Sunday, May 31, 2009

Charley Chase

TCM is doing something different in June: a variation on its annual Summer Under the Stars feature, except with directors being spotlighted instead of actors and actresses. For the morning and afternoon of June 1, the featured director is Leo McCarey. The day kicks off with three two-reelers starring Charley Chase.

Chase was a fairly popular actor of the silent era whose popularity diminished with the advent of sound. His silents have him as a seemingly kind-hearted man, who has a penchant for getting himself into a jam, and having to try to get himself out of the situation by creating an ever bigger lie. It's a style of comedy that can be painful when done wrong, but if it works well, it can be really funny. One of the advantages to doing it in the silent era is that more of the pain comes from such comedies being overly talky -- in the silent era, comedy had to be broader and more physical.

For whatever reason, Chase didn't become as popular as some of the other comedians of the silent era. Perhaps it's because he made mostly short movies, and because he wasn't producing his own movies the way that Charley Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd were. Still, his work is pretty funny, and is well worth seeing as a diversion. And since the movies are all two-reelers, you haven't wasted much time if you don't like them.

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