Jimmy Jump is a cracked reporter at a behind-the-times daily newspaper. He also happens to be in love with the managing editor's daughter. It's Monday, April 1st and the paper's editorial ... See full summary »
Jimmy Jump is a cracked reporter at a behind-the-times daily newspaper. He also happens to be in love with the managing editor's daughter. It's Monday, April 1st and the paper's editorial staff has a great deal of trouble telling the difference between April Fool's jokes and real events. Written by
Jimmy Jump (Charley Chase) drinks from a dribble glass (leaks from the bottom) and the water is pouring on his suit vest, but there are no signs of dampness when he holds the glass away from him. See more »
Charley carries this one pretty much on charm alone
One you've seen a few silent comedies you begin to notice that different rules are followed in shorts as compared to feature-length movies. Where the features tend to be carefully constructed, more realistic, and slower paced, the shorts are spontaneous, wilder, weirder, and definitely faster. It's in the short comedies that you're likely to find the "cartooniest" gags, heavier dollops of slapstick violence, nonsensical plot twists, and guys with bizarre facial hair. And this is especially the case with one-reel comedies: the single-reel works of Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Stan Laurel, and Charley Chase usually feature crazy, crude material they did not tend to use in their later, longer films, things that often appear to have been improvised while the cameras were rolling.
April Fool is an example of what I mean. Charley Chase made this one- reel comedy back when his screen character was still known as "Jimmie Jump," and it's not as polished as some of his later work. This is an instance where the charm of the lead comic carries the day, for the gags are mostly predictable and routine, almost like reflex actions. Most of the story is set in the office of a newspaper called the Morning Megaphone; it's April 1st and apparently the staff has little else to do but devote the day to playing pranks on each other. (I suspect the only reason our setting is a newspaper office instead of, say, an insurance agency, was to justify a couple of title card quips about journalism: e.g., the editor has weak circulation like his paper, etc.) One of the best gags is the very first one, when the office boy puts tacks in all the chairs and everyone sits simultaneously --and then jumps up simultaneously. It's a cute visual, but it also anticipates the level of wit that prevails thereafter. We know that when Charley is fooled with a rubber hammer that a real one will be mistaken for the fake one and that something will get broken (check!), that when cigars are handed out they'll ultimately explode (check!), and that when Charley receives a phone-call reporting a genuine fire the news will be regarded as a prank and thus ignored (check!).
Actually this last-mentioned gag is a little confusing in the way it's presented. It's the editor-in-chief's wife who has accidentally set her house on fire, but for some reason she keeps calling Charley and ordering him to tell her husband that their house is burning down. Why doesn't she call her husband directly? He has a phone on his desk. Better yet, why doesn't she call the fire department? The producers of these short-shorts seemed to feel the limited running time justified illogical behavior by the characters, or figured we wouldn't notice as long as the pace is fast enough. We do notice, but it doesn't matter; these one-reel comedies aren't much longer than cartoons so the people in them may as well behave like cartoon characters. When his house burns to the ground even the editor himself doesn't react normally: he doesn't bother to comfort his wife, who is wandering dazed in the gutted ruins, but instead swiftly returns to the office to punch Charley in the nose!
April Fool is one of several Charley Chase comedies released on DVD by Kino within the last couple of years, a happy and long overdue development. This little comedy is far from the best of Chase's output to be restored and made available, but some of the others go a long way toward establishing his reputation for modern viewers as one of the great unsung talents of silent comedy.
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