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directed by Leo McCarey (x14), Ralph Cedar (x1), and James Parrott (x1)
USA 1924

 

Charles Parrot got his start as a teenager in vaudeville before moving on at a relatively young age into film, appearing in small roles in a number of Charlie Chaplin films for Keystone before moving onto Hal Roach Studios where he directed a number of OUR GANG and Lloyd Hamilton shorts. When Harold Lloyd left the studio in 1923, Parrot started his own series of shorts in front of the camera. Although he was credited as Charley Chase, the character he played in front of the camera early on was Jimmy Jump, although the two Jump entries in this collection suggest that there was very little character continuity among those shorts. In APRIL FOOL (1924), junior journalist Jimmy Jump unintentionally wreaks havoc on the entire office as he tries to avoid being tricked. In THE FRAIDY CAT (1924), mamma's boy Jimmy Jump is bullied not only by his girl's other suitors, but also by "Our Gang" stand-ins. When he misconstrues news from the local doctor, he gets a bravery boost and faces off against his tormentors. The former short was directed by Ralph Ceder and the latter by James Parrott (Charley Chase's younger brother, who directed over forty shorts either starring or written by Chase) - both of whom also directed a few LAUREL & HARDY shorts - but the bulk of this collection and the Chase shorts that are generally regarded as his strongest are those directed by Leo McCarey (AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER) who either wrote or directed over seventy shorts starring Chase between 1924 and 1930. Although McCarey's feature directorial career included few slapstick comedies, the sampling of McCarey/Chase shorts in this collection show him well-prepared for his only Marx Brothers film: the masterful DUCK SOUP (1933).

Mistaken and assumed (sometimes unintentionally) identities, disguises, bootleggers, and schemers abound in the McCarey films. BAD BOY (1925) has Chase as the son of a iron works magnate who starts at the bottom and manages to alienate his co-workers, his girlfriend, and his parents. The elaborate THE CARETAKER'S DAUGHTER (1925) finds Chase selling his lemon of a car to a gangster just out of jail, and then unknowingly escorting the gangster's wife (who has been seeing his boss) to a remote cabin with his own incensed wife, the gangster, and the boss in pursuit. In BE YOUR AGE (1926), a very Marx Brothers-esque dowager wants to marry a younger man, so her scheming lawyer pushes his bashful clerk (Chase) in her direction, even though he only has eyes for her secretary. In BROMO AND JULIET (1926), lovely Madge won't marry Charley unless he plays Romeo for a missionary fundraising revue; however Charley has his hands full with his drunken father and a case of bootleg Scotch. Charley is DOG SHY (1926) when he poses as a butler in an attempt to spirit away a young heiress whose father is trying to marry her to a pompous aristocrat. CHARLEY MY BOY (1926) combines the plots of the previous two films when Charley falls for the boss' daughter (who is promised to miser Sir Charley Charleyhorse). Charley (dosed to the gills with sleeping tablets) misconstrues a dinner invitation meant for the other man and shows up as an uninvited guest and ends up winning his boss over by finding unique ways to hide bootleg liquor from the cops.

THE UNEASY THREE (1925) is a spoof of Tod Browning's THE UNHOLY THREE in which Chase, Katherine Grant (a Chase regular who appears in six of the films in this collection), and Bull Montana infiltrate a posh party to get their hands on the Courtland jewel. In INNOCENT HUSBANDS (1925), Melvin (Chase) is one of the titular characters and his wife is always trying to catch him cheating (even consulting psychics to find out what he is doing behind her back). Unfortunately, Melvin's bachelor friend throws a party and Melvin ends up with party girl Mitzi (Kay de Lys) passed out in his bedroom (after he tells her his wife "carved" the last girl who looked at him) just as his wife returns home. In ISN'T LIFE TERRIBLE (1925), Charley enters a contest to sell the most "Firepoint Fountain Pens" in order to win an ocean voyage for his deprived family - including an invalid brother-in-law (Oliver Hardy of LAUREL & HARDY) who has a relapse every time work is mentioned - and manages to sell 10,000 pens (17 of which actually work); but, of course, the trip turns out to be anything but luxurious (lost luggage, a daughter left behind, the cruise ship sprouting leaks). This short features an uncredited appearance by Fay Wray (KING KONG). WHAT PRICE GOOFY? (1925) has poor Charley once again being accused of cheating by his jealous wife when he is observed talking to an attractive woman (he is actually trying to find the owner of a dog he rescued from traffic).

