'A Bath House Beauty' is an early and crude Keystone comedy, making better use than usual of Mack Sennett's penchant for filming in real locations. This very funny short is also a splendid showcase for the talents of Roscoe Arbuckle, still developing his craft.
Here, Roscoe is a family man at the seaside, lumbered with a shrewish (though attractive) wife and an extremely annoying young son. I don't recognise the child who plays Roscoe's son -- he might be Paul Jacobs, wearing an Orphan Annie wig -- but this kiddywink is such a brat that I laughed when Roscoe kicked him in the face.
Roscoe meets up with a charming young lady in a bathing costume (the uncredited actress is Arbuckle's real wife at this time, Minta Durfee), and the two of them break into a charming and delightful dance. For all his girth, Arbuckle was an extremely light-footed and graceful dancer, and his pas de deux here is a sheer delight, not remotely relying on 'fat' gags.
Unfortunately, the bathing beauty has a husband ... and the husband has got two pistols which are magically capable of firing dozens of bullets without reloading! I wish I could identify this actor: he's hilarious, clearly determined to fire his pistols in every direction EXCEPT at their proper targets.
Roscoe and his new girlfriend jump aboard the Dip Dip (a fun-fair switchback), and we see some impressive exterior locations of the amusement park. But the husband is hot on their heels. Roscoe ducks into a bath house and disguises himself as a woman, in one of the elaborate bathing costumes that female swimmers wore at this time.
Here we witness another of Arbuckle's remarkable talents. Despite his huge size, Arbuckle was one of the few male comedians who could convincingly impersonate a woman. (It helped that his body was entirely hairless.) Arbuckle is absolutely believable as a woman, and hilariously so.
SPOILERS COMING. Of course, Roscoe's son spots him en-femme, and immediately sets out to expose him. Roscoe's wife joins the chase. So do the Keystone Cops. One of the funniest things about this movie is that the husband's pistols are obviously going to carry on blazing away indefinitely, firing dozens of bullets ... so then, at the worst possible moment, they DO run out of bullets. HIlarious! This crude comedy features some fascinating California locations, and is very funny as well. Thank you, Roscoe. I'll rate this one 8 out of 10.
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