later Hughie Mack silent comedy short, with two elephants
Hughie Mack, a large and manic performer (as large as John Candy or Jackie Gleason at their largest, maybe bigger), was a popular and successful comedy star in the teens, so by 1920 (when this was made) he was no longer the draw he once was, and this may not be typical of his earlier work (which I haven't seen in years). In this two-reel silent short, Mack (whose persona here is manic and exasperated, almost like Ralph Kramden at his most out-of-control) gets a letter telling him about a gift/inheritance from India, and it turns out to be two elephants. Dot Farley, as Hughie's cook (although Hughie and his wife seem to be not very affluent, so I'm not sure how he hires a cook), has outrageous pigtails sticking out horizontally that look like something found on an alien, and she is just as over-the-top as Hughie in her performance (She is best-known to today's audiences for her sound film work in Edgar Kennedy shorts, as Edgar's harsh mother-in-law). Are the elephants funny? Well, they are funnier than the lion that Mack Sennett worked into a number of his shorts and films in 1931-32! Mack plays a character named Jonah Whale (get it?), and the title cards through the movie have a cartoon of a large man's face with the mouth wide open as if hollering, and the open mouth (the bottom half of the screen) contains the characters' lines, and sometimes little animated figures running around under the lines! There's a rough and tumble quality here that is appealing--you get the sense that the filmmakers just ran the elephants down the street or onto the minimal sets and filmed whatever happened. Also, Hughie Mack is a wild screen presence--if Fatty Arbuckle's comedy is too mannered for you, then Hughie Mack is the man for you. My only problem with this short (hence the six rating, and not an eight or so) is that the premise of the elephants is not enough to carry the film for a full twenty minutes--this would have been better as a one reeler. However, no doubt the elephants cost a bit to hire for a day or two, so the rent provided by a two-reeler might have been needed to recoup costs. If the thought of a huge man, a manic woman with gravity-defying pigtails, and two elephants doing primitive silent comedy appeals to you, keep an eye out for this film (the opening card on my copy is from a reissue print--the rest of the cards seem to be original--and the title ELEPHANTS ON HIS HANDS is crudely printed on it. I believe that AN ELEPHANT ON HIS HANDS was the original release title, although the alternate reissue title is more accurate!)
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