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Tell me, pretty maid ...

6/10
Author: F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales
18 June 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'Chasing the Chaser', directed by Stan Laurel and co-written by Laurel with Charley Chase's brother James Parrott, was one of the comedy shorts that tried to promote James Finlayson as a star comedian. 'Fin', of course, would ultimately achieve success as an adversary to the greatest comedy team of all time ... but he's quite good here, running a gamut of facial expressions in a haberdasher's shop. However, the stand-out performance in 'Chasing the Chaser' has to be that of Jules Mendel, who offers an astonishing female impersonation. (Mendel had done a femme act in vaudeville as Jewel Mendel.)

We first see Mendel in full female disguise, seated at a desk in a detective agency. (Address: 714 Grief Building.) Two lady clients enter. This being 1925, a woman can't possibly be the person in charge, so they ask to see the head man: the secretary whips off 'her' wig, revealing Mendel underneath. Unfortunately, the sequence is set up so that I had a clear view of Mendel's adam's-apple and shoulders, tipping the wink before he took off his wig.

This is something I've never quite understood about female impersonations: when the alleged woman takes off her hair, revealing a shorter haircut underneath, we're supposed to realise that she's a man. But if the rest of the female disguise is good enough to avoid suspicion, then why doesn't removing the wig merely make her seem a short-haired woman? Maybe the larger brow ridge and higher forehead on a man are the give-away.

Anyroad, Helen Gilmore's husband (Finlayson) is a philanderer, so she and neighbour Marjorie Whiteis engage Mendel to show up at Finlayson's house (disguised as a parlourmaid) and flirt with him. Mendel's female disguise is almost perfect ... but, stupidly, he fakes a feminine swoon into Finlayson's arms. Won't Fin notice that this 'woman' is heavy enough to be a man? Later, when the maid gets 'her' skirt torn off, we see that male Mendel has concealed his family Jules inside female directoire undergarments. Now, that's really getting into a role! But why doesn't Mendel's character wear kirby grips to keep his wig in place?

A scene featuring Fay Wray as a nursemaid with a pram distressed me, because Fay leaves her infant outside in the street while she's inside a shop ... for an hour, the title cards tell us. I hope the kid's parents fired her. The two lead actresses should have swapped roles: Gilmore, as the wife, isn't nearly so funny as Whiteis, whose haughty performance here reminds me of the great Edna May Oliver.

As a comedy, 'Chasing the Chaser' is slightly above average: I'll rate it 6 out of 10. This movie will probably be of much greater interest to students of cross-gender disguise for Jules Mindel's near-perfect impersonation of a pretty parlourmaid.

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A decent directorial effort by Stan Laurel

6/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
4 August 2007

At Hal Roach Studios, many of the actors were also given a chance to direct films as well. The most famous of these was Charley Chase, who under his real name "Charles Parrot" directed dozens of comedy shorts. In the case of this film, Stan Laurel (who at the time was a solo comedian) was given a chance to direct. Aside from James Finlayson in the lead, the film is full of people who are unknown today, but the overall effort is pretty good and watchable.

The most interesting part of the movie is the cross-dressing private detective Finlayson hires to prove that James is cheating on her. Unlike in THE SLEUTH, where Stan Laurel looks pretty as a private eye in drag, the guy who cross-dresses to uncover the dirt on Finlayson is amazingly convincing as a girl! You have to see it to believe it, that's for sure! Not a great film from the era, but a little better than average and a decent time-passer. Give it a look.

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Talent

Author: boblipton from New York City
27 February 2003

A fairly good comedy short from 1925, made more interesting by the talent involved: future Laurel & Hardy supporting actor Jimmy Finlayson stars; Stan Laurel directs and co-writes; James Parrott, brother of Charley Chase and future L&H director co-writes; L&H cinematographer Art Lloyd is behind the camera and future KING KONG star Fay Wray has a small role.

Fin is very good as a faithful husband, whose wife is looking for proof that more than his eyes have been roving. She hires a private detective to provide it. It consists of three scenes and the one in which Fin is trying to pick out a new hat is interesting. He was always good at registering comic dislike.

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