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Isn't Life Terrible? (1925)

Passed | | Comedy, Short | 5 July 1925 (USA)
Charley is plagued with failure and with his brother-in-law, who's allergic to labor. When he decides to take the family on a camping trip, his wife learns about a contest sponsored by a ... See full summary »



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Complete credited cast:
... The Husband
... The Wife
... Remington - the Brother-in-Law (as 'Babe' Hardy)
Lon Poff ... Mr. Jolly


Charley is plagued with failure and with his brother-in-law, who's allergic to labor. When he decides to take the family on a camping trip, his wife learns about a contest sponsored by a pen company, with the first prize being an ocean trip. To win the prize Charley has to sell those pens - surprisingly he wins, but the ship turns out to be a wreck on it's last trip to the scrapyard. To make things worse they accidentally leave their young daughter on the dock and the ship sails without her. What else can go wrong on this trip? Written by Stephan Eichenberg <eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Short


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

5 July 1925 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs


(2005 alternate)

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Crazy Credits

Except for Charley Chase, whose name appears above the title, there is no cast list. Actors are introduced by inter-title cards just before they appear on the screen. The IMDb cast list therefore uses this "order of appearance" sequence. See more »

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User Reviews

Life terrible? No, but this movie is.

A consistent gimmick in American comedy films and cartoons is the practice of giving them titles that parody recent dramatic releases, even when there's no other similarity between the serious film and the comedy. Charley Chase's 1925 comedy "Isn't Life Terrible?" parodies the title of a D.W. Griffith drama from the previous year, "Isn't Life Wonderful?" ... but the two movies are otherwise dissimilar, with unrelated plots.

After some early unfunny gags involving Fay Wray and fountain pens, Charley prepares to embark on a cruise with his wife, their young daughter and his work-shy brother-in-law. The latter is played by Oliver Hardy without a moustache; regrettably, Hardy has very little to do in this movie and is given no chance to be really funny. The name of Hardy's character, Remington, is funnier than anything he does here.

Charley's little daughter (Mary Kornman) is about nine years old. Just before they board the ocean liner, Chase accidentally loses Mary and unknowingly acquires a little Negro girl about the same age (played by an uncredited child actress). There's an unpleasantly unfunny sequence in which Charley and his wife nonchalantly stroll the deck with (they think) their little daughter in tow, oblivious to the rude stares of busybodies wondering how this white couple have acquired a black daughter.

Oddly, after Chase and his wife embark with the black girl, their daughter Mary is left alone on the quay: she isn't with the black girl's parents, and they don't seem concerned with locating their own daughter. By omission, this movie manages to imply that black parents don't care about their own children as much as white parents do theirs.

I was very impressed with the personable acting of both the child actresses in this movie, making me regret that the black girl remains unidentified. She and Kornman are a couple of cute little charmers, and both of them wear fetching costumes. But the movie has a serious flaw. If this situation occurred in real life -- a child is left behind when her parents go on a trip, and another child is separated from her own parents -- the participants would be deeply concerned, and preoccupied with putting things right. In this movie, annoyingly, once Charley discovers he's got the wrong girl, he more or less treats this as a fait accompli and doesn't seem particularly concerned about Mary.

There are some gags that could have been quite funny, premised on the notion that the ocean liner is so decrepit it's literally falling apart. Charley leans on a bulkhead and it falls overboard, a lifebelt sinks, and so forth. These gags are well-done, but I kept expecting the characters to return to the problem of the swapped daughters ... which never really does become a major plot point in this ill-thought comedy. I was reminded of a similar situation in Buster Keaton's ocean-liner comedy 'The Navigator'. Keaton filmed an elaborate sequence (ultimately scrapped) that drew huge laughs from preview audiences when shown out of context as a preview trailer, but which wasn't funny when included in the complete movie ... because at that point in the story, Keaton's character had priorities that should have deterred him from this particular activity. Chase's character has a comparable conflict in "Isn't Life Terrible?", but doesn't confront it properly.

There's a brief but effective performance by Lon Poff as a "chips" (ship's carpenter) who looks like Death warmed over. I would have rated this movie about 2 points out of 10, but I'll give it an extra point -- 3 in 10 -- for the charming screen presences and acting talents of the two child actresses seen here. Don't expect to laugh much during "Isn't Life Terrible?".

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