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a collection of short silent films: one.


NOTHING LIKE RINGING IN THE NEW DECADE WITH SOME SILENT FILMS.

CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S THE IMMIGRANT, NINETEEN SEVENTEEN.
ROSCOE 'FATTY' ARBUCKLE'S THE COOK, NINETEEN EIGHTEEN.
BUSTER KEATON'S ONE WEEK, NINETEEN TWENTY.
BUSTER KEATON'S HARD LUCK, NINETEEN TWENTY-ONE.

I. 


CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S THE IMMIGRANT.
NINETEEN SEVENTEEN.
TWENTY-FOUR MINUTES.
LONE STAR CORPORATION. 
DIRECTED BY: CHARLIE CHAPLIN.
WRITTEN BY CHARLIE CHAPLIN, VINCENT BRYAN, AND MAVERICK TERRELL. 

"THE TRAMP ARRIVES IN NEW YORK."

Charlie Chaplin's THE IMMIGRANT is one of his classic slapstick comedies featuring his famous character, the Tramp, as an immigrant crossing over to the United States from England. He is on board with a large group of other poor immigrants. While onboard, he meets a beautiful woman, and of course, falls in love with her. It's the classic Chaplin formula, one that never dulls. He becomes determined to help this girl, and when the girl's mother discovers that she has lost her money, he kindly donates some to them. 

It's visually entertaining. As usual, Chaplin builds the Tramp's charming character through the smallest of gestures, one of which is my favorite: after the Tramp wins some cash after playing cards on deck, he then learns about the girl's mother's misfortune, he decided to donate some of his winnings. When the mother looks the other way, the Tramp slips some of the bills into her coat pocket. He takes a pause, retrieves the wad of cash, takes a dollar or two back, and then slips the other back into the pocket. Class and romance, constantly linking with Chaplin's pictures, a marriage that never sees to fade. Another scene that sticks out is the constant tilting of the boat, when the passengers are eating and the Tramp is rolling along the floor, trying to keep his balance. Some of Chaplin's best work can be found in these scenes. 

Though absolutely a delight to watch, this film was the one that banned Chaplin from America. Not right at its release, but sometime later. I will get to that in a moment. The film does not create America out to be a dreamland. There is a shot of the ship's passengers looking out towards the Statue of Liberty, but this scene is quickly turned, as the officials, push the crowd back into a corner with a rope, letting them out one by one, through the formal process of documentation. The next title card appears: HUNGRY AND BROKE. This is followed by a shot of the Trump alone, scrounging for change of a dirty littered street corner. This was not the scene that banned Chaplin from American, though a simple one lingered within it. In 1952, Chaplin was fading in popularity, and some of the higher-ups in American decided to look back at his films. One brief scene, in particular, was labeled "anti-American". In the scene when the immigration officer has the rope around the passengers, in comedic fashion, the Tramp kicks the officer. Not hard or brutal, a tap that was made for laughs. A scene, to be honest, I hadn't thought about, and once Chaplin was banned he remained in Switzerland until his death. 

Though a sad ending as come from this film, it is still a hidden gem amongst his filmography, one that should be discussed about more. 

4/5. | WATCH HERE.

II.


ROSCOE 'FATTY' ARBUCKLE'S THE COOK.
NINETEEN EIGHTEEN.
TWENTY-TWO MINUTES.
COMIQUE FILM COMPANY.
DIRECTED AND WRITTEN BY ROSCOE 'FATTY' ARBUCKLES.

Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle is not known by the masses. Subjected to a scandal, his career faded and so did his name. He was a "great" during his time. Writing, acting and directing. Buster Keaton was even taken under his teachings and who is also in this picture. Arbuckle's THE COOK is a semi-plotless, giddy-quick-handed comic brilliance, almost like watching children pretend and dance around, all taking place inside a restaurant, a perfect place for gags of all kinds. The incredibly dexterous kitchen high jinks, the plate and cup throwing between Arbuckle and Keaton, and the spaghetti eating scene, my personal favorite, is nothing short of brilliance. Truly a fun film. 

This film, in particular, was considered a lost film for several decades until a damaged nitrate print was uncovered in the Norwegian Film Archive sometime in nineteen ninety-eight, in an unmarked canister with A RECKLESS ROMEO, a picture from nineteen seventeen. A print with six hundred additional feet of footage, which is about eight minutes or so, was also found in the EYE Film Institute in the Netherlands, in two thousand and two. The two were then combined to create a restored version of the film. 


(I also must mention, though not something I do often, Keaton is beautiful in this film, we must point out that fact. And we cannot finish this section on The Cook without mentioning his Egyptian-dancing. Thank you and enjoy the future readings.)



3.5/5 | WATCH HERE.

III.


BUSTER KEATON'S ONE WEEK.
NINETEEN TWENTY.
TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES.
JOSEPH M. SCHENCK PRODUCTION.
DIRECTED BY: BUSTER KEATON AND EDWARD F. CLINE.
WRITTEN BY: EDWARD F. CLINE.

