|Index||6 reviews in total|
This is a highly enjoyable, offbeat comedy from the unsung comic genius
Charley Chase, and it also represents an important turning point in his
career; you might call it the beginning of his Golden Age. During the
1924-25 season Chase polished his skills as a starring comedian in a
series of one-reel comedies for the Hal Roach Studio. In these shorts
Charley was known as "Jimmy Jump," and usually played a well-meaning
but disaster-prone character he would explore further in two-reel
comedies under his own name. The early Jimmy Jumps are generally fun
and packed with gags, but the ten-minute running times didn't allow for
much character development or elaborate plotting; the films sometimes
feel rushed and end abruptly. Chase required the longer form to come
into his own.
Looking for Sally is one of Charley's first two-reel comedies from this period, and the last in which he used the name Jimmy Jump. It feels like a combination of what he'd been doing for the previous year or so (i.e. gags galore), and a preview of the format he would use in his best comedies just ahead, with a more carefully structured plot and elements of farce. Here "Jimmy" and his leading lady Sally (Katherine Grant) play a pair of childhood sweethearts who have been separated for some twenty years, and are now to be reunited at a pier where his ocean liner is docking. In order to enjoy the show we have to accept the plot devices that 1) their parents want them to marry, although they haven't seen each other in many years; 2) neither one has any idea what the other looks like now; and 3) through a rather unlikely coincidence, Sally and Jimmy each see the wrong person at the dock (an ugly old man and a homely woman, respectively) and each mistakenly believes that they've spotted the other. So now Jimmy wants nothing to do with Sally and she feels likewise, but when they actually encounter each other, unknowingly, in a funny little "meet cute" scene on the pier, it's love at first sight. You with me so far? It's only after they've parted that Jimmy realizes he loves this girl and must track her down, but he can't find her. He tries to enlist the help of a tough cop (Leo Willis, who usually played crooks) but only manages to alienate the guy and make matters worse. He also attracts the unwelcome attention of a detective (Noah Young, familiar from Harold Lloyd's comedies). Eventually Jimmy learns that Sally is a social worker at a mission on Skid Row, where she ministers to the homeless. Naturally enough, he decides to disguise himself as a Fallen Man, a hobo in a shabby suit, to get her attention. At Sally's temperance meeting Jimmy takes the stage in this get-up and addresses the crowd, narrating the story of how liquor brought him low.
It's at this juncture, during the flashback/fantasy recital of Jimmy's downfall, that the movie falls back into the gag-happy style of the one-reel series. Jimmy's tales are patently absurd, and deliberately overplayed like a temperance melodrama of 1909. The flashback framework (and our knowledge that Jimmy is blatantly fabricating his stories) permits this reprise of the surreal, cartoon-y style, and the scenes are a comic highlight. After this sequence the players switch back to the semi-realistic mode as Jimmy doffs his disguise and, after further complications and a brief chase, persuades Sally that he really is that nice young man from the pier, not a crazy wino.
A brief outline of the plot of Looking for Sally can't convey how enjoyable, offbeat or funny it is. This film marked the beginning of Charley Chase's remarkable run of terrific comedies, and is a must-see for fans and silent comedy buffs.
So: Charley comes home from Europe and his parents meet him at the dock
with the girl they want him to marry, but when they point him out to her,
he is standing next to a man who is wearing the same cap. So she thinks
Charley is twenty years older than his parents and runs away. Charley
her as he is struggling with his luggage and falls in love with her
instantly -- this is a twenty minute short -- and announces to his parents
that he can't marry the girl they want him to. Instead, he's going to
this girl, who has already left.
Eventually he finds her, running a mission on Skid Row. The only way he can get her to notice him is to pretend to be a derelict, and testify in her mission.
Simultaneously insane, silly, charming and always uproarious. If you don't know Chase's works, you have a treat in store.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film begins with Jimmy Jump (Charley Chase) returning from an ocean
voyage. It seems his parents have arranged a marriage to a girl Jimmy
knew as a child. But, it's been so long neither one of them would
recognize the other. When the boat pulls up to the dock, BOTH think
another person is their fiancé--and neither is interested in getting
married. However, very shortly after this, Jimmy meets his fiancé and
thinks she's wonderful--but still, neither knows the others' identity.