In LONG FLIV THE KING (1925), a princess (Martha Sleeper, later in McCarey's THE BELLS OF SAINT MARY'S) must marry a man within twenty-four hours to ascend to the throne. She picks condemned youth Charles (Chase) only for him to be pardoned and become king. Max Davidson (HANGMEN ALSO DIE) plays Charles' stereotypical Jewish buddy who wants a 100% return on his investment and Hardy plays the prime minister's scheming assistant who tries to get rid of Charles. MAMA BEHAVE (1926), Charley's wife Lolita (former Mrs. Chaplin, Mildred Harris) wants her stick-in-the-mud husband to be more like his peppy twin brother Jim, so Charley impersonates his brother to test her fidelity (including a visit to the speakeasy Cafe Riskae). In MIGHTY LIKE A MOOSE (1926), homely Mr. and Mrs. Moose (Chase and Vivien Oakland, WAY OUT WEST) - a woman with a face that would stop a clock and a man with one that would start it again - individually save to have his buck teeth and her big nose operated on without the other knowing. When they meet again, they do not recognize each other and plan to step out on their respective spouses. Finally in MUM'S THE WORD (1926), Charley discovers his mother has married rich and not told her husband about him. He arrives at his stepfather's house as the new valet. His attempts to visit his mother cause suspicion, and further complications are created when he falls for the housemaid (Martha Sleeper again). One's enjoyment of this less one will depend on whether it is seen alone or after five hours of variations on some of the same elements.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

DVD Review: Oscilloscope Laboratories/Milestone Films and Video (The Milestone Cinematheque) - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

Oscilloscope Laboratories/Milestone Films and Video

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 333:48
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Audio Music-only Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Oscilloscope Laboratories/Milestone Films and Video

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• DISC ONE:
• APRIL FOOL (4:3; 11:35), THE 'FRAIDY CAT (4:3; 12:02),
• BAD BOY (4:3; 19:00), CARETAKER'S DAUGHTER (4:3; 20:19),
• BE YOUR AGE (4:3; 22:04), BROMO AND JULIET (4:3; 23:07),
• DOG SHY (4:3; 22:05), and CHARLEY MY BOY (4:3; 25:59)
• DISC TWO:
• THE UNEASY THREE (4:3; 22:13), INNOCENT HUSBANDS (4:3; 20:55),
• ISN'T LIFE TERRIBLE (4:3; 22:00), WHAT PRICE GOOFY? (4:3; 22:39),
• LONG FLIV THE KING (4:3; 22:43), MAMA BEHAVE (4:3; 22:21),
• MIGHTY LIKE A MOOSE (4:3; 23:30), and MUM'S THE WORD (4:3; 21:16)

DVD Release Date: November 6th, 2012
Amaray

Chapters 8

 

Comments

Oscilloscope Laboratories two-disc, dual-layer set features a compilation of Milestone Film & Video (a company whose previous titles were distributed on laserdisc and DVD by Image Entertainment) versions of the Charley Chase films. The new music scores - by Ben Model, Dave Drazin, Dave Knutsen, Donald Sosin, and Rodney Sauer - all date from 2005, meaning that the transfers are all at least that old (the disc menus carry a 2011 Milestone copyright). The interlaced presentations are all window-boxed at aspect ratios varying from 1.24:1 to 1.33:1. Quality varies as expected, but the few 16mm-sourced shorts look the worst (particularly CHARLEY MY BOY, an exclusive to this release). On disc 1, only THE CARETAKER'S DAUGHTER is tinted, and CHARLEY MY BOY is the only one with replacement title cards (although the credits are original). THE UNEASY THREE comes from a Museum of Modern Art 35mm print and is very clean apart apart from the usual white dings and occasional scratches. ISN'T LIFE TERRIBLE adds an "In Memorium" credit for Fay Wray (who died in 2004), but it does so after the added music score credit. Encoding sometimes exhibits moiring and rainbow artifacts. The music-only audio is encoded in 5.1 but few of the scores have anything more than traditional piano accompaniment.

Unfortunately, there are absolutely no contextual extras for those of us unfamiliar with Charley Chase. The back cover compares him favorably to better-known contemporaries like Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd, but offers no explanation as to why his efforts are not better known (other than the fact that his name has been co-opted by a pornographic actress whose 171 credits thus far are creeping up on the late actor's 278). Eight of the sixteen shorts here previously appeared in Kino's two "Slapstick Symposium" volumes devoted to Chase (those versions were licensed from French company Lobster Films).

  - Eric Cotenas

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Oscilloscope Laboratories/Milestone Films and Video

Region 0 - NTSC

 




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