|Index||6 reviews in total|
Unless you are an avid film collector of 16mm or 8mm films, this is a hard to find title that deserves to be seen again. By the time this film was released, Charley Chase had done his best work before and behind the camera. However, this hilarious 18 minute entry in his comedy series for Columbia clearly shows that his gift for comedy was as versatile and impeccable as ever. A remake of an earlier 30's Educational short, entitled, "The Loudmouth", this updated version allows Charley to portray a character altogether different from his usual, happy go lucky, Good Time Charley appearance. Shot for shot, this may be the funniest sound short Chase ever made. Loaded with sight gags a plenty and some of the most seasoned comedy character comedians that date back to the silent days of film making, this makes a most noteworthy entry in Columbia's short subject factory. It is a shame that only the short films of the Three Stooges are allowed to be seen by Columbia's home video department because there is a motion picture treasure awaiting the consumer in the "lost" Columbia films of Buster Keaton, Harry Langdon, Andy Klyde, Charley Chase and scores of other brilliant comics. Out of the 20 films Charley Chase made for Columbia, more than half of them are very good, with only a few that don't hold up today. "The Heckler", "The Wrong Miss Wright", "Rattling Romeo", and "The Big Squirt" are, in my opinion, the best Columbia shorts Chase made. His directing and writing efforts at the studio were of note too as he contributed to some of the finest films of the Three Stooges, Andy Klyde and Tom Kennedy. In "The Heckler", we get to see a unique portrayal by Chase. Sadly, after two more films, he was to die too young and too early to see his films appreciated by new generations.
In most of the Charley Chase shorts I have seen, Chase delightfully
played a likable everyman who innocently stumbled into trouble. In THE
HECKLER Chase abandons his usual persona to play an obnoxious
loudmouth. Although he projects his usual winning vulnerability when
his character gets into a jam, Chase's character is devoid of any
redeeming qualities. But due to his cheerfully enthusiastic
performance, Chase's character is a riot.
The scenario, in which Chase's heckling affects baseball games' outcomes and some shady characters hire him for their own advantage, is slight. This doesn't matter since THE HECKLER is a short subject. What makes the short work are the gags, adroitly presented through Del Lord's direction. One cannot help but laugh at all the things Chase's character does to inconvenience his fellow spectators at the ball game- using someone's entire tobacco and matches to smoke a pipe, tearing a bandage off a man to fix his leaky cushion, distracting everyone from the game in order to obtain a loudly demanded hot dog, among other offenses. The gags are not only enhanced by Chase's performances but by those of the supporting players as well. Particularly amusing are Vernon Dent and Monty Collins as two unlucky fellows who are forced to sit next to Chase.
The short slackens a bit at around mid point but it rebounds for an energetic climax. It ends on quite an offbeat note. The old cliché 'It has to been seen to be believed' perfectly applies to this finish.
As enjoyable as THE HECKLER is, one feels a tinge of sadness viewing it. This was one of Chase's last films before his early death. Although his performance is lively, he looks older than his forty-six years. One can wonder what Chase might have accomplished if he had lived longer. That he actually was able to do such wonderful work like THE HECKLER during his brief lifetime testifies to his greatness. Chase was a comedic genius who shouldn't be forgotten.
Charley Chase began his fourth season at Columbia and his last ever --
he died the year this movie was released -- on a high note. THE HECKLER
doesn't look like a Chase comedy at all, but he played a similar loud
mouth in Laurel & Hardy's SONS OF THE DESERT. Perhaps director Del
Lord, screenwriter John Grey and Charley were indulging in a sly dig at
Jules White, who liked his comedies loud, violent and obvious.
Charley plays a professional heckler, hired by some gamblers to sabotage the Green Sox and their new star center fielder, played by Bruce Bennett. Of more interest -- and fun for all fans of old-time comedy -- is seeing all the old talent, many of whom Charlie had worked with and directed over his long career.
Alas, Charley's time was running out. His health had been failing for ten years, aggravated by chronic alcoholism. Yet he never let it show on the screen. With this and his last film, SOUTH OF THE BOUDOIR, he showed what he could do and went out on a high note.
In this short, Charley Chase plays an obnoxious guy who loves to go to
sporting events in order to taunt the athletes. He's completely boorish
and hateful--and everyone around him in the stands hates him. He elbows
people next to him, smokes nasty cigars and behaves like a total jerk.
And, it gets progressively worse as the film progresses. He's so
obnoxious that he pretty much ruins the Green Sox performance--and
gamblers decide to pay him to follow the team and harass them from the
I noticed one reviewer loved this one and thought it was among his best at Columbia. I wouldn't agree--but it's all a matter of personal taste. I assume they liked his boorish hi-jinx. I just thought it was all TOO obnoxious and it comes off as forced. This is NOT the sort of character Chase usually played--as he's usually pretty nice but occasionally clueless. Here, he's pretty much the opposite of his usual nice-guy character.In addition, I WANT to like Charley in the films I watch and here you just want him to be flattened by a bus! An interesting failure, though, as I can respect him and the studio trying something original--something lacking in many of his Columbia flicks. Plus, I did like the ending...it was pretty cute.
"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.
Charley Chase's terrific 1940 two-reeler THE HECKLER---sadly
unavailable on DVD as of this writing---not only showcased Chase's
talent for obnoxious élan (observed to scene-stealing effect in the
1934 Laurel&Hardy classic SONS OF THE DESERT), it also provided a
legendary catcall well known to baseball fans who might not know its
origin in THE HECKLER. Charley's piercing outcry---the prototype of
that single voice that rises above the crowd noise at any baseball
game---hilariously causes a hitter to swing and miss so violently that
he nearly screws himself into the ground! He rights himself and angrily
searches the crowd for the offending fan, only to be subjected to more
of the same from the triumphantly cackling Charley! I recall that this
short would turn up often on TV during my youth, giving rise to an
epidemic outbreak from Little League benches of Chase's batter-rattling
"Watch 'im MISS it!!"
Great stuff---whose attribution has been lost in the churn of pop culture.
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