Nowadays, some might call this a "romcom." (I wouldn't, but feel free to do so.) That is, it's a romantic comedy involving a pair of young lovers, in this case Charley Chase and Mae Busch, and the obstacles they must overcomemainly, her disapproving parentsbefore they are permitted to hook up. Love in Armor is one of several shorts Charley and Mae made together around this time, and it's a mildly amusing romp for Keystone fans, perhaps a tad less chaotic than some, at least until the wild finale. I tend to enjoy the Chase/Busch pairings, not only because they make a nice couple, but because, as a fan of their later work for Hal Roach, I find it interesting, and a little poignant, to see them when they were so bright-eyed and youthful, back in their apprenticeship days with Mack Sennett.
Weirdly enough, while watching this short I found myself thinking of the comedy of Shakespeare's day. The plot of Love in Armor, with only slight adjustments, could have been used on stage in Elizabethan times. (And I'll bet it was, under various titles.) Mae comes from a wealthy family, and although Charley seems like a perfectly decent young fellow, her parents disapprove of him, and forbid them to meet. Why? Because he's not upper crust. Meanwhile, the low comedy maid and butler in Mae's household engage in lots of vigorous knockabout, which is also very Shakespearean. Charley and Mae steal off together to a nearby park to do some spooning, but it is there that Mae comes to the attention of an icky corpulent man (Fritz Schade) who comes from Europe, possibly Germanyhe's described in a title card as "The Foreign Person," and dresses rather differently from the other characters. (Although this film was made during the Great War, his nationality isn't really an issue; and besides, America was still officially neutral.) This shady character, who is immediately smitten with Mae, hires a pair of goons to rough her up, so that he can come to her rescue. His scheme unfolds as planned, and Mae's parents show up just in time to witness it. Our bogus hero introduces himself as Baron Von Hossenfeffer. The parents are duly impressed, and invite the dignitary to Mae's party that very evening.
Charley is not invited to the party, but he slips in anyway, and disguises himself in a suit of knight's armor. In a highly unlikely coincidence, the two thugs hired by the Baron earlier that day just happen to show up at Mae's home, during her big party, to burglarize the place. Charley, still clad in armor, eventually manages to subdue the burglars, expose the Foreign Person as a scoundrel, and win over Mae's parents. After a typically frenzied Keystone mêlée, the short ends with a nice closeup of our triumphant couple, kissing.
Mr. Chase, at this early stage in his career, makes a pleasant juvenile lead, but I especially enjoy watching Mae Busch in these pairings. We're more accustomed to seeing her in talkies, that is, the older, hardened Mae who often played Mrs. Hardy, and gave her husband hell; it's a treat to see her so young and pert, as she larks about with Charley behind her parents' backs, having such fun. The Roach Studio version of Mae is battle-scarred and cynical, but Keystone's Mae is saucy and sassy. She's quite cute, and it's a pleasure to spend time with her.
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