Wednesday, May 27, 2015
The Sweet Spot
I was looking at promotional material for a series of Harry Sweet comedies distributed by Universal in the early 1920s. The plots suggest that Sweet favored larger-than-life comedy situations. Harry converts a bathtub into an automobile in Bath Day (1922). He flies an airplane to Mars in Hello, Mars! (1922). In Speed 'em Up (1922), Harry comes to a farm community to sell an energizing elixir called "Peppo." When Peppo is put into chicken feed, the chickens produce a mountain of eggs. A mischievous little boy (Johnny Fox) pours Peppo into ice cream served at a barn dance, which causes all of the revelers to become amorous.
In No Brains (1922), Harry takes a job in a warehouse and soon infuriates his fearsomely large foreman. With the foreman in hot pursuit, Harry uses a freight elevator to rush from one floor to another and back again. This routine was no doubt a copy of the elevator chase scene in Buster Keaton's The Goat (1921).
An Exhibitors' Trade Review item on the hotel comedy Hee! Haw! (1923) provided the following description of Sweet's screen persona: "[Harry Sweet] is the mild-mannered and inoffensive boob who goes his unruffled way in absolute disregard of the slings and arrows of an outraged hotel personnel."
Sadly, the vast majority of Sweet's comedies are lost. I, myself, have only seen one. But we know enough from existing materials (films, stills and reviews) that Sweet was a unique and fascinating comedian.