Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Many Straight Men of Joey Faye

Faye in Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
In 1937, New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia went on a campaign to shut down burlesque theatres, which he regarded as a "corrupting moral influence."  As the campaign heated up, burlesque mogul Abraham Minsky was summoned to a meeting at the office of license commissioner Paul Moss.  The meeting was, according to the Motion Picture Herald, "stormy."  Minsky was angry and didn't want to be there.  He announced plainly to the commissioner, "I have no interest in these proceedings."  Moss was smug and succinct in his response.  "I have an interest in you," he replied.  Minsky, unwilling to cooperate further with the proceedings, grabbed his hat and coat and started for the door.  He stopped suddenly in the doorway to face the commissioner and tell him what he thought of him.  "You, Mr. Moss," he said, "you think you’re running the whole country.  This has been going on for 25 years and you have been in office three years and you haven’t done anything yet.  If you want to close them up, I say, go on and close them up!"


The mayor shut down the city’s 14 burlesque theatres in quick succession.  In August, 1937, Motion Picture Herald reported that seven of the theatres were being reopened "without the nudity and with the jokes and skits well-cleaned."  The magazine stated, simply, that the shows had been “de-Minskied."  But the new shows were not well-received.  A New York Post critic who visited one of the theatres described the comedy skits as "clean" and "moth-eaten."  The theatres were unable to stay in business.  Minsky’s flagship house, the Gaiety Theatre, was converted into a movie house in September. 

This prompted the Minsky comedians like Joey Faye to find work elsewhere.  In March, 1938, Faye teamed up with Bert Grant for the "Ann Coro Unit," a burlesque revue which opened at Fay’s in Philadelphia.  Reviews made it clear that the strippers were the dominant feature of the show.  Faye and Grant were briefly given the stage to perform "Slowly I Turned." 

As his next move, Faye ventured out to Broadway, where he enjoyed immediate success in the farcical "Room Service" and the musical comedy "Sing Out the News."  Unfortunately, this early success proved to be short-lived.  In the coming years, the ex-burlesque comic found it difficult to secure a place in the non-burlesque theatre world.  Throughout the next decade, Faye alternated straight men as he sought to establish himself in nightclubs and Broadways shows.

In June, 1942, a condensed version of the musical comedy "Meet the People" opened at His Majesty's Theater in Montreal.  The "masters of merriment," according to Billboard, were Faye, Jack Albertson and Ted Arkin.  Albertson proved to be an effortless straight man to Faye.  Billboard reported, "Faye and Albertson bowl them over while doing a series of sketches."  Arkin, the other merriment master, performed solo bits.  Billboard notes, "Arkin is a riot as a one-man court session, dealing with the Dies investigation of Hollywood."  The show arrived at New York’s La Conga nightclub in August.  Billboard noted, "Most amusing scenes were the draft board (corny but still very funny), the lecturer-sneezing bit and the stuttering blackout.  Outstanding specialties were provided by Marian Colby, in comedy singing; Ted Arkin, movie star impersonations, and Joey Faye, stuttering and sneezing bits."

It wasn't long after "Meet the People" that Faye appeared in two failed Broadway shows - “The Milky Way” (15 performances) and "Boy Meets Girl" (15 performances).

Billboard reported the following on February 6, 1943:
"Joey Faye and Murray Leonard, comic and straight man respectively, entertained President Roosevelt in Washington January 27 at the Foreign Correspondents' Dinner.  On their return both opened at Leon & Eddie's for four weeks."
A month later, Faye reunited with Jack Albertson for an audition at CBS studios.  Faye and Albertson remained together throughout the year.  Under the auspices of the American Theater Wing, the duo visited the Curtiss-Wright plants in New Jersey to entertain war workers.  Their midday show was called "The Lunch Time Follies."

Faye and Albertson were featured in the burlesque musical "Allah Be Praised!", which opened at the Adelphi Theatre on April 20, 1944.  The unlikely plot involved a U.S. Senator's sister who seeks to join a Persian harem.  The New York Daily News noted, "Little Joey Faye, a good burlesque comedian, works manfully with too little to do."  The show closed after 20 performances.

Faye and Albertson traveled far and wide with their act.  Albertson said, "Once Joey Faye and I were doing a little revue together and we were up in Three Rivers, Canada.  We really bombed.  That audience was like facing the Nuremberg jury.  So when we left the stage we asked the stage manager what was wrong with them.  He said, 'Those people are French.  They don't speak English.'" 

