Sunday, May 15, 2011

Phil sees THE NUT at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-May 14, 2011

Saturday nights mean taking a trip up to the Edison Theater, home of the world famous Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Tonight's film was the romantic comedy THE NUT, and along with the main feature, two shorts were shown. The amazing Frederick Hodges was on the piano tonight, bring these films to life. So ladies and gentlemen, let's get this show underway!

Mabel Normand
The first short was MABEL'S NEW HERO, starring Mabel Normand and Rossco "Fatty" Arbuckle. The film was directed by Mack Sennett and was released by the Keystone Film Company on August 28, 1913. Also known as Fatty And The Bathing Beauties, the film has Fatty rescuing Mabel twice in it: once from the sleazy Handsome Harry (Charles Inslee) and then from a runaway observation balloon.

Normand first started out as a model before becoming an actress. She went on to appear in over 100 films for Keystone. She also directed a couple of films starring Arbuckle, as well was an up and coming comedian, Charlie Chaplin.

Charley Chase
The second short of the night was BE YOUR AGE, starring the great comedian Charley Chase. The film was directed by Leo McCarey, who directed numerous Charley Chase films, and was released by Hal Roach Studios on November 14, 1926. The plot is quite simple: Chase needs $10,000 right away to help his family out. His boss Mr. Blaylock (Frank Brownlee) agrees to give him the money on one condition: Charley must marry recent widower Mrs. Schwartzkopple (Lillian Leighton) so he can get his hands on her $2 million dollar inheritance. Also look for a young Oliver Hardy in a small role as Mrs. Schwartskopple's son.

Chase had a brief career in vaudeville before becoming a film comedian. He first worked at Keystone, where he appeared in films with both Arbuckle and Chaplin. He later signed with Hal Roach Studios as a director first, then he became an actor. Between 1924-1929 Chase appeared in nearly a hundred two-reel comedy shorts for Hal Roach. A very funny comedian and a very funny short.

Original Movie Poster (1921)
After a brief intermission, the show continued with THE NUT, starring Douglas Fairbanks as eccentric inventor Charlie Jackson.  Charlie is in love with his upstairs neighbor Estrell Wynn (Marguerite De La Motte). He tries to win her heart by trying to get wealthy investors interested in her plan to help children who live in poor neighborhoods. This was to be one of the last romantic comedies that Fairbanks made. After starring in THE MARK OF ZORRO, he reinvented himself as an action/adventure superstar, appearing in such silent film classics like ROBIN HOOD, THE THREE MUSKETEERS, THE BLACK PIRATE, and THE IRON MASK.

The film also demonstrates the physical feats of Fairbanks. From leaping off of high walls, flying through windows, climbing up vents and fences, it never ceases to amaze me just how athletic Fairbanks was. The film was directed by Theodore Reed (who later become the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1933 to 1934) and was released on March 6, 1921.

Another fun-filled night at the museum! To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, how to become a member, and to view their film schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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