I'd heard a lot of praise for Lloyd "Ham" Hamilton as a "comedian's comedian" of his era and a big inspiration for Charley Chase, of whom I'm a big fan. This one-reel comedy is the first of his films that I've actually seen, and I found it extremely funny. The action proceeds from a series of very well-constructed and often ingenious gags around the simple premise that, through no fault of his own, Ham's day gets worse and worse. These gags are all hits and build off each other wonderfully, and some of them have just a certain inspiration to them. There is also some fun use of surreal magic humor that still doesn't feel too cartoony, with a malfunctioning car being blown up into a tree, and Ham falling down one hole in the ground to pop up from another.
One gag, I felt, had some wasted potential -- Ham is sitting in a mission and a thief reaches through the window behind him to steal from the collection bowl. It looks as if this is his own arm taking the money. However, only one person sees him and he is later thrown out after that person doesn't stop the hymn and the thief enters to accuse him. Maybe this was an intentional deflation of expectations, but it feels like a missed opportunity. Still, with so many situations in a single reel they can't all be developed.
I especially like the sequences where Hamilton is asked to dry off a lady's dog which keeps sneaking back into the pond unbeknownst to him, and in which some boys fool him into getting them a ten-dollar reward by inducing him to deface a wall in front of a policeman. These are timed and played out for maximum effect. Despite most of the film not arising from character, we still get a strong sense of Hamilton's character, which speaks to his skill as a performer. His obvious innocent finicky fussiness seems to elevate the humor (and supposed situation of his being a party animal who is coming home late) by contrast. In addition, this film seems to slow down for Hamilton a bit the way Harry Langdon's comedies would slow down for him a few years later. For just about every laugh there is a second laugh from Hamilton's reaction. This all makes a top-drawer comedy short, and one from a comedian I'll be exploring further.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?