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The Adventures of Bud and Susie, 21 April 2014

Here's a unique cartoon. It's an early Frank Moser effort from the Bray Studio and seems to be the only survivor of the "Adventures of Bud and Susie" series.

Bud (the toddler) and Susie (his slightly older sister) watch a man pulling taffy and decide to make their own at home. While their parents watch, they make a mess. It's clearly intended to be sweet rather than funny.

What is of technical interest is the rather elaborate background work, undoubtedly an early flowering of cel technique and the family cat. It's the same cat that appeared in all those Aesop's Fables cartoons that Terry did for van Beuren and which he carried into his own studio.

Need to Be Needed, 20 April 2014

A man who has lost his job trudges to the Danube to kill himself. When a young woman throws herself in, he rescues her and they begin their long and erratic journey to love.

Writer-Director-Epidemiologist-Archaeologist Paul Fejos -- I'm pretty sure he didn't wear all his hats on this shoot -- offers us a charming view of Vienna from the underside, with leads Annabella and Gustav Fröhlich most charming. The ups and downs go on a little too often. I would have cut it one iteration short, but he directs it as a silent with enough sound sequences to let you know this is the sound era. The leads mime their sequences very nicely. Annabella is almost mute (perhaps her German was not so good) is her shy, mousy role and Fröhlich's performance suggests Bill Haines in one of his more down-to-earth roles.

Anyone who has seen Fejos' LONESOME will recognize this as another film in the same vein, a corrective to King Vidor's THE CROWD. Between the players and the city of Vienna, this is a good one to see.

D is for Dierentuin, in Antwerp the Zoo, 19 April 2014

This one-reel documentary about the Antwerp zoological gardens is interesting for the wide variety of animals shown in it, the advanced and amiable manner in which the less ferocious beasts are housed, the constant and eternal crowds in front of the monkey house and the fact that you can learn a good deal of Dutch vocabulary by checking out the captions. It's like an alphabet book for animals in Dutch.

views of zoos had been popular since the beginning of cinema. One of the Lumiere's earlier films was 1896's "Lion, London Zoological Garden:, With the passage of time, these short actualities needed to be linked into longer films and become parts of features. Here's an intermediate stage.

Cue the Holst Music, 19 April 2014

This movie may be the most elaborate variation on the sort of film that Georges Melies made famous: his TRIP TO THE MOON. Segundo De Chomon pulls out all the stops with dozens of cuts, iris shots, drawn scenery, cycloramas, stop motion, acrobats, fireworks.... you name it, it's there.

It was all about to be swept away. Melies had borrowed from every previous method of shows, from stage and magicians and magic lanterns. He had added in more tricks made possible by a motion picture camera. It was all going under in its elaboration. It had grown too unwieldy as a story-telling technique and it would all be replaced by something just as complicated but much more subtle: modern film grammar. It would use every one of these techniques to a greater or lesser extent. It would, however, look entirely different.

A Comedy of Inadvertance, 19 April 2014

Johnny Arthur, as Harold Hayseed, in the new fellow on campus, the butt of every joke. He annoys the Rector and the captain of the opposing football team -- played by Stanley Lupino. Of course he joins the football team and through the usual combination of cluelessness and luck, scores the winning goal.

You may take it I don't care much for this comedy, and you'd be right. Johnny Arthur was a Nance comedian who was a good and reliable performer, but whose screen character was not particularly appealing. Here, despite a good collection of gags and some fine direction by Norman Taurog, he perseveres mostly because he is too stupid not to know he is beaten and is rewarded with the affections of Kathryn McGuire.

You may enjoy it for the competently enacted series of gags or, like me, be annoyed by the performances. If you wish to see for yourself, the Belgian Royal Archives has a good print and have posted it to Youtube.

The Meeting (1917/I)
The Captain and Kid, 18 April 2014

When some children try to poison the Captain's goat, it's Bobby Connelly who stops them long enough to let the Captain emerge, drive them off and make friends with Bobby. When the other kids tell their parents that he tried to kill them, a mob assembles.

Bobby Connelly was Vitagraph's child star in this period and this relatively innocent short subject is well handled by John S. Robertson, who would specialize in children's movies through the mid-thirties. He would cap his career with a couple of early Shirley Temple features. This is not a great movie, but for fans of the era, it's nice to see the pleasantly tinted copy preserved by the Royal Belgian Archive and posted by them on Youtube.

Look at Me!, 17 April 2014

A man at the front of the crowd doffs his tall silk hat and bows to the camera. The crowd of people present for the annual Egg Rolling Festival of Preston peer at the camera. They point at it, they smile at it, they leap up to be seen by it.... and doubtless bought tickets to see themselves in the theater.

This was a specialty of Mitchell and Kenyon. They ran a film studio in Manchester that specialized in local sights -- although they would occasionally go outside the conurbation and sometimes even across the Irish Sea. Everyone seems to wear a hat in a Mitchell & Kenyon movie and take great delight in their instant celebrity. It's a look into a different world, at once more foolish and better than the one we live in these days.

A Run-Out Powder, 17 April 2014

Betty Compson is worried about reports of burglars, but Neal Burns doesn't want to give up his night out with the boys. He gives her a draft of sleeping powder. Betty slips it into his decanter, but the cook's cop boyfriend gets his hands on it and falls asleep. Meanwhile, Neal needs something to wear for tonight's costume party. He borrows the cop's uniform and complications ensue.

The Christies had not yet gone slapstick, so this is an ambitious mix of drawing-room comedy with physical bits. The result is neither fish nor fowl nor good red meat and only intermittently amusing. However, the copy that the Belgian Royal Archives has posted to Youtube has stencil coloring that is very rare in American films of the era and might be worth looking at for that technical issue.

What a Tangled Weber We Weave, 17 April 2014

Fred Mace and Henry Lehrman steal Kops Chief Ford Sterling's gift to his wife, then fall out. There is much gun play in this split-reel comedy.

Although a lot of Keystones spoofed the work of Sennett's old boss, D.W. Griffith, this one seems more squarely aimed at Lois Weber, with its Dutch angles and moving close-ups that involve the camera standing still while the actors stalk past it. Clearly Sennett would make fun of anyone.

This short film is very rare, but a good print survives in the Belgian Royal Archives and they have just posted a copy to Youtube. Enjoy!

Love and Marriage, 16 April 2014

The third season of Musty Suffer shorts brought several changes. First, this series was produced by Essannay. Second, Musty is no longer a filthy tramp. He is a bizarrely dressed man, but his clothes no longer look like they were stolen from a collection of cleaning rags. Finally, this world looks a lot more real, with less of the absolute sadistic humor of the best of the earlier seasons. People still treat him badly, hiding the knickknacks when he calls and attacking him when he plays the trombone, but that's people.

He does get treated badly in this one, when he marries --- apparently for money, since the lady in question has no apparent charms. It's a well executed comedy. If it lacks the hellish look of the first two seasons, the gags are good and the final gag suits the character.

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