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A Wild Roomer (1927)

Charles Bowers is once again an eccentric inventor. This time, he has only a matter of hours to debut his extraordinary new invention in order to collect a huge bequest from his deceased ... See full summary »
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(as Charley Bowers)
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Charles Bowers is once again an eccentric inventor. This time, he has only a matter of hours to debut his extraordinary new invention in order to collect a huge bequest from his deceased father. Along the way, his evil uncle tries to sabotage the machine, so the inheritance will go to him. The invention basically does everything, including, in one sequence of near unsurpassed beauty, creating a little doll and bringing it to life by sewing a tiny little heart into its chest. The doll comes alive, and the machine dresses and feeds it. Written by Mark Toscano <fiddybop@yahoo.com>

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Short | Comedy

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1 November 1927 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Un drôle de locataire  »

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1.33 : 1
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Third in a series of 13 Whirlwind Comedies produced by Charles R. Bowers. See more »

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Once again, the puppet animation is worth the price of admission
16 January 2005 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

This is one of the most enjoyable films made by Charley Bowers, a newspaper cartoonist-turned-animator-and-comedian. Bowers was fairly obscure even in his heyday, then completely forgotten until several of his films turned up in France in the late 1970s. In recent years, as his work has become more widely available, appreciation for this highly original artist has slowly but steadily grown.

I like most of Bowers' comedies a great deal, although I wouldn't call them Ha-Ha Funny so much as Weird Funny, if you get the distinction. When writing about some of his other movies I've found it difficult to avoid over-using such terms as "bizarre," "mind-boggling," "surreal," etc., and there's a good reason for that: the guy was a genuine eccentric who explored his oddball obsessions in his films, like a 1920s version of David Lynch or Tim Burton. Based on his work it appears that Bowers' obsessions included elaborate machinery, eggs, strange birds, and eating through feeding tubes. Perhaps eggs should be at the top of the list, as every extant Bowers film features eggs in one context or another. Bowers smashed a lot of eggs in his comedies, and more than once he animated machines hatching from eggs. A Freudian could write a lengthy dissertation on this guy.

Anyway, A Wild Roomer is perhaps slightly more conventional than some of Bowers' other films in certain respects. The plot is farcical (Charley must successfully demonstrate his new machine within 24 hours in order to earn an inheritance), but not completely outlandish or dreamlike. And there are some bits here that are reminiscent of other comedians, i.e. when Charley has trouble getting his enormous machine through the doorway of his cramped apartment Buster Keaton fans will be reminded of a comparable situation in The Boat (1921); and when the machine goes rumbling through the city streets some silent comedy buffs might be reminded of a similar scene in Snub Pollard's The Big Idea (1924). Still, there's one area where Bowers is absolutely unique, and that's animation. The animated sequence in this film is one of Bowers' very best, and it's also quite touching and sweet: Charley's machine produces a baby doll which is brought to life before our eyes. A pair of gloved hands attached to robotic arms emerges from the machine, gently inserts a heart into the doll's chest, then delicately sews up the hole. The doll is dressed and fed, then meets a squirrel (an animated puppet, that is, not a real squirrel) that helpfully provides several useful items: a comb, a nutcracker, scissors, thread, etc. The doll then mounts the squirrel and rides it into the machine. Does that sound strange? Trust me, for a Charley Bowers movie it's nothing unusual.

The doll sequence -- unquestionably the highlight of this film -- is one element that makes A Wild Roomer one of Bowers' most accessible, satisfying comedies. It's also notable that he's more solicitous than usual to his leading lady here, and that the plot is neatly resolved in the end. (Bowers frequently left viewers a bit deflated with downbeat or inconclusive endings, but not this time.) Over all, A Wild Roomer is a most enjoyable film, and a good place to begin an acquaintance with this remarkable artist.


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