Saturday, June 25, 2011

Phil attends the 14th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival: Day Two, Part One: Mack Sennett in the Teens-June 25, 2011

Hello my friends, and welcome to day two of my trip to the Broncho Bill Silent Film Festival at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum at the historic Edison Theater in the Niles District of Fremont! After last night's show, I couldn't wait to travel back in time when silent films still reigned supreme! And to make things interesting, I'll be posting my blogs immediately after each program screening, so I can provide all of you the LIVE play by play of the festival! Let's begin shall we?

Keystone Founder Mack Sennett
The early afternoon program focused on the early films of the one and only Mack Sennett. For those of you who may not know Mr. Sennett, he was a film director and the founder of the laugh factory known as Keystone Studios, which introduced the world to the comedy works of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Chester Conklin, Mabel Normand, Al St. John, Mack Swain, the Keystone Cops, the Keystone Bathing Beauties, and a young unknown comedian named Charlie Chaplin. Nicknamed "The King of Comedy" for good reasons, Sennett helped create the genre now known as Slapstick Comedy, which has been a part of cinema's long history. From the Three Stooges to Jim Carrey, every comedian owes a debt to the one and only Mack Sennett. To celebrate his contributions to the world of cinema, the festival screened five of Sennett's earliest works. Noted film historians Richard Roberts and Brent Walker introduced the films while providing the music was music extraordinaire Phil Carli. The films that were shown were as follows:

COMRADES: Released by Biograph on March 13, 1911, the film stars Sennett himself. He and his friend Jack (John T. Dillon) are bums who read about a fancy party in town. So they decide to crash it, with Jack pretending to be a British Parliament member. Things get out of hand when the real member shows up and the con is uncovered. An interesting film and fun to watch, especially to see how young Sennett was.

THE WATER NYMPH: This was one of two of my favorite shorts shown in the program Starring again Sennett and the lovely Mabel Normand, the film's about our two lovebirds who decide to play a prank on Sennett's father. Once it's revealed that the father was hitting on his son's girlfriend, the audience laughed out loud. A very funny film, and it showcased the acting chops of Sennett. The film was released by Keystone Studios, which Sennett founded in August of 1912, on September 23 in the same year.

SHOT IN THE EXCITEMENT: Released by Keystone on October 26, 1914, the film's story centers around two goofy buffoons Al St. John and Chester Conklin who try to court the even more goofy-looking Alice Howell. What's interesting about this film that it boasts an early appearance but future Hal Roach star Charley Chase! Spot him if you can!

THE HOME BREAKERS: Starring once again Chester Conklin, Alice Davenport, Mintra Durfee, and Mack Swain, the film revolves around a bank president and his clerk and the weird love scenario involving both their wives. Also known as OTHER PEOPLE'S WIVES, the film was released by Keystone on February 20, 1915.

THE WAITER'S BALL: My other favorite short of the program, the film starred the one and only Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle along with Al St. John, Corinne Parquet, and Joe Bordeaux, the film's about Fatty and Al vying for the heart of Corinne so she would choose one of them to be her date for the Waiter's Ball. The whole film was hilarious! With Arbuckle's pancake flipping expertise, and some funny cross dressing antics, the film was released by Keystone on June 26, 1916.

WHOSE BABY?: The last film shown starred a very young and breathtaking Gloria Swanson and Bobby Vernon. The film was quite entertaining and must be seen by all Swanson's fans! The film was again released by Keystone on July 1, 1917.

Well that's it for now. I'll be back after the next afternoon program, again focusing on Mack Sennett, this time looking at his films of the 1920's. To learn more about the film festival, visit the Niles Essany Silent Film Museum's website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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