883316165256
  • Original Release: 1926
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Presentation: B&W / Full Frame
  • Time: 1:37:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 82,698

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Sidney Chaplin Old Bill
Doris Hill Joan
Harold Goodwin Bert
Theodore Lorch Gaspard
Charles Gerrard The Major
Tom McGuire English General
Jack Ackroyd Alf
Tom Kennedy The Blacksmith
Arthur Clayton The Colonel
Edgar Kennedy Cpl. Quint
Technical Credits
Charles "Chuck" Riesner Director, Screenwriter
Ed DuPar Cinematographer
Walter Robinson Cinematographer
Sandy Roth Asst. Director
Darryl F. Zanuck Screenwriter
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