When Comedy Was King
Robert Youngson's second feature-length compilation of silent comedy highlights (the first was The Golden Age of Comedy), When Comedy Was King covers the years 1914 to 1929. Using snipettes from the 1929 Charley Chase 2-reeler Movie Night as a framing device, Youngson offers vintage clips from the silent era's greatest clowns. The film's first section is devoted to Charlie Chaplin's formative Keystone comedies, notably Kid Auto Races at Venice and His Trysting Place (the humor in this sequence is slightly dampened by the narrator's sanctimonious comments concerning Chaplin's political views). We are next regaled with Fatty Arbuckle and Mabel Normand in the riotous Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1915), followed by top-hatted Wallace Beery chaining 17-year-old Gloria Swanson to the railroad tracks in Teddy at the Throttle (1916). From Sennett, we move to the studios of Hal Roach, where wacky inventor Snub Pollard holds court in It's a Gift (1923) and Edgar Kennedy, Stu Erwin, Anita Garvin and Marion Byron try and fail to purchase four ice cream cones in A Pair of Tights (1928). Baby-faced Harry Langdon is next on the docket, dealing with aggressive kitchen help, unwelcome old pals and a mysterious spy in The First Hundred Years (1925). Next up, Buster Keaton inadvertently lays waste to a police parade in the brilliant 2-reeler Cops (1922). Brief snippets of such mid-1920s Mack Sennett stars as Billy Bevan, Andy Clyde and Ben Turpin follow Langdon and Keaton. The closing sequence of When Comedy Was King consists of the 1929 Laurel and Hardy tit-for-tat classic Big Business, virtually in its entirety.