In 1946, Faye starred in the Broadway musical "The Duchess Misbehaves."  Broadway historian Dan Dietz wrote in The Complete Book of 1940s Musicals, "With just a five-performance run and a unanimous drubbing by the critics, the production was the shortest-run musical and one of the decade's major flops."


Faye never slowed down despite his Broadway misfires.  It was at this time that he joined up with Jack Diamond, who had been one of his original straight men at Minsky’s Republic Theatre.  At first, Faye and Diamond performed in the revue "Windy City," which closed during a pre-Broadway try-out.  With no time lost, the duo moved on to a Broadway revue called "Tidbits of 1946."  Their one original sketch in the show was called "Psychiatry in Technicolor," which was a spoof of Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound.  Faye played a psychiatrist and Diamond turned up as the Oedipus Rex.  Dietz wrote, "The revue Tidbits of 1946 was a fast-folding flop which lasted just one week and went down in the record books as the season's shortest running musical."  Later that year, the comedians received more favorable reviews for a performance at the El Morraco Club.

Irving Benson
In 1947, Faye formed a double act with Irving Benson for a night club revue called "Fun for Your Money."  The comic was pulled out of the show prematurely because, according to the American Guild of Variety Artists, he owed commissions to the William Morris agency.

Faye received a significant supporting role in the mystery farce "Three Indelicate Ladies," which opened at New Haven’s Shubert Theatre on April 10, 1947.  The titular ladies (Elaine Stritch, Jayn Fortner and Ann Thomas) receive help from a gangster (Bela Lugosi) to solve a murder.  Billboard reported, “Joey Faye, as a highly impressionable furniture dealer, was grand with his short bit, and by use of the mugging technique he has developed got a lot more out of the lines than the author wrote in."  The show, despite generally good reviews, closed little more than a week later.

Bela Lugosi and Elaine Stritch in "Three Indelicate Ladies."

Producer Frank Satenstein arranged for Faye and Diamond to appear together in the crime drama Close Up, but only Faye made it into the finished film.

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In 1947, Faye acted as Phil Silvers’ sidekick in the Broadway musical "High Button Shoes."  The show was a major success, garnering Faye his best reviews in years.

Faye maintained loyal friendships with his old colleagues.  In June, 1948, he made a special appearance at Union City’s Hudson Theatre, where Diamond was appearing as the principal comedian.  The two comedians stopped the show to perform one of their old sketches.  Later that year, Faye took Silvers’ role in "High Button Shoes" and arranged for Diamond to play the sidekick role.  When Diamond left the show to appear in "Kiss Me Kate," Faye got the show’s producers to replace Diamond with another of his old partners, Jack Albertson.

In 1948, Faye teamed with Zero Mostel for a short-lived WABD television series called Off The Record.  No one was the straight man in this combo.


Faye took on a new partner, Mandy Kaye, for his sketch comedy show Joey Faye’s Frolics, which lasted for two weeks on CBS in 1950.  Faye and Kaye worked together again in a burlesque film, Hurly Burly, which was shot by Cinema Service Corporation in August of 1950.  The team were still together the following year when they appeared together on the game show Guess Again.  During this period, the men also performed a boxing bit at the Palace Theatre.


For a sizable run (350 performances from November 1, 1951 to October 4, 1952), Faye and Albertson lent support to Phil Silvers in the highly acclaimed musical comedy "Top Banana."  The team took time during the play’s run to make an appearance on the Kate Smith television series in March, 1952.

Faye kept busy in television in the 1950s.  He had guest star roles in popular series, including The Real McCoys, 77 Sunset Strip and Perry Mason.  Raymond Burr would have made a great straight man in the "Mustard" bit.

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Also, Faye played lead roles in anthology series.  In the Inner Sanctum episode "Nobody Laughs at Lou" (1954), Faye played a down-and-out ex-vaudeville comedian who has a run-in with a pair of gun men.  Faye was again part of a team in the Armstrong Circle Theatre episode "Ring Twice for Christmas" (1954).  Faye and Nathaniel Frey play a couple of thieves who crash an affluent holiday party by dressing as Santa Claus and Santa’s helper. 

In 1954, Faye starred opposite Herb Corey in a revival of "The Boys from Syracuse" at the Pitt Stadium in Pittsburgh.

