A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Two With Roscoe Arbuckle

The Round-Up (George Melford, 1920)
"Nobody loves a fat man," the kicker line for Arbuckle's 1920 feature, was meant to be wistfully ironic, since at the time, everybody loved "Fatty" Arbuckle (a nickname he hated). The irony went from wistful to bitter in a couple of years, when the scandal surrounding the death of Virginia Rappe turned Arbuckle into one of the country's most despised men, bringing his career to a halt. But when The Round-Up was made, Arbuckle was so popular that he received the featured billing for a film in which he was a supporting player, the comic relief in a somewhat routine Western. Arbuckle plays the sheriff in a small Arizona town, where he's much admired because he uses his dexterity, rather than his fists or guns, to disarm the bad guys. But he's painfully shy around women, which is why he loses the girl he loves (Jean Acker) to someone else. The main story revolves around a prospector (Irving Cummings) who is thought to be dead, so his girlfriend (Mabel Julienne Scott) marries someone else. Meanwhile, a lot of trouble gets stirred up by the "half-breed" Buck McKee (Wallace Beery). Things get sorted out eventually after a lot of chases and gunfights. Arbuckle and Beery are the best things in the movie, along with some location scenery handsomely photographed by Paul P. Perry.

The Life of the Party (Joseph Henabery, 1920)
As a knockabout comedy more in the Arbuckle mainstream, The Life of the Party seems designed largely to provide him with an opportunity to dress up in children's party clothes. The plot has to deal with a women's group who are out to bust up a trust that fixes the price of milk. Arbuckle plays Algernon Leary, an unscrupulous lawyer who is at first willing to go along with the trust, but is converted to their side by a pretty young member of the group (Viora Daniel). She also happens to be engaged to a judge (Frank Campeau) who, unknown to her, is in the pockets of the milk trust. This leads to much farcical running around, especially after the women's group decides to throw a fundraising party to which everyone is expected to come dressed as babies. It all goes on too long. The cast includes Roscoe Karns, an actor who didn't really come into his own until sound arrived, giving him the chance to reel off snappy patter for Howard Hawks in Twentieth Century (1934) and His Girl Friday (1940).

In Life of the Party, Arbuckle attends a party in which the guests dress as babies.