A well-dressed but inebriated man decides to attend a variety show at the Palace Theatre. During the show, both he and the performers are continually harassed by a practical joke-loving boy... See full summary »

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A well-dressed but inebriated man decides to attend a variety show at the Palace Theatre. During the show, both he and the performers are continually harassed by a practical joke-loving boy who is sitting in a box seat near the stage. Soon the inebriated man himself begins to cause disruptions, with his overly emphatic opinions of the various acts. Written by Snow Leopard

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drunkenness | See All (1) »

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Short | Comedy

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20 January 1929 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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"This fellow Lane seems to be the whole show."
19 February 2006 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

This is the best comedy I've seen featuring Lupino Lane, an English music-hall veteran who came from a long line of theater people. Lane appeared in numerous silent comedies in which he worked with top directors and gag writers, and yet, although he was a gifted performer, he somehow never quite rose above the second-tier of comedy stars. Lane was an acrobatic little guy with a round face and a puckish expression; to contemporaries he might have suggested a more energetic version of Harry Langdon, but to my eyes he looks like a mixture of Eric Idle and Paul McCartney. Lane moved well and could take a fall like a Keystone veteran, but he doesn't have the vivid, unmistakable personality of the best silent comedians. Beyond that, perhaps the biggest drawback of his films --or the ones I've seen, anyway-- is that so much of his material is borrowed from other sources. Only Me is a cute comedy, clever at times, but the central idea is one with a long pedigree, and many of the gags will be familiar to silent comedy buffs.

Back in 1915 Charlie Chaplin made a two-reel comedy that was an adaptation of his early stage success, "Mumming Birds." This famous sketch, also known as "A Night in an English Music Hall," featured a show-within-a-show that is disrupted by a drunken man in the audience. The film version, renamed A Night in the Show, featured Chaplin in a dual role as two audience members, an upper class swell named Mr. Pest and a lower class bum named Mr. Rowdy. Mr. Pest has a number of run-ins with a bratty kid in an opera box who has brought a picnic lunch (including pies) to the theater; Mr. Rowdy, meanwhile, is so alarmed at the sight of a fire-eater on stage that he douses the man-- and much of the audience-- with water from a fire hose. There's little doubt that Lane (and his writers) saw the Chaplin film, for much of this detail finds its way into Only Me. There's even less doubt in my mind that Lane and his crew were familiar with Buster Keaton's 1921 comedy The Playhouse. This great comedy begins with a legendary dream sequence in which Buster plays all the personnel in a vaudeville theater. He's the conductor and the entire orchestra, all of the performers, a chimpanzee, and all of the audience: men and women, young and old, including a bratty kid in an orchestra box (possibly a tip of the hat to Chaplin). Keaton's dream sequence is a fantastic tour de force that lasts several minutes, and ends when stagehand Buster is rudely awakened and told to get back to work.

In Only Me Lupino Lane and his crew took Keaton's concept and stretched it to fill a full two reels, with elements from Chaplin's film liberally sprinkled throughout. Lane's short begins, like both Chaplin's and Keaton's, with our star comic buying himself a ticket and entering the theater. Like Chaplin, he is a drunken swell in a tux, and before long he is having a conflict with a bratty kid in the opposite opera box --who, like Chaplin's brat, has brought a picnic lunch along, including pies, and is soon flinging food at the swell. We quickly realize that the kid, his grandpa, the band leader and the pit musicians are all played by Lupino Lane. And when a juggler takes the stage (Lane sporting a mustache and cape) and begins to juggle flaming torches, the swell becomes alarmed and sprays him with a fire hose.

Get the idea? Basically, if you've seen the Chaplin & Keaton originals this film will feel awfully familiar at times, and yet Lane manages to introduce some clever touches of his own that keep his interpretation of the material fairly fresh. One of my favorite bits involves Lane in drag as a Diva in a long gown, preparing to sing an aria; trying to get comfortable she kicks the train of her gown one way and then another, then kicks it so hard she flips herself over. Recovered, she sings, and as she hits some presumably high notes the camera zooms right into her wide open mouth! There are also some amusing moments featuring a bewigged stagehand (Lane, of course) dressed in livery, whose job it is to step out on stage and change cards announcing the various acts. This character's running gags anticipate the later Warner Bros. cartoons set in theaters, such as Tex Avery's Hamateur Night. After a melodramatic playlet in which a villain demands rent money from a impoverished woman (both played by Lane) and throws her baby (Lane) out the window, the show builds to a wild finale when the strong man (Lane) challenges anyone in the house to fight him, and the drunken swell takes him on. Mayhem ensues, and the show ends with one last surprise twist.

Taken on its own merits, this is a moderately enjoyable silent comedy. Buffs will recognize most of the source material, but the star comic himself is charming and fun to watch, and if you've never seen Lupino Lane before Only Me certainly presents a good look at what he could do. Incidentally, I mentioned up top that our leading man came from a show business family; in several shots in this film he is doubled by his brother, Wallace Lupino. Their cousin Stanley happened to be the father of actress/director Ida Lupino, who kept the family business going well into the TV era.


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