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A wealthy but hungry Ben Turpin with a touch of gray.
My first encounter with Ben Turpin was as Charlie Chaplin's fellow reveler in "A Night Out" (1915). I liked Chaplin as a drunk, and Turpin was in a lot of ways his equal. Thirteen years later, a 59-year-old Turpin turns up, with gray at the temples, in "Idle Eyes," from Weiss Brothers Artclass. If you're a fan of short silent Comedy and I'm not talking "oh, Chaplin, pathos, lesser effort, ladeda" you should enjoy this one.
Ben Turpin is Benjamin Turps, a vagrant who desperately wants food. A nurse passes in a park pulling a crib with a three-year-old Billy Barty sitting with a lot of fruit. Ben coaxes the child to throw the fruit back to him, and it all turned out to be rubber except for the banana he gives to a teenager to have a laugh.
Later, while eating, he flirts with the nurse while the baby is tossing food at her. She thinks it is Ben. Everyone thinks Ben has done something, and everyone chases Ben. But Ben needs food. And money.
After someone who looks a lot like Mack Sennett refuses to help a driver who is stuck in the mud, Ben is willing to take the dollar and help him out. Mack Sennett honks his truck horn a few times to distract, laughs, and then disappears from the film. Ben screws it up and is not paid, so he lobs a brick at the man's car, breaking it. A police officer walks over to the man; they notice in the paper that Ben was a scion of wealth who disappeared as a baby. There is a reward for his discovery, so the policeman suggests that they catch him and split it.
Ben gets a job in a beauty parlor, shrinks a dog, gets involved a flinging goop, and convinces a homely woman that he's made her beautiful Everyone is angry at Ben, everyone chases Ben, and they all wind up in the pond. (The pond resembles Mack Sennett's pond, the one into which everyone ended up at the finale of Chaplin's Park shorts for Keystone.) Eventually, the homely woman is seated on a bench. She tells him that with his money and her beauty, they can be great. Ben jumps in the pound. The End.
Now, this description is far from complete, but I went through it to give you an idea of the manic nature of this short. So many things happen to the man in such a short space of time, so many plots converge, all for the purpose of putting Ben Turpin in Charlie Chaplin's pond in 1928. In that year, Chaplin was filming "The Circus," and there are miles between the two. Perhaps it was clinging to a bygone era, which is irrelevant at this point, as both eras have long since gone by. If I had to compare it to anything, it might be a Harold Lloyd short with Snub Pollard from 1919. Of course, without Harold Lloyd. If these films make you laugh, though, this one will.
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