In 1958, Faye was able to work with Albertson again on three projects.  First, the actors played a pair of wicked princes in an episode of Shirley Temple's Storybook called "The Land of Green Ginger."  Second, they played bumbling lawmen Dogberry and Verges in a Matinee Theatre production of Shakespeare’s "Much Ado About Nothing."  Finally, they starred in a 1954 Los Angeles production of ''Waiting for Godot"  Faye’s performance as Gogo earned the stage veteran a best actor award from the West Coast Critics Association.



To many baby boomers, Faye is best known for his pairing with Mickey Deems in the slapstick-heavy Mack & Myer for Hire sitcom.  One-hundred 12-minute episodes were produced from 1963 to 1964.

Faye appeared opposite Tom Ewell in a 1971 off-Broadway revival of "Waiting for Godot."

In the 1980s, Faye appeared in burlesque revivals opposite Harry Goz, who was also one of Faye's partners in the classic Fruit of the Loom commercials.  Goz played the exuberant Apple opposite Faye's giggly Grapes.

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In his final years, Fay found an able and enthusiastic sketch partner in Michael Townsend Wright, a young actor who was a fan of the old burlesque skits.  Wright, who was an authority on vaudeville legends Smith and Dale, persuaded Faye to add Smith and Dale’s "Dr. Kronkheit" skit to their repertoire.


Another Stroll Down Flugel Street


The "Flugel Street" routine, which was discussed in a recent post, was performed for decades by a variety of comedians.

Bert Lahr's son, John, claimed that his father performed an early version of "Flugel Street" for a Billy K. Wells revue called "The Best Show in Town."  Lahr included the script for the routine in his father's biography.  But this particular skit had nothing in common with "Flugel Street" other than the fact that an angry union supporter destroyed a poor sap's hat. 

Based on the script, I can describe accurately what the audience saw at the time.  Lahr comes out on stage to sing a song, but a cornet player in the band hits a sour note that approximates a Bronx cheer.  Lahr argues with the cornet player.  The bandleader is quick to intercede.  He tells Lahr that the cornet player is part of their union and they won't stand for Lahr "picking on" a fellow union member.  The Straight Man takes the band's side in the argument.  He checks Lahr's hat for a union label.  When he fails to find a union label, he punches his hand through the hat, throws the hat to the floor, and stomps on the hat until it is battered beyond usefulness.  The Straight man stops Lahr from picking up the hat.  "Don’t touch that!" he barks.  "A union man!  Why you’re nothing but a scab.  A fine union man you are.  You don’t even know where Western Union is."  Lahr tries to subject another man to the same dressing down, but he gets the words all wrong.  When he finds that the man doesn't have a union label in his hat, he crushes the hat over his knee.  "You’re a fine union man," he tells the man.  "Vhy, you don’t even know where the Union Station is!"

It is hard to believe that John Lahr was correct to call this the "Flugel Street" routine.  No character in the script mentions Flugel Street or any other street.

The "Flugel Street" routine, as we know it today, takes place on a city street, where the hapless comedian is exposed to a steady stream of hostile passersby.  Rather than the comedian wearing a non-union hat, the comedian is unknowingly violating a union strike by delivering hats to a company in the grip of a work stoppage.  Wells continually revised the routine over several theatre seasons.

In 1935, Minsky's burlesque shows brought together a strong stock company of comedians, which included Joey Faye, Jack Diamond, Sidney Fields and Murray Leonard.  These entertainers came to be the embodiments of raucous, Depression-era burlesque comedy.  Faye and Fields reworked the “Flugel Street” bit, no doubt making it more aggressive and surreal.  A critic who reviewed the Minsky’s show for the Brooklyn Eagle described "Flugel Street" as "a sketch in which a man asks a passerby how to get to a certain address, and has his questions twisted until he winds up in a fight with the questionee."
 
Faye and Rags Ragland became Minsky's "Flugel Street" specialists.  In 1938, the routine was filmed with Faye and Ragland for Vitaphone's "Broadway Brevities" series.  The film's title, Hats and Dogs, related to the fact that a dog's destruction of a man's hat necessitates the search for the hat company.  Faye and Ragland were still performing the routine in 1941 when they appeared at the Palace Theatre in Olean, New York.  The following year, Faye, Murray Leonard and Milt Bronson made the routine the highlight of The Lambs Club's "Strip for Action" revue at the National Theatre. 

In 1942, an early preview of the Broadway hit "Star and Garter" included a version of "Flugel Street" performed by Bobby Clark.  This version of the routine was unique in that it featured a musical number, "Noises in the Street."   

