Although he made his movie debut in 1914 and worked prolifically thereafter, Charley Chase's career as a star comedian really took off in the early 1920s when he coined the name "Jimmy Jump" and launched a series of one-reel comedies. In these brief episodes Chase explored the comic possibilities of an average guy's misadventures in a basically realistic, workaday world. That may not sound especially daring, but at the time most comedians still relied on outlandish costumes, cartoon-y gags and surreal, non-linear story lines. Jimmy Jump looked like the kind of guy you might work with at the office or hang out with at the club, and he made a perfectly credible husband and father. Charley wasn't the first to break away from the Sennett style and play the Average Man (Sidney Drew and Harold Lloyd, among others, were ahead of him) but he proved to be one of the best at this brand of comedy. The Jimmy Jump shorts, which were cranked out very quickly, maintain a remarkably high standard.
A Ten-Minute Egg is one of the most enjoyable entries in the series. At the top of the film Jimmy is established as an affable but rather wimpy guy, easily pushed around by bullies. So he has a business card printed up identifying him as the bouncer at the Barrel of Blood Café (great name!), and finds that he can come out on top in most situations by simply presenting the card. But when an evil con man attempts to cheat Jimmy's fiancée and her mother the card proves to be useless, and Jimmy has to summon up genuine courage and physical pluck to win the day.
There's nothing revolutionary about the premise, but using that simple framework Charley offers up a steady supply of fresh and funny gags. Unlike such contemporaries as Ben Turpin or Larry Semon, Chase wouldn't do just anything for a laugh; his comedy was based on situation and character, and for the most part it was grounded in reality, albeit an exaggerated and sometimes nightmarish reality. The threatening business card Jimmy presents whenever he encounters a hostile person in this film is a clever, "real world" comic idea. It reminded me of the talisman carried by Harold Lloyd in Grandma's Boy: it's a token of courage that turns out to be quite bogus, but it gives the possessor a sense of invulnerability that eventually seeps in and is acted upon at a crucial moment.
The climax of this short is beautifully filmed and edited, action-packed and genuinely suspenseful. A Ten-Minute Egg may not be the greatest short Chase ever made, but it stands with the best of his Jimmy Jump series, and the finale alone makes it well worth seeing more than once.
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