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BY THE TIME that this first celluloid primer on the screen clowns of the Silent Screen hit the movie houses, the movies had been talking for about thirty years. It was 1957 and the USA was enjoying probably the most prosperous of times ever. We all had the marvels of Televisioon, right in our own living rooms.
SO WHY, YOU may ask, just why were we invited to our local neighborhood movie shows to view a 79 minute compilation of what was now considered obsolete, old hat, passé? All of us kids were familiar with "Old Time Movies" from their being screened on the various TV stations around the country. Names such as: Snub Pollard, Harry Langdon, Bobby Vernon and even the Mickey McGuire Series (starring a young Joe Yule, Jr.*) were all known to us.
BEING AN OBVIOUSLY Silent Film buff, Producer/Writer/Director Robert Youngson, set out to pay proper tribute and respect to both the Art Form and to those Men & Women who made it what it was. THE GOLDEN AGE OF COMEDY was his first installment.
THE CRAZY QUILT of a movie is made up of a multitude of clips taken from shorts featuring a array of actors' finest work. Getting high billing were names like: Will Rogers, Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow, Ben Turpin, Harry Langdon, Charley Chase, Billy Bevan and Andy Clyde. Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy were given a Lion's share of the screen time; Mr. Youngson obviously being a buff.
WE REMEMBER SEEING the "coming attractions" at a Saturday Matinée, and the kids all enthusiastically cheered for Laurel & Hardy when they were mentioned. Once again, they were familiarized to us through the miracle of the Television Tube.
WE DID PAY our two bits to see it and very much enjoyed the samplings of clips from so many movies with so many unknown names. The narration was very informative, the music was both appropriate and acted as a very fine instrument for amplifying the visuals before us.
UPON FURTHER CONSIDERATION, all these decades later, we now have noticed something about THE GOLDEN AGE OF COMEDY that very well may not be readily observed before. Although what we saw was great in its own right, where were the big stars? THERE IS OBVIOUSLY omissions of what has been called the "Big Three" of the Silent Screen Clowns; those being: Charlie Chaplin, Bjuster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.
ALTHOUGH THIS WAS most likely done deliberately, we believe that there was no malice involved.
FIRST OF ALL, availability of films would be the prime moving force here. If they ain't out there, no one can get them. The accessible films must also have a price tag on their licensing that is within budget.(That makes two reasons).
THIRD WE BELIEVE that time constraints would not allow the proper attention to be given to the major Stars. A compilation such as this is, after all, an anthology; as well as being a sort of overview or survey, if you will.
LASTLY, THIS MID to late fifties was only a few, short years removed from that era of hearings by the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the staunch Anti-Communist sentiments of the day. It was in 1952 that the now very prosperous Mr. Charles Chaplin refused to fill out a declaration for American Officials; opting to stay in Europe, rather than returning to the U.S.
MOST OF THESE shortcomings were remedied in the very next Youngson production, WHEN COMEDY WAS KING; which prominently displayed works by Keaton and Chaplin. Harold Lloyd was still absent, tough. Owning the rights to most of his major films, he opted for a compilation of his own, HAROLD LLOYD'S WLORLD OF COMEDY (1962).
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