Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Do You Love Your Wife? (USA,1919)

In this film we can already see the situational comedies by Hal Roach studios at their full splendor with all typical elements: slower pace compared with slapstick comedies (specially those produced by rival Keystone studios in the 1910s), a focus on realistic situations in more sophisticated settings, witty intertitles. One of most common subject matters of Hal Roach films
A young Stan Laurel plays the role of a janitor in rather average gags and this film does not really indicate he would become a start less than a decade later. 
There is a mention to a “vampire” and we can’t help remembering Theda Bara, who reached the peak of her short-lived popularity back to 1910s by playing the role of mysterious vamps, who seduced men, wrecked their marriages and brought them to ruin and misery. Of course a “faithless husband” (who is dressed up in a fairly sophisticated way, which leads the audience think he might be a wealthy man) falls prey to her seductiveness. Well, she is not as seductive as she could be and the parody of the screen vamp generates some funny gags, like when the vamp is rather to kiss the unfaithful husband, she ends up sneezing.
The janitor causes a plenty of embarrassments with his vacuum cleaner while he is cleaning the hall in a hotel, specially when he accidentally vacuums the dress of a young lady. 
After a while, the husband is caught in the act with the vamp by his wife and she claims she is going to shoot both him and the vamp. The janitor hears the noise of a shot, enters the room. Meanwhile, the vamps trying to defend herself by throwing a vase on the enraged wife, but ends up hitting the janitor instead. 
After another incident, the unfaithful husband realized the vamp was flirting with another man right under his nose. He realizes he was wasting his marriage with a good woman and decides to reconcile with his wife, to the amazement of the janitor, who had just witnessed the wife about to shoot her husband. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Don't Park There (USA,1924)

Urban chaos x countryside peacefulness was already an issue in some places back to 1920s, which makes this comedy relate to modern-day audiences more than average silent films would. The subject matter has not really got old.
The perplexity of the countryman, who had to go to the city to purchase things, is something we can easily understand and the fact that nowadays big cities are far busier than the city portrayed in this film only makes the gags funnier. 
The countryman is played by Will Rogers, a actor who who would become quite famous a short time later. He played the role of a countryman who lived in the White Horse Ranch, which was located far back in the woods. It is easy to assume that its dwellers were not often in touch with big cities. Roger is given the assignment to purchase “a bottle of Doane’s Horse Liniment”. After a while, he reaches the edge of town and slowly streets become busier with both cars and people. Rogers, his horse and slower life pace represent symbols of a era that was already fading back to 1920s.
The car was one of symbols of modernity. And it is even shown a Ford factory. Rogers managed to easily enter the factory and ended up taking one of its cars without anyone opposing resistance to it. He has lots of difficulty to drive among the heavy traffic of busy streets of the city. Then, he has to face the challenge of finding a parking space, perferably near a drugstore. There were not vacancies available and parking limitations did not make any sense to the countryman, who was not really used to those rules. He ended up parking the car extremely distant from his destination.
This situation gives room to some very funny gags involving cars, which was not something uncommon in filsm produced by Hal Roach studios, and such gags were even present in some Laurel and Hardy late silents. 
Finally, the end has a touch of irony. After Rogers finally reaches the drugstore and tell the salesman what he wants to buy, the salesman tells him that the liniment has not been produced for twenty years, which definitively shows that the country dwellers were no longer in touch with the modern world and its trends.