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Life of the Party (1920)

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An attorney is thrust into wild adventures by an attractive young woman.



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Title: Life of the Party (1920)

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Complete credited cast:
Algernon Leary (as Roscoe Arbuckle)
Winifred Greenwood ...
Mrs. Carraway
Sam Perkins
'French' Kate
Frank Campeau ...
Judge Voris
Allen Connor ...
Fred Starr ...
Bolton (as Frederick Starr)
Ben Lewis ...
Viora Daniel ...
Milly Hollister


An attorney is thrust into wild adventures by an attractive young woman.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Comedy




Release Date:

21 November 1920 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Life of the Party  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Featured in Hollywood: Single Beds and Double Standards (1980) See more »

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User Reviews

Lost and found comedy
1 March 2002 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

"Life of the Party" was released shortly before the scandal that ruined Roscoe Arbuckle's career, which resulted in the Hays Office banning Arbuckle from the screen even though he was acquitted on all charges. Consequently, there were no plans to re-release this film, and no American or British prints of "Life of the Party" are known to exist. (Even this film's title is ironic, in view of the Virginia Rappe incident.) "Life of the Party" survives only because some prints were distributed in Europe, where the original intertitles were cut out and foreign translations were spliced in.

I saw "Life of the Party" at the British Film Institute, from a nitrate print with Polish intertitles, with a curator reading English translations of the intertitles over the BFI's Tannoy system. As is often the case with foreign-language prints of Hollywood silent films, the titles are not accurate translations: in one scene of this Polish-language version, Roscoe Arbuckle speaks an outright obscenity which could never have appeared in a Hollywood film of this period.

"Life of the Party" is based on a magazine story by Irvin S. Cobb, a popular author of the time. Cobb's brief career as a movie actor in the early sound era was thwarted by his thick Southern accent and his physical appearance: he was a heavyset man with a face like a bullfrog.

Cobb's original story is about a man who attends a masquerade party dressed as a little boy. When he leaves the party in his heavy winter coat, his car won't start so he decides to walk home. A stick-up man steals his wallet and coat, leaving him wearing only his costume. The poor guy has to walk home in a snowstorm, dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy. End of story.

The film version has a well-written plot, more plausible than usual for this actor. For once, Roscoe Arbuckle plays a solid citizen. He's cast as a respected attorney who runs for office as a reform candidate against the local machine politicians. Some society women involve him in their charity drive to obtain milk for the local schoolchildren. They throw a charity ball in honour of the schoolchildren: all the adults invited to the party are told to arrive dressed as little children. (No comment.) Roscoe arrives, decked out as a four-year-old boy, and he's the life of the party. Then something goes wrong, and Roscoe ends up in a snowstorm while dressed as a toddler. Eventually he gets back into long trousers, but now he's got to deal with the election and those crooked politicians...

Regrettably, at one point in this movie, a crooked judge employs a woman named French Kate(!) to drag Arbuckle's character into a compromising situation so that he can be destroyed in the ensuing scandal. In light of the real-life tragedy that wrecked Arbuckle's career, I found this subplot painful to watch.

Arbuckle's dazzling gift for acrobatic slapstick is neglected in this film, which (despite the Polish titles) is probably very much as it would have been released in America. It's interesting to see Arbuckle playing a "straight" role as a credible human being, in a comedy more subtle than usual for him. This film emphasises the very great talent that was lost when this funny man was unfairly banned from the screen.

I'll give "Life of the Party" a 6 out of 10 .

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