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Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Hearts and Diamonds (1914) George D Baker

It's been a while since I've seen a John Bunny movie, which is hardly surprising given that he died in 1915 and left very few surviving films for posterity