Faye teamed up with Jack Albertson to perform the "Flugel Street" routine at State Theatre in 1943.  For an unknown reason, the street name was changed from Flugel Street to Libbey Street.

Film historian Bruce Eder wrote, "Shortly after World War II, [Jack] Diamond worked with comic legend Joey Faye in a short film based on the classic routine 'Floogle Street.'"  No record of this film can be found in news records or Imdb listings.  Film historian Ron Hutchinson suggested that this film might have been a "Soundie," a three-minute film that was produced for coin-operated movie jukeboxes from 1940 to 1946.

Faye and Diamond were the comedy leads of a Broadway revue called "Tidbits of 1946."  Billboard reported, "Neither Diamond nor Faye get their comedy legs under them until they dust off the old burly standby, ‘Flugle Street,’ as a wind-up."  The routine was billed in the program as "Meet Me on Flugle Street."

Faye played a furniture dealer in the mystery farce “Three Indelicate Ladies,” which opened at New Haven’s Shubert Theatre on April 10, 1947.  The show’s cast, which also included Bela Lugosi, Elaine Stritch and Ray Walston, found an interesting way to gain publicity for the show.  Billboard reported,
"Joey Faye, assisted by Bela Lugosi and others of the cast of ‘Three Indelicate Ladies’. . . invaded the stage of the Casino during the Friday midnighter and gave an impromptu interpretation of ‘Flugel Street’ bit.  It was a burly debut for all except for Faye."
It is hard not to laugh imagining Lugosi, with his thick Hungarian accent, asking Faye, "Is that a Susquehanna hat?"

In 1948, Faye and Diamond played the lead roles in yet another short film based on "Flugel Street."  This film was produced at the WRGB studios in Schnectady, New York. 

Phil Silvers brought the routine to national television on January 20, 1949.  Columnist Walter Winchell wrote, "On his telesee show Phil Silvers revived the 'Flugel Street' routine.  That's hoary enough to have the hills call it poppa."  Faye was making regular appearances on Silvers’ show at the time and it is more than likely that he played a role in the routine’s television debut.

Faye in an early television appearance.
It was reported in a brief news item that Faye, himself, staged the routine for a television show in 1950.  The reporter failed to name the show, but it was likely either Joey Faye's Frolics or The Fifty-Fourth Street Revue.


In October, 1951, a nostalgic two-hour, all-star burlesque show staged at Boston's historic Howard Athenæum theatre featured a rendition of "Flugel Street."  Billboard reported, "[T]he highlight of a heartwarming show was the great 'Flugel Street' burly classic done amid bursting straw skimmers and shrieks of dismay by Jack Albertson and Herbie Faye."  The show also featured Faye, Phil Silvers and Jack E. Leonard, who likely played parts in the routine.

Faye looks on warily as Lou Costello is inducted in the Boosters club in The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959)
Television continued to be a venue for the routine.  Faye returned to the routine yet again for the television game show Life Begins at 80 in January, 1954.  Milton Berle portrayed a burlesque comic on a 1965 episode of The Trials of O'Brien called "Dead End on Flugel Street."  But it is unknown if Berle actually performed any of the famed routine on the show.


Faye appeared in a number of burlesque revivals in his later years.  He always made sure to include "Flugel Street" in the program.  Faye said that his best revival was “From Street Comedian to Minsky’s Burlesque: The Evolution of Burlesque Comedian Joey Faye,” which was staged at New York University in 1987.

I am not yet finished with "Flugel Street."  I am obtaining a copy of Faye's "Flugel Street" script from the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts.  In addition, I have requested other burlesque scripts from the University of Chicago.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Ha, Ha, Boo!


Today, we will lift the cobwebs off old news journals and examine by the flickering light of a tapered, bone-white candle a few of Hollywood's little known scare comedies. 

Funny spooks and strange doings were evident in the earliest days of film.  At first, the film titles could be plain.  Take, for example, a 1907 film in which an old miser wears a sheet and emits hideous noises to convince the townsfolk that a house is haunted.   The film, produced by Independent Moving Pictures Company, was simply called The Haunted House.  But the title of a haunted house comedy became more original and amusing in the coming years.  Possibly the best title belonged to a 1922 short comedy called The House of a Thousand Trembles.  Another amusing title, a play on an old war term, was They Shall Not Pass Out (1929).  An intriguing title was The Unemployed Ghost (1931).  Film Daily reported that Tom Howard starred in this "creepy yarn," which featured "a lot of skeleton and mysterious clutching claw business."  The film’s twist, which was plainly revealed by the title, was that Howard's new ghostly acquaintance bemoans his inability to find work haunting houses.


