Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Glue Anointment

Vidarbha Agarwal has made a number of posts on Facebook looking for a specific film comedy routine.  Here is one post:
I've been trying to track down the Chaplin film where naughty boys sever a man's coat-tail at a dance party.  Chaplin then tears the rest of the coat-tail and starts dancing & thus creates a fashion.  When people see him dancing like this, they follow suit and soon everyone rips off their coat-tail and start dancing like Chaplin.

I want to find out the name of the film and the date of its production and possibly where I can buy it from (online link would be helpful).  I've been on the trail for this over 12 years.
A later message that Argarwal posted to Facebook put the matter into a clearer perspective.  She wrote:
i am writing on behalf of His Holiness Mukunda Goswami to request if anyone might have seen or know of anyone who might have seen the comedy movie clip that Srila Prabhupada narrated to the devotees who were leaving for London to start the movement. . . [I]f we can somehow dig out this piece of our history that would be a wonderful offering to Srila Prabhupada on this 50th year.  Our request is if we can share this message on your fb pages that might help us reach a much wider group of people who might be able to give us any lead.
Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna Movement, used the glue story as a parable to inspire his followers to spread their religious faith.

Ms. Agarwal contacted me to help her find this important scene that, in her words, "started a world wide spiritual movement teaching yoga, meditation and holistic living."  Here is the description of the scene as Agarwal described it to me:
[An] actor sits on a bench and some boys put glue on it so his coat gets stuck.  When he gets up there is a rip and then when he is dancing with a ripped coat tail.  He starts to dance with a lot of gusto and enthusiasm that everybody thinks it is a new fashion and they also go and rip their own coat tails and start dancing.  In this way he starts a new trend.
This plot has the same essential elements as the plot of Max sets the fashion (1912).  But Max sets the fashion has Max Linder starting a new fashion trend when his dress shoes get ruined and he has to show up at a party with clunky work boots.  Could it be, I suggested, that this is film that Agarwal really wants?  Memory is unreliable and details can get confused.  Agarwal rejected my speculation.  She insisted that the scene exists exactly the way she described it.  She said, "four more people have reported seeing this clip.  so it is definitely there."

My focus remained on Linder, who was known to refashion premises that had worked well for him in the past.  But, despite a thorough investigation of Linder's filmography, I could not find the torn coat tails plot.   

I wrote about glue routines in my book "The Funny Parts," but none of the routines described in my book match up with Agarwal's routine.  I decided to dig further and see what I could turn up.

Let's start with Georges Méliès' 1907 short Good Glue Sticks (released in the United States as La colle universelle).  The film opens with a street vendor hawking glue to passing crowds.  A pair of police officers come along and abruptly shut down the vendor.  As revenge, the vendor sneaks up on police officers as they nap on a park bench and coats them with glue to make them stick together.  The popularity of this film inspired other sticky comedies, including The Leaking Glue Pot (1908, Théophile Pathé Cinématograph), Glue (1908, Gaumont), It Sticks Everything - Even Iron (1908, Pathé Frères), Father's Glue (1909, Lubin), The Patent Glue (1909, Walturdaw) and The Schoolboy's Revenge (1909, Pathé Frères). 

The Leaking Glue Pot involves a carpenter apprentice walking around town with the titular leaking glue pot.  The Moving Picture World reported:
At a saloon a glass is caused to become inseparably attached to the table; at the baker shop the baker is obliged to leave his shoes as if riveted to the floor, and in a park a young couple seat themselves on a bench from which they cannot arise, and must leave their outer garments behind and go home in a carriage.
Usually, these films featured naughty boys playing pranks with a fast-drying glue.  The Moving Picture World reported of Father's Glue:
[Two boys] first spread the glue on the bench in the park, which bench is soon occupied by a young couple. When the lover tries the rise he finds he is stuck to the bench. He's pulled away at the great damage to his trousers.  The mischievous boys play many more tricks on men and women who all take up the chase. The boys spread the glue over the sidewalk and then run. They are pursued by a crowd who all lose their shoes while running over the glue. At last the boys are caught in their own trap.  They are glued to the fence and given a good trouncing.
In 1905 Pathé Frères comedy La perruque (released in America as The Wig), a boy gets an idea for a prank when he sees his uncle donning a wig for a date.  The boy quickly gets to work lining the inside of his uncle's top hat with glue.  When the uncle removes the hat to greet his date, the wig comes off with it and the lady faints.

The Wildman (1912) proves yet again that a person in a silent comedy film needs to watch where they are sitting.  Out in the woods, Billy (Smilin' Billy Mason) pours a bottle of glue on a log expecting his rival Charles (Charles Hitchcock) to use this convenient length of trunk as a seat.  Instead, it is Billy's accomplice Barnabee (Howard Missimer) who sits on the log and gets stuck.  

The same silly business shows up again in Mr. Jarr and Gertrude's Beaux (1915, Vitagraph).  The Moving Picture World noted:
Gertrude, the Jarr servant, is invited by her three beaux, Claude, the fireman, Gus, saloonkeeper, and Hogan, to go on an excursion. She accepts them all, and the rendezvous for the three is the park bench at seven. Willie and Emma Jarr steal a bottle of glue from the carpenter and put a thick layer of the sticky stuff on the park bench seat. The three swains arrive and take their seats on the treacherous bench. They get into an argument, try to rise and find they cannot.
Jack Duffy becomes glued to a chair in a 1920 Larry Semon comedy, School Days.

In The Paper Hangers (1921), a customer in a wallpaper shop sits down on a chair without realizing that someone has spilled glue on it.  He tears off the seat of his pants while straining to pull himself free.  The shop's proprietors (Al St. John and Cliff Bowes) cut out a square of decorative wallpaper, which they delicately use to patch the tear (or, as a title card says, "cover his embarrassment").

In The Mechanic (1924), Jimmy Aubrey accidentally overturns a pail of glue on the floor and his boss gets stuck in the glue while walking past.

Dorothy Devore and Babe London perform a unique glue routine during a basketball match in Rah! Rah! Rah! (1928).  Here is a description of the scene from my book "Eighteen Comedians of Silent Film":
A spectator, unhappy that a ball knocked him off the bleachers, doctors the ball with glue before tossing it back to Dorothy.  Dorothy finds the ball sticking to her uniform and nothing she can do will remove it.  Babe grabs the ball in an effort to make a basket, but Dorothy remains attached to the ball as Babe dribbles it across the court and finally hurls it at the hoop.  At this moment, Dorothy wakes to find that she was only dreaming.
Newlyweds' Pest (1929) features yet another mischievous little boy, Snookums (Sunny Jim McKeen).  At his father's office, Snookums sneaks into a board of directors meeting and pours glue into a man's hat.

Our Gang's A Tough Winter (1930) offers a variation of an old glue gag when it has a little boy gets stuck in the gang's homemade taffy. 

In The Outlaws is Coming (1965), the Three Stooges sneak into the hideout of an outlaw gang and manage while the gang is sleeping to glue their firearms to their holsters.

Peter Sellers becomes glued to a chair in The Return of the Pink Panther (1975).

Unfortunately, I was never able to find the routine that Agarwal sought.  I wish her luck.

You will find out about further glue antics in my book "The Funny Parts."

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