After losing her, Charley spends all his time looking for her. He eventually finds her on skid row--doing social work among the less fortunates. To get her to pay attention to him, he pretends to be a drunk. This backfires, however, as he starts pursuing her--and she just thinks he's some sort of nut.
The film is clever and worth seeing. It's certainly NOT hilarious but has its moments.
By the way, the detective is played by Noah Young--a frequent supporting actor in comedies of the era. He was very prolific and did quite a few films with Harold Lloyd, as Lloyd was also with Roach Studio for a few years.
"looking for Sally" was Charley Chase's last film made as part of the
"Jimmy Jump series, shortly after he started being allowed to expand
his comedies from one to two reels and just before he started using the
name Charley Chase on his comedies. It's also one of his funniest
films. The setup, Charley returning from an overseas trip to meet his
arranged fiancée, resembles the celebrated "Crazy Like a Fox" and its
later remake "The Wrong Miss Right," but the twist here is very
This short really demonstrates Charley's ability to fit a fully developed and hilarious farce into two reels -- Charley and his fiancée confuse each other for a pair of ugly people and try to avoid her, while Charley meets the real girl (Katherine Grant, an excellent comedy leading lady) -- with an equally funny subplot (the incompetent detective who chases Chase but keeps just being shown he's crazy) that nonetheless has time for copious long and ingenious gag sequences(such as extended bit around Charley's typical embarrassment at his underwear being visible).
In an unusual move that pays off big, there is a sequence in which Charley tells made-up stories (to convince his charity-worker prospective lover to pay attention to him) which are nonetheless illustrated with flashbacks. This becomes a series if comically exaggerated vignettes of a drunk Charley going stark raving mad when his bottle of liquor is smashed (and Charley the actor doing great comedy character work).
There is enough material here with the farce one one hand and the gags and semi-flashbacks on the other for two one-reelers but he is entwining them perfectly at this point. What's more the details are lavish and always attended to, which build and build on the humor: the blind man who's not blind, the saved drunks who laugh at Charley's story, the professional driver taught to drive on the spot, the little comedy-of-embarrassment touch after Charley changes clothes to disguise himself as a tramp, are all brilliant.
It also looks wonderful as a production: the long traveling shots of Charley chasing Katherine, Jump jumping into the dock, the gags with the surprisingly well-behaved horse all look wonderful and it's clear that Hal Roach's lavished a lot of time, care, and money on this particular short.
In short, everything seems to go right with this last short in the "Jimmy Jump" series, right down to the extra-witty title cards, and it's hilarious.
Looking for Sally (1925)
*** (out of 4)
Far-fetched but funny two-reeler from Hal Roach has Jimmy Jump (Charley Chase) returning from Europe after nearly two decades where he plans on marrying his childhood sweetheart Sally (Katherine Grant). She is waiting for him at the peer but he sees an ugly woman thinking it is her so he decides to stay away. He ends up meeting another woman at the peer, the real Sally, and spends the rest of the film trying to track her down. This is a pretty routine story built around the mistaken identity scenario that is hard to believe but there are enough big laughs to make this worth viewing. What really worked here is the maniac performance by Chase in his final billing as Jimmy Jump. He does a great job at showing off his comic timing and has many opportunities to play different types of comedy. Early on it's hilarious seeing his facial gestures when he thinks his true love is now a dog. Even funnier is towards the end when he's pretending to be a homeless drunk to meet his woman only to then go into a stage act of being crazy. Chase is wonderful but so is Grant as the woman he loves. Noah Young, a veteran Roach player, is also very good as a dumb detective trying to bust Chase for just about anything. The drunken flashback sequence really doesn't contain enough laughs to make it worth being included in the film but it will remind some of the early Keystone films. Fans of Chase will certainly eat this thing up but it's also a good one to show people who aren't familiar with the actor.
The most productive things to come out of the Hal Roach studios were Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy and 'The Little Rascals'. Although Charley Chase had something to offer the world of entertainment like 'Looking for Sally', he didn't stand head over shoulders above his contemporaries.
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