The 1909 play "The Ghost Breaker," written by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard, had a major influence on the "Dark Old House" horror films that became popular in the 1920s.  Many of the genre's familiar elements were present in the story.  An heiress, Maria Theresa, is aided by a Kentucky gentleman, Jarvis, and his valet, Rusty, as she searches an ancient Spanish castle for a hidden family treasure.  The heiress' cousin Carlos, who has also arrived at the castle in search of riches, has his henchmen pretend to be ghosts to frighten away the heiress and her friends.  A suit of armor seems to be possessed by a ghost as it ambles forward and attacks Jarvis with a sword.  But it is soon revealed that the true occupant of the armor is Carlos' chief henchman, Maximo.  Jarvis pushes Maximo through a trapdoor, causing the man to drop to his death in the water below.  According to the Green Book Magazine, Jarvis discovers Carlos "hiding behind a cobwebbed portrait."

Frances Raymond, Walter Hiers and Wallace Reid in The Ghost Breaker (1922).  This was the second of four screen adaptations of the 1909 play. 

Filmmakers never tired of allowing heirs and crooks to be a bigger part of these films than ghosts.  In A Haunted Heiress (1926), a crooked estate lawyer has some shady reason to make an heiress (Edna Marion) believe that her late grandfather's house is haunted.  The Film Daily reported, "The lawyer hires several men to dress up as spooks and scare the girl so she will sell cheap.  But the lawyer's clerk dresses up also as a spook, mingled with the others, and crabs their scheme."


This is what the Film Daily had to say about The Ghost of Folly (1926): "[A] sick, nervous man. . . refuses to sell his property.  The villains take advantage of his nervous condition, take a portable projector and shoot spooky visions into his room from the apertures in the walls and the ceiling.  Alice Day assumes the role of a nurse and, together with her sweetheart, tries in vain to restore peace to the haunted house.  Her two brothers and a Keaton-faced messenger boy aid immensely to the comedy value."  It may not be a coincidence that Eddie Cline, the co-director of Keaton’s Three Ages (1923), was the director of this film.

Thelma Todd and Flora Finch in The Haunted House (1928).
  

Various heirs rummage a dead millionaire's mansion to find his fortune in The Haunted House (1928).  The film's comic highlights were mostly provided by Keystone veteran Chester Conklin.  In Cold Shivers (1929), heirs attend the reading of a will, which just happens to occur at a creepy old mansion on a stormy night.

Other plots became equally commonplace.  Take, for instance, the plots of The Ghost in the Garret and The Dollar-a-Year Man, both made in 1921.  In The Ghost in the Garret, an amateur detective played by Dorothy Gish tracks thieves to a spooky old house.  In The Dollar-a-Year Man, Roscoe Arbuckle battles shady kidnappers that he has tracked to a spooky house.  The idea of crooks using a spooky house as a hideout was to be found in many haunted house comedies.

Dorothy Gish flees from Ray Grey in The Ghost in the Garret.
The ghosts come tall in The Ghost in the Garret.

Another standard plot had a newlywed couple experience car trouble in the middle of nowhere and have to spend their honeymoon night in a haunted house.  Films in this genre include The Haunted Honeymoon (1925), Bridal Night (1930), Haunted Honeymoon (1940), The Ghost and the Guest (1943), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Haunted Honeymoon (1986).

 
A cowardly comedian in a scary situation was always good for a laugh.  Raymond Ganly of Motion Picture News liked that Creeps (1926) featured heroes that were "profoundly dumb" and "susceptible to fears."  Ganly concluded, "The numerous sequences of veiled apparitions, of encounters with dead bodies lying strewn about, and with mysterious figures arrayed in black— all these lend an element of uncanniness which, mixed with a generous assortment of gags, tends to elevate this comedy above the ordinary."

It was bound to happen that many critics would grow weary of scare comedies.  Take, for instance, a Motion Picture News critic who had to review Arthur Lake's 1930 short comedy called Follow Me.  The critic noted, "The plot is stale and Arthur Lake's alleged humorous antics are proving monotonous.  They should persuade him to deviate a little from that long-legged looseness of his, which is no longer funny.  The story concerns the time-worn haunted house gag, so old that it kills whatever angles Director H. Edwards used to put it across."

