Charles Parrott, billed as Charley Chase, was a veteran at Hal Roach's studio by the time this two-reeler, THE COUNT TAKES THE COUNT, was released in the winter of 1936; in fact, Chase had been one of the studio's most prolific properties for well over fifteen years by this time, both as a director, gagman and star of short comedies. Although primarily remembered as a silent comedian today, Chase did the transition to sound without apparent struggle. While his sound shorts may be more uneven in quality than the work of Laurel and Hardy at the same studio at the same time, Chase invariably manages to throw in an additional touch to his films, even when the material appears rather standard on the whole. His talent as singer and dancer was especially utilized on many occasions once sound made its entrance, and these seemingly impromptu (but in reality quite accomplished) vocal performances liven up many of his shorts. In THE COUNT TAKES THE COUNT, however, his musical talents are not given opportunity to shine; even so, this remains one of his better shorts of the 1930s.
Here, Chase is employed at an insurance company, and finds himself in a most precarious situation as he has permitted a wedding to be insured for a million bucks; should the wedding be called off, by any chance, the princely sum must be transferred from the insurance company to the father of the girl about to get hitched. The boss of the company orders Chase (with the aid of a death threat) to rush over to the girl's house and make sure that she actually goes through the wedding; but it turns out she's already eloped by car, as she's being forced by her father to marry a count she does not love. Chase quickly outruns her by another car, but she convinces him that she's a detective in search for the eloped girl... And as their mutual, impossible search ensues, they get to like one another quite a bit (as far as that sort of thing goes in two-reel comedies).
The premise of a "heroine" being forced to marry a man she doesn't love for the sake of a noble title was far from new to film comedy by 1936; Chaplin had done a variation on this theme in A JITNEY ELOPEMENT all the way back to 1915, and French comedian Max Linder had taken use of similar plots even earlier. Still, there are enough original touches to make THE COUNT TAKES THE COUNT stand out. There's especially the rather sweet instance where Chase and the girl (played by the quite charismatic but by now nearly forgotten Andrea Leeds) find themselves tied up by a rope after being victims of a holdup; being squeezed into one another by force, it dawns on them that they like each other. Later on, after they've both been arrested for "impersonating an officer" and Chase finds himself handcuffed to a cop, there's a pretty funny "silent" routine with Chase and the officer having a meal at the latter's dinner table, Chase trying to enjoy it the best he can as he's forced to adjust his movements (and thus his ability to eat) to the movements of the cop to whom he's handcuffed.
THE COUNT TAKES THE COUNT was to be one of Chase's last two-reelers at Roach; later in the same year, his stint of 15 years was halted as Roach decided to make feature-films full-time, Chase signing up to make shorts at Columbia instead the following year. While I believe Charley's work in silents was more consistent, he made several memorable sound shorts as well; if you enjoy him at all, you should enjoy this one.
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