"TWO REELS OF SIDE-SPLITTING FUN ARISING FROM THE TRIALS OF HONEYMOONERS..."

Another mention of Buster Keaton and will not be the last. His nineteen twenty films, ONE WEEK, is a remarkable stunt film, like most of his films. The picture involves two newlyweds, Keaton and Seely, (the darling Sybil Seely). The couple receives a build-in-yourself house as a wedding present. But when a rejected suitor re-numbers the packing crates, Keaton struggles to assemble the house. 

The home is a character in itself. Keaton understood the use of props, almost to the point of making them alive themselves. He saw gags in every corner and took use of all objects and obstacles. From a technical standpoint, ONE WEEK is one of the most impressive short films I've seen. The stunts are polished and only get better with each second. The mechanical set, the death-defying stunts, and the love story are all immaculate. It was the first film that Keaton both starred in and directed, differentiating his comedy from Charlie Chaplin. His first flight, emerging from under Arbuckle's wing. His stunts far more dangerous and more of a spectacle, which works well his dead-pan face. I believe this film showed that he was not below Chaplin, but equal to him. 


The film was inspired by a Ford Motor Company documentary, HOME MADE in nineteen-nineteen. It's an education short about prefabricated housing. And when Keaton saw the film, he saw the opportunity to parody it. Some of the same devices as seen in the documentary and can be seen in ONE WEEK as well, such as the wedding, the Model T, and the use of the pages from a calendar to show the home being built in a week. 

Truly a fantastic film. One that showcases talent and a detailed skill of picture making, one that we hardly see anymore. A clever film by one of the greats. An absolute classic. 

4.5/5 | WATCH HERE.

IV.


BUSTER KEATON'S HARD LUCK.
NINETEEN TWENTY-ONE.
TWENTY-TWO MINUTES.
JOSEPH M. SCHENCK PRODUCTION.
DIRECTED AND WRITTEN BY: BUSTER KEATON AND EDWARD F. CLINE.

THE DARKEST KEATON FILM.

Though entertaining and full of gags and stunts, this film is without a doubt Keaton's darkest film. It's also quite all over the place, without a real set idea of where it should go. The whole idea of HARD LUCK is that a man down on his luck tries several times to commit suicide, but fails to do so. He then finds himself in a string of adventures. Odd sounding? Correct. In the opening scene, we see a battered man, out of money and out of work. He decides to kill himself. He steals a rope for a noose, attempts to drink poison, and even throws himself in front of various moving vehicles. After drinking the poison, which was actually mislabeled booze, he stumbles intoxicated through the rest of the film.

The final scene is moved to a swimming pool (no reason at all) which offers the viewers a rare moment to admire Keaton in a bathing suit (!) before a truly amazing stunt happens, in which he dives from a ridiculously high board and plummets directly into the earth. The last punchline, which has been deemed racists, is when Keaton emerges from that said hole "years later" with a Chinese family. Which I do not understand. It seems that he was playing off the idea that he fell so deep that he ended up on the other side of the world. Keaton himself called this scene: the greatest laugh-getting scene of his career.

Keaton is still a genius with the gags and stunts, so even with the loose plot, say to that of ONE WEEK, and darker tones, the film works, because Keaton himself is worth watching.


2.5/5 | WATCH HERE.



RED LIPS KISS MY BLUES AWAY - SAM LANIN AND HIS ORCHESTRA.
BLUE BLOOD BLUES - VARIOUS ARTISTS.
MY BLACKBIRDS ARE BLUEBIRDS NOW - RUTH ETTING.
LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME - RUTH ETTING.
IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOU - RUTH ETTING.
IT'S ALL FORGOTTEN NOW - AL BOWLLY, RAY NOBLE, AND HIS ORCHESTRA.
I WONDER WHO'S KISSING HER NOW - HENRY BURR.
YOU'RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE - RUTH ETTING.
THAT'S WHAT I CALL SWEET MUSIC - VARIOUS ARTISTS.
ORIGINAL JELLY-ROLL BLUES - JELLY ROLL MORTON.
BALLIN' THE JACK - JELLY ROLL MORTON.
I GOT RHYTHM - GEORGE GERSHWIN, IRA GERSHWIN, AND ETHEL WATERS.
I'M NOBODY'S BABY - RUTH ETTING.
SHAKING THE BLUES AWAY - RUTH ETTING.
DO-DO-DO - ANNETTE HANSHAW.
AIN'T HE SWEET - ANNETTE HANSHAW.
THAT'S THE KIND OF A BABY FOR ME - EDDIE CANTOR.
DADDY WON'T YOU PLEASE COME HOME - ANNETTE HANSHAW.
BEGIN THE BEGUINE - ARTIS SHAW.
SING, SING, SING - BENNY GOODMAN.
I'VE GOT A FEELING I'M FALLING - ANNETTE HANSHAW.
KEEP IT TO YOURSELF - LONNIE JOHNSON.

R.