Alice Day in In the Next Room (1930).
Another critic with Motion Picture News was greatly displeased with First National's In the Next Room (1930).  He wrote, "We thought this type of picture had died with the demise of other unlamented films of the 'My God, what was that?' variety."  A Variety critic was upset about an overly provocative crepe nightgown worn by Alice Day in a key scene of the film.  He wrote, "On the film fare menu, cobwebs and scream are a regular dish though In the Next Room tries to disguise its tastelessness."

A Dangerous Affair (1930)

Despite the repetition, people still responded well to this type of film when it was done right.  The critics were particularly pleased with a 1931 Columbia feature A Dangerous Affair (aka The Ghost Walks).  Motion Picture Herald reported, "An audience at the Fairfax on the Coast, where this latest Columbia Jack Holt-Ralph Graves effort was screened, was actually convulsed with laughter at some points and chilled by thrills at others, indicating real entertainment in the film, a combination of comedy, drama and mystery.  Murder, laughs, thrills, ghosts and all the rest have their share of time on the screen.  The audience apparently enjoyed hugely the comedy lines throughout the film, and was equally taken by the mysterious moments."  The film’s heroes were a police lieutenant (Holt) and a newspaper reporter (Graves) who have become good friends and have combined forces to investigate a murder case.  According to the Film Daily, much of the film’s humor comes from the pair "scrapping good-naturedly."  Film Daily further reported, "Some big stuff comes their way when a clan of fighting heirs gather in a dreary mansion at midnight to read the will of an eccentric relative.  The rest, except for variation in plot, is pretty much along familiar lines.  It is action and comedy pretty nearly all the way, and at the finish Graves gets the girl who inherited all the dough."

Filmmakers tried to disguise their lack of novelty.  The Hal Roach studio had the idea to combine a western comedy with a ghost comedy when they made Prairie Chickens in 1943.  But the critics weren't buying it.  The Film Daily reported, "Prairie Chickens is out-and-out slapstick aimed strictly at kids and adults not particular about the entertainment they get.  This sort of stuff has been done to death on the screen.  Only a person whose risibilities are easily touched will be able to work up more than a smile over the doings in the picture. . . Time has worn some of the tricks in Prairie Chickens pretty thin.  It is one of the film's assets that it runs but 46 minutes." 

Little did these critics know that the haunted house comedy genre was just getting started.  It has never ended and likely never will.


 




 

The remake of The Ghostbusters stands today as one of the most highly anticipated films on the 2016 release schedule.  Let's see if just one actor in that film can match Don Knotts' scared act from The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966).




Saturday, July 4, 2015

Random Bits: Fourth of July Edition


I came across a few interesting scenes this week.

The torn trousers bit is ratcheted up to a manic level by director Larry Semon for Vitagraph's Rips and Rushes (1917).  The film’s title is accurate labeling as the film devotes most of its running time to rips and rushes.

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Wait, here’s another rip and further rushes.

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It becomes obvious from these clips that the film’s star, Jimmy Aubrey, was a master of excessive mugging.  Perhaps, an even better title for the film would have been Rips, Rushes and Overacting.


 The funhouse mirror scene, which was most memorably performed by Harold Lloyd in Number, Please? (1920) and the Three Stooges in Don't Throw that Knife (1951), turned up in an installment of "The Gumps" series called Oh, What a Day! (1923).

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Monty Banks’ Oil's Well (1923) possibly shows the first wedgie scene in motion picture history.

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Here are a few magazine pages that caught my attention.


Finally, we have Stan Laurel enacting the "holding up an unconscious woman" bit in The Jitterbugs (1943).


 Happy Fourth of July!

Silent Film Comedy Spotlight: Seven Bald Pates (1920)


Seven Bald Pates, a comedy from the Christie Film Company, had a unique and interesting plot.  On his wedding day, Bobby Vernon learns from a friend that he is being sought by a process server.  His friend warns him that the process server is a bald man.  Bobby, who is preoccupied with last-minute wedding details, is unaware that he has dropped his marriage license.  A kindly bald man picks up the license and offers it to Bobby, but Bobby gets one glance of the man's shiny skull and flees as fast as he can.  During the wedding, Bobby's friends repeatedly hustle bald-headed guests into a back room and securely hog-tie them to make sure they keep out of the way.  Motion Picture News reported, "[T]he action is fast and often furious when the real representative of the law arrives and starts his search."


The film was co-written by Frank R. Conklin, who was one of Christie’s most prolific writers from 1919 to 1932.