Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Prodigal Bridegroom (USA,1926)

Compared with 1910s comedies that made his former Keystone studios famous, Mack Sennett really adjusted his short films to tastes of audiences of the Jazz Age. This film is more situational-oriented, slower and intertitles were all witty, in the same style that made rival Hal Roach studios famous. However, some characteristics of the previous decade output with Keystone studios remain alive in this film, like ridiculous fake beards and eccentric characters.
This is a witty comedy and, although it talks about common-life situations, it devises some gags based on absurdity (specially on how ridiculous people they can behave when completely in love) and stereotypes on country people. There’s a fine cast, with some of most popular actors of Mack Sennett studios back to 1920s, specially cross-eyed Ben Turpin, who was at the height of his career. Speaking of Turpin, the first intertitles of the film provide a good sum up of his career (which started before 1910) and how his artistic style was honed throughout the years. It’s very much worth paying attention to this reading.
It was hard to be more eccentric than Ben Turpin and his cross-eyed figure. He plays the role of Rodney St. Clair, a poor boy who was happily in love with Lizzie Boone, a rather innocent, hayseed country girl (played be actress Thelma Hill). They both enjoyed their love in idyllic countryside scenery and peace ruled. Although they were about to get married, both Rodney and Lizzie also had unrequited love from other suitors.
Things started changing when Rodney went to a big city in order to earn some extra money (“butter and egg money”) and attracted the attention of gold-digger vamp Gertie Gray (played by Madeline Hurlock). Gertie was the opposite of Lizzie. The vamp was modern, cosmopolitan, dressed up according to the latest fashion, but she was a sneaky person.
When Rodney is back home the wedding was already ready, but he unfortunately ended up taking the vamp woman home with him, without any consideration for Lizzie’s feelings. Then, Rodney tells an absurd (and unreal story) on how he had met the vamp in the big city and why his marriage with Lizzie was supposed to be off.
Finally, Rodney learns on the real unfaithful character of the vamp woman, who kissed a plenty of men behind his back, including his own father, which even caused a fight between father and son. The role of Rodney's Father was played by Andy Clyde, in a hilarious performance of an aged man, with a ridiculous fake beard, who couldn’t accept his old age.
But it was too late for him to return to Lizzie. She had already married her other suitor, while Rodney was left all alone, with both of his former sweethearts turning their backs on him. 

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