An obnoxious heckler at a baseball game infuriates everybody.

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Tom Hanlon ...
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Storyline

An obnoxious heckler at a baseball game infuriates everybody.

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baseball | remake | See All (2) »

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And you can tell the folks I'm not going to give 'em a chance to catch their breath between laughs! (Title lobby card).

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Comedy | Short

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Release Date:

16 February 1940 (USA)  »

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(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
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Connections

Remake of The Loud Mouth (1932) See more »

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Don's miss "Watch him miss it!"
12 October 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"The Heckler," one of the last shorts Charley Chase made before dying in the year it was released, has become pretty well known as one of his best films, and the best of his 1937-1940 series of two-reelers for Columbia Pictures. Whether it's actually the best is up for debate, and I have seen a couple that edge it out, but that's to their credit, not "The Heckler's" detriment. It certainly deserves all the attention, as it's both hilarious and iconic.

Charley Chase plays just the kind of obnoxious super-fan that we've all met at a baseball game (or away from one) before -- but just plausibly exaggerated to just the right degree. The sequence of gags that follow from this character is about as great as you imagine. Charley finds perfect and escalating ways to infuriate the other fans -- then grudgingly complain that "I guess there's a guy like you at every game" when somebody asks him to pass a hot dog. As much as the gag writing here, though, it's Charley's performance that makes it. His character is theoretically very different than the one he typically plays, but just as in his supporting role in Laurel and Hardy's "Sons of the Desert" make him feel like a branch from the same innately likable tree. Yes, you can't help but finding him likable here no matter how much of a nuisance he is, partially because of how much fun he's having even as he drops soda on people's heads and jokes that "That shouldn't hurt -- it's a soft drink!" instead of apologizing.

This is an atypical short from Charley also in that the humor comes almost entirely from he performance and the great situational gags, rather than the kind of complicated, embarrassing, and frustrating predicament he was a master at devising. Mainly the plot is "annoying man goes to a ballgame," plus some thrown-in gangster bits -- but in this case it feels like that's because there's a wish not to cut out any of the comedy to make room from plot.

"Watch him MISS it!" is an unforgettable running gag with so many different winning variations it's incredible -- and this ends with just about the funniest closing joke -- which I won't spoil -- that there must ever have been.

So who says nobody can make a good baseball movie? This short looks a little cheap due to its extensive use of stock footage from baseball games and its cardboard stands, but that doesn't matter. It's 17 minutes of just about pure funny, and also the all-time parody and indictment of that universal problem -- the irritating fan at the ballgame.


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