IMDb > Isn't Life Terrible? (1925)

Isn't Life Terrible? (1925) More at IMDbPro »


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Release Date:
5 July 1925 (USA) See more »
Charley is plagued with failure and with his brother-in-law, who's allergic to labor. When he decides to take the family on a camping trip... See more » | Add synopsis »
User Reviews:
It's not so terrible when there's a good comedy to boost your spirits See more (8 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Charley Chase ... The Husband
Katherine Grant ... The Wife

Oliver Hardy ... Remington - the Brother-in-Law (as 'Babe' Hardy)
Lon Poff ... Mr. Jolly
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Sammy Brooks ... (uncredited)
Kathleen Collins ... (uncredited)
William Gillespie ... Latin American Official (uncredited)
Charlie Hall ... Steward Who Drops Plates (uncredited)
Nancy McKee ... The Daughter (uncredited)
Jules Mendel ... (uncredited)
Dorothy Morrison ... Little Black Girl (uncredited)
George Rowe ... (uncredited)
Charles Stevenson ... Medical Officer (uncredited)
Leo Willis ... The Salesman (uncredited)

Fay Wray ... Potential Pen-Buyer (uncredited)

Directed by
Leo McCarey (uncredited)
Produced by
Hal Roach .... producer (uncredited)
Original Music by
David Drazin (musical score composed by) (2005 alternate version)
Cinematography by
Fred Jackman (uncredited)
Len Powers (uncredited)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Lewis R. Foster .... assistant director (uncredited)
Music Department
David Drazin .... musical score performer (2005 alternate version)
Other crew
Hal Roach .... presenter
F. Richard Jones .... supervising director (uncredited)
Fay Wray .... in memoriam (2005 alternate version)
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

22 min (2005 alternate version)
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Germany:0 | UK:U | USA:Passed (National Board of Review) | USA:TV-G (TV rating)


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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful.
It's not so terrible when there's a good comedy to boost your spirits, 16 July 2006
Author: wmorrow59 from Westchester County, NY

Charley Chase fans will enjoy this silent two-reeler from his mid-'20s heyday, but viewers unfamiliar with his work should be aware that proper appreciation of this film will depend on one's taste for the Comedy of Escalating Frustration: i.e., the sort of comedy where the humor depends on everything --and I mean, absolutely everything-- going wrong. It takes a special kind of sensibility (combining empathy with just a touch of sadism) to chuckle while the comedian on screen suffers through the worst day of his life, but if you liked Buster Keaton's The Boat or Laurel & Hardy's Perfect Day, you'll probably get a kick out of this one as well.

Charley plays a middle-class guy with a wife, daughter, and a lazy brother-in-law with a bogus heart condition he constantly cites to avoid doing any heavy lifting. (The brother-in-law is played by a very youthful-looking Oliver Hardy, who has a number of good moments throughout.) Charley's the kind of guy who can't get any yard-work done without getting assailed by chickens, and can't even help a neighbor pack for a camping trip without the situation backfiring on him. At his wife's urging Charley signs up for a contest, seeing as how his own family is in serious need of a vacation: whoever sells the most pens wins a free trip to the Tabasco Islands. Charley's adventures as a door- to-door pen salesman begin at the foot of what appears to be the same flight of steps later used by Laurel & Hardy in Hats Off! and The Music Box, seen here only briefly. The highlight of the sequence comes when Charley attempts to sell a pen to an attractive young woman (17 year-old Fay Wray) but succeeds only in squirting himself in the face. Fay's barely-suppressed laughter appears to be quite genuine.

Charley somehow wins the contest, but the family's voyage is just as plagued with problems as their life on shore. At the dock their daughter gets separated from the group and --in a highly unlikely switch-- is replaced by an African American girl of similar size, wearing a large, floppy hat. Watching this sequence the first time I braced myself for unpleasant racial gags typical of the period, but the treatment of the black girl is quite benign; surprisingly, she is accepted as part of the family group, and even saves Charley from falling overboard. The ship itself is an old tub that barely survives the voyage, and the crew members we see inspire little confidence. There are lots of gags, some predictable (such as the inevitable seasickness bit) and others less so (such as the startling outcome of a struggle with the stuck dresser drawer in Charley's cabin). Somehow the ship reaches the Tabasco Islands, and the story climaxes with a bizarre, macabre closing bit that may remind viewers of the "freak" gags Laurel & Hardy would sometimes employ in later years to end their comedies.

In sum, while Isn't Life Terrible? may not be the best thing Charley Chase ever did, it's a pretty good example of his style that provides a number of laughs, a surprise or two, and other elements of interest for silent comedy buffs.

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