Monday, May 23, 2016

Dog Shy (USA,1926)

Charley Chase was a talented American comedian, who started his career in films in the 1910s and had his heyday in situational comedies of Hal Roach studios in 1920s, both as a actor and director, where he worked in many successful films. During his association with Hal Roach studios he kept the screen persona of a guy with realistic appearance and body language in detriment of knockabout slapstick. 
This film has a relatively straightforward plot for a situational comedy. Chase plays the role of a man who has been afraid of dogs since early childhood and while running away from a dog on the street he ended up entering a telephone booth. Right before he entered there was another man in the booth, who left in order to get another nickel to drop in and continue to talk to a girl. Chase picked up the phone and talked to the girl on the other side of line and found out she was being forced by her parents to marry a nobleman. The nobleman was that guy inside the booth before Chase arrived. 
Chase wanted to help the girl to avoid the arranged marriage, but he did not have time to find out more about her, like her address, etc. because the call was interrupted by her mother.
Then, Chase is chased by a dog again and by complete chance he ended up at the girl’s house. Due to a misunderstanding, he also found himself with a recommendation letter to apply for a job in that house as a butler. At first, Chase is not interested in the job, but when he saw the guy from the telephone booth entering the house he connected the dots. He recognized the guy as being the nobleman, realized he was at the girl’s house and accepted to be the butler of her family. 
The nobleman proved to be very popular among all girls in a social gathering at the house. After some problems to find his girl among all other girls, Chase started doing his tasks as a butler. His first duty was to give The Duke a bath. Duke was the dog of the house, but he thought he was supposed to bath the nobleman instead. This misunderstanding created some of funniest scenes of the film, specially because the girl’s mother told the butler that if Duke was hard to handle, he could use force with him, if necessary. 
So, the nobleman was almost forced to take a bath, but Chase eventually found the right Duke and he had to bath the dog despite his fear of dogs. But it would not be the end of the problems.
The nobleman was actually a crook, who wanted to steal the house’s safe, the girl’s father wanted to get rid of the dog and Chase and the girl wanted to elope. So, all of them would do those things at midnight and they would howl like a dog as a signal and their respective accomplices would howl back. 
Of course that all those people howling at the same time and all those overlapped facts caused a major chaos, but it was all for the best. The crook ended up being caught, nothing was stolen and Chase was considered a hero by the girl’s family, which made things quite easy for them to marry. Eloping was no longer necessary.
Although this film is not particularly funny (except, perhaps, for the bathing scenes), it is still entertaining enough, with a realistic pacing and gentle humor. Sometimes Charley Chase gesticulates a little too much, but it was nothing in comparison with the broad, exaggerated gestures of actors of slapstick comedies. It is also interesting to see that Chase did speak most of the time during the film and it is even possible the audience do a plenty of lip reading. 

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