In pursuit of a pretty miss,Luke gets admitted to a hospital.

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(as Harry Pollard)
Gene Marsh ...
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Phyllis Daniels ...
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In pursuit of a pretty miss,Luke gets admitted to a hospital.

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lonesome luke | one reeler | See All (2) »

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Comedy | Short

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22 December 1915 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Lonesome Luke, He's Almost an Ostrich  »

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1.33 : 1
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A print of this film survives in the Library of Congress. See more »

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Or, Pointless Brutality in a Hospital
16 March 2015 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

The primary distinction of this silent short is that it's one of the earliest surviving comedies to star Harold Lloyd, back when he was playing a character known as "Lonesome Luke." In later years Lloyd readily admitted that although the costume was different, Luke was a blatant Chaplin imitation. Where artistic larceny is concerned Lloyd was far from being the sole offender, as Chaplin was the world's top funny-man at the time, and almost everyone borrowed from him. What's unfortunate about most of the Lonesome Luke comedies—including this one, Peculiar Patients' Pranks—is that Lloyd chose to borrow Chaplin's least admirable traits. In other words, Harold's early screen persona is a counterfeit of the Keystone Chaplin, the butt-kicking, brick hurling tramp; Luke isn't the lovable Charlot of City Lights, he's more like the dangerous hooligan of The Fatal Mallet.

I happened to see Peculiar Patients' Pranks at a recent screening of Lloyd comedies in NYC, and the print used in the program came from the Library of Congress. The only available material for this film lacks the first few minutes and the final moments, so what survives is a lengthy fragment, roughly three-fourths of the original release print. In the opening moments of the surviving footage, it appears that Luke has just been in an accident of some sort, and is lying in the road. A pair of medical attendants hoist him onto a stretcher, then roughly fling him into the back of an ambulance like a sack of potatoes. That sets the tone for what follows. They bring him to a hospital, and at first he doesn't want to enter, but when he sees a pair of pretty nurses Luke decides that playing "sick" might be worthwhile.

We soon learn that Snub Pollard has also been in an accident, and he winds up at the same hospital. Apparently he and Luke have a history of hostility towards each other, probably as rivals for the affections of Bebe Daniels, which was often the case in the Lonesome Luke series. What follows in the hospital is a succession of unrelated gags, most of which involve physical pain. When we see a patient with a bandaged foot we know he's going to get his foot stomped, which happens within seconds. We don't know who he is or why he's there, except to serve as the Bandaged Foot Man who howls in pain every time his foot is stomped, which is often. Luke flirts with the pretty nurses, but is unhappy when a homely woman shows up to read to him, so he fobs her off on Snub. Soon after, Luke is hauled into an operating room for surgery by the two attendants who threw him into the ambulance. They brandish saws and big knives, and he has to remind them to anesthetize him first. Eventually, Luke gets his revenge on everyone by knocking them out with chloroform. This includes Bebe, who seems to be Snub's girlfriend. Just before the film runs out, we last see Luke preparing to dash out of the hospital with an unconscious, chloroformed Bebe draped over his shoulder. God only knows what his intentions might be.

I guess it goes without saying that Peculiar Patients' Pranks is no comedy classic; at the screening I attended, the audience seemed more disconcerted by the film than amused. Even so, it's instructive to see where Lloyd started out, and to observe how swiftly he moved past the primitive slapstick antics of this period to the comparatively sophisticated, well-constructed comedy shorts he was turning out three or four years later. When you consider the rough and rowdy Lonesome Luke films alongside the beautifully produced Lloyd features of the '20s, the Chaplin comparison comes full circle: it's like viewing a Keystone Chaplin such as The Fatal Mallet next to a mature, fully realized masterpiece such as The Gold Rush.


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