A round of applause for this series on silent comedy
Paul Merton's series, first aired on UK's BBC4 arts channel, I thought a useful introduction to the major silent comedians for the general viewer. It worked well on its own terms, and there were one or two highlights which made it worthwhile for the real fan. Each episode, based around Merton's work on tour presenting the different comedians' work to a live audience, included a complete short film as part of the running time. Chief among these was the rare showing of Lloyd's superb Never Weaken (1921) and Laurel and Hardy's You're Darn Tootin' (1928) with excellent scores composed by Neil Brand. The other two were Easy Street (Chaplin, 1917) and Keaton's The Goat (1921). What I felt was lacking was a programme picking up either Harry Langdon or such notable 'also-rans' such as Linder or Chase, to make the survey more comprehensive and representative - although it would be churlish to gripe too much as one can't have everything. Merton was an amicable enough figure to head the series, obviously has a personal interest in the subject and possesses an authority as a comedic figure in own right which added to the attraction of it all, although on the technical side of cinema he seemed less comfortable. Incidentally, outside of the excellent and definitive Brownlow and Gill documentary of some years back, this was the first decent consideration of Lloyd on UK screens for years.
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