I was pleasantly surprised to spot my friend Joe Rock in a supporting role in this Larry Semon movie. Joe Rock kindly permitted me to interview him in his home a few years before his death. Rock was a real utility man in the early days of American films. With time out for combat service in the Great War, he put his extremely comical features to use as an actor in comedy shorts, and had even more success as a writer, producer and director. He deserves some sort of prize as the Academy Award winner who had to wait the longest to receive his Oscar. Joe Rock won a Short Subject Oscar for his documentary film 'Krakatoa', but was in Europe when the award was announced. When he returned Stateside, poor record-keeping left him unable to prove that he was the film's producer, so the Academy refused to release the Oscar trophy. More than thirty years later, while moving an old filing cabinet, Rock discovered some business documents which enabled him to prove that 'Krakatoa' was his film ... and to claim his Oscar several decades late.
Unfortunately, this movie 'Golf' isn't nearly as interesting as Joe Rock's career. Off the screen, comedian Larry Semon was an excellent amateur golfer, even introducing Oliver Hardy (his second banana in this film) to the sport. It would have been nice if Semon had taken advantage of this movie's theme to show off his prowess on the links. Instead, we get a dumb racist sequence featuring a black man frightened of a ground squirrel in a bag. There's also a very Semonesque sequence featuring an enormous vase teetering on a too-small stand. Larry Semon's universe is full of items stacked precariously high, teetering dangerously ... but (predictably enough) always falling and smashing eventually.
Semon often gave himself a love interest in his films, but here the leading lady is cast as his sister. She's Lucille Carlisle, a pert flirt. Carlisle does a neat bit of physical comedy involving a door. Later, Oliver Hardy has one nice piece of volte-face acting when he barges into a room, all bombast and bluster, then he instantaneously morphs into a courtly gent (resembling the 'Ollie' of Hal Roach films yet to come) when he sees there's a lady in the room.
Normally, I'm very glad to see Vernon Dent, a prolific and talented but sadly under-rated supporting comedian who came to a tragic end. (Dent, a victim of diabetic retinopathy, spent his last years in poverty and total blindness.) Unfortunately, at this point in their respective careers, Dent and Oliver Hardy are almost exactly the same size and shape ... and they're cast in similar roles in 'Golf', so this movie has one big blusterer too many. The film ends with Hardy getting kicked in the face by a mule ... an image which left me wincing rather than laughing. 'Golf' had a lot of potential, but it ultimately takes a mulligan. My rating: just 4 out of 10.
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