6.9/10
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3 user 2 critic

Many a Slip (1927)

Charley attempts to invent a non-slippery banana peel.
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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Charley (as Charley Bowers)
Corinne Powers
Eddie Dunn
Kolin Kelly
Cornelius MacSunday ...
(as Con MacSunday)
Dan Duffy
Frank Donnelly
Maureen McCoy
Betty Marvin ...
(as Betty Marvin)
Bertha Wilson
George Williams
Joseph F. O'Connor
Pierre Collosse
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Storyline

Although his mother-in-law has become exasperated by Charley's odd inventions, Charley is now trying to develop a way of making banana peels less slippery. He identifies a germ on banana peels that causes them to be slippery, and he then sets out to find a way to eliminate these germs. He has several formulas that are ready to be tried - but testing them is going to involve some hazards, both to himself and to others. Written by Snow Leopard

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Genres:

Comedy | Short

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Release Date:

24 January 1927 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bricolo inventeur  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Presented in Switzerland at the Geneva "Festival Tout Ecran" on 31-10-2007 See more »

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User Reviews

 
Charley tackles a problem of vital interest to silent clowns: the traction of banana peels
5 October 2006 | by See all my reviews

I remember the first time I saw a Charley Bowers comedy as part of a silent film variety program; it was like discovering that Buster Keaton had a first cousin from Mars. Slightly built, with dark side-parted hair and a long, pale face, Bowers sometimes bears an uncanny resemblance to Keaton, enhanced by his ingenious underdog character and his interest in machinery. But his films are much zanier, more truly bizarre and surreal. Keaton, especially in his feature films, was a stickler for logic, authenticity, and believable stories. Bowers was an illusionist; the core of his art is the dream-like fantasies he created through stop-motion animation: cars hatching from eggs, a stuffed doll coming to life, a mouse firing a gun. His background was in cartooning and animation, and he brought a loopy, far-out sensibility that is closer to the cartoons of the Fleischer Brothers than to the work of any other silent comedians. But comparisons are inadequate; Charley Bowers was unique.

While he's not a great performer, Charley is a winning presence in his own films. The key-note of his character is enthusiasm: he's constantly bounding and hopping around in excitement over his inventions. He usually played an inventor, a guy with a one-track mind, calmly monomaniacal, unquenchably visionary. He invents a process that renders egg-shells unbreakable, grafts a pussy-willow bush that grows live cats, builds a fully-automated restaurant kitchen and constructs a pair of shoes that dance by themselves. As a friend of mine pointed out, Charley was an early type of the "techno-geek," a technically brilliant guy who is weak in social skills. His off-beat behavior often sabotages his success; he doesn't always get the girl. Many of his films follow the downbeat pattern of THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT: violent hostility overtakes the well-meaning inventor when his inventions go awry or threaten the status quo.

Charley Bowers' films are usually more mind-boggling than laugh-out-loud funny, but MANY A SLIP is simply hilarious. It starts with a delicious premise: Charley the inventor sets out to develop a formula for non-slippery banana peels. (Has he considered how many slapstick comedians this would throw out of work?) He hides out in a basement workshop, avoiding the interference of his battle-ax mother-in-law, and he goes about his work with methodical zeal. He has a spidery multi-armed machine that dunks peels in experimental solutions (everything in his workshop is labeled "patent applied for") and he tests the treated peels himself, trudging heroically up a staircase and letting himself skid to the bottom. When he gets tired of that he starts planting them for others to slip on, popping out of trap doors and poking a fishing-rod out of a hidden window. A montage of pratfalls follows, until he finally achieves a peel with good traction. It's not too surprising when the man who offers him $50,000 for the invention turns out to be an escaped lunatic.

Believe it or not, this is one of the less weird Bowers films I've seen. It contains only a small segment of animation, when Charley looks through a kind of microscope (it looks like a giant, inverted telescope) and discovers the germ that's responsible for making banana peels slippery, a little critter that skates and slithers around woozily. This is scientific progress, silent comedy style.

NOTE: When I watched this film on the excellent Lobster Films DVD "Charley Bowers: the Rediscovery of an American Comic Genius," I didn't realize that I was seeing only the second half of a two-reel film, all that survived at the time. Then, at a screening presented by Serge Bromberg, the head of Lobster Films, I got to see the whole thing, a complete print having recently turned up. Most of the best stuff is in the latter half anyway, but the first reel shows the arrival of Charley's mother-in-law and her two dreadful sons for a visit, and some of Charley's other inventions, including a bicycle-powered player-piano and a self-feeding coal boiler that causes the radiator to melt into a puddle. We also see a man (who returns at the end) offer Charley a reward for the invention of a non-skid banana skin. Enraged by Charley's erratic inventions, his mother-in-law storms off to the police station—and that's where the version on the DVD picks up. Here's hoping that more lost Charley Bowers work will be discovered—there's nothing else like it.


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