Social Success on the Dance Floor, in One Easy Lesson
I've seen several of the short comedies John Bunny made for Vitagraph during the period of his stardom, and this one may well be the jolliest. It's pleasant story, simple and straightforward, and gives both Bunny and his frequent co-star Flora Finch plenty of opportunities for surefire comic shtick. They have a nice rapport, and seem to be enjoying themselves. I was a little sorry to learn they disliked each other behind the scenes (according to Vitagraph co-founder Albert E. Smith), because they pair so well, especially here. You'd never suspect they "cordially hated one another" in reality. Oh, well. On screen, in any event, they make a good couple.
At the time this short was made, the popular team of Vernon & Irene Castle had launched a ballroom dance craze, so widespread it was much parodied by comedians. (Another example from the period is the short Fox Trot Finesse, starring Mr. & Mrs. Sidney Drew.) The plot of this film, Tangled Tangoists, plays like an extended plug for a dance studio; in fact, if Arthur & Kathryn Murray had been in business in 1914, this would have served as an ideal comic "infomercial."
Our story begins at a fashionable party, where everyone is dancing. Everyone, that is, except Miss Finch, who sits sadly by herself. And yet when a gentleman asks her to dance, she refuses; the problem, we learn, is that she doesn't know how. When Mr. Bunny arrives and is invited to dance, he gestures to his girth and shakes his head "No," indicating he considers himself too heavy. Bunny and Finch sit together, and promptly hit it off, but confess to one another that they cannot dance. The next day, Finch heads to a dance studio and enrolls for a lesson. Needless to say, her clumsiness is played for all it's worth. Meanwhile, Mr. Bunny makes the same decision, and, coincidentally enough, arrives at the very same dance studio. He and Finch take turns spying on one another, and each is much amused at the other's ineptitude on the dance floor. Time passes, however, and the next time there's a soiree, Mr. Bunny and Miss Finch prove to be the hit of the party, dancing together with grace and vigor. And when they decide to get married, the duo and their entourage DANCE into the courtroom!
This is a charming comedy, one that builds to a genuinely funny, unexpected punchline at the wedding sequence finale. I'd say the only shortcoming—and it's a minor one—is that the brief scene which follows the wedding comes as something of an anticlimax. But even so, this is a delightful short, one that makes it clear even now, more than a hundred years after it was made, why John Bunny and Flora Finch were such a popular team.
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