Our hero (Lloyd) is infatuated with a girl in the next office. In order to drum up business for her boss, an osteopath, he gets an actor friend to pretend injuries that the doctor "cures", ... See full summary »
A twenty-minute, almost totally silent film (no dialogue or music one 'shhh!') in which Buster Keaton attempts to evade observation by an all-seeing eye. But, as the film is based around ... See full summary »
Max and Mary are in love, but Mary's Aunt Agatha dislikes Max, and instead prefers the unappealing Simon. So Max has to resort to a series of ruses to try to get Simon out of the way, and to be able to spend time with Mary. Finally, Max comes up with a scheme that might allow him to prove to Aunt Agatha that he is more worthy than Simon. Written by
I should mention up top that I've seen only an excerpt from this feature film, but if the rest of the movie still exists, and is as good as the clip, Be My Wife must surely rank with Max Linder's best work. The excerpt, which runs about 15 minutes or so, can be found in Kino's "Slapstick Encyclopedia" silent comedy box set, and I feel it's one of that collection's most enjoyable highlights; the same sequence is also included with a new release of Linder material from Image Entertainment, and is certainly among the strongest selections in that set. One can only wonder: where is the rest of Be My Wife?
As it is, the available excerpt stands as a self-contained, self-explanatory sequence, practically a two-reeler by itself. The premise is simple: Max doggedly woos a pretty young woman despite the obvious disapproval of her hawk-faced Aunt, who prefers Max's pudgy rival as a more suitable choice for her niece. Banished from the house, Max dons three different disguises in order to pursue the courtship and thwart the Aunt. Viewers familiar with Linder's American contemporaries may be alternately reminded of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. Max's determination and high spirits suggest Harold, while the startling sight gags and physicality (not to mention the scarecrow disguise) suggest Buster. Furthermore, the sequence in which Max tricks the Aunt, the girl, and the rival into believing that he has heroically subdued a thuggish intruder -- a sequence in which Max vigorously portrays both himself and the thug -- is worthy of Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin called Linder his "Professor," and those who wonder why should watch this great bit.
I've seen a number of Linder's earlier French comedies, and while they are generally amusing and often charming (and sometimes surprisingly gross), none I've encountered is as funny or as skillfully executed as this. Sadly, Max Linder is generally forgotten today, and lingers only as a ghost-like figure in movie history, but the wider availability of his best films could help to restore his reputation as one of the great silent clowns.
P.S. Spring 2014: It's been announced that a complete version of Be My Wife will soon be available in a new Max Linder DVD set. Exciting news for fans of this neglected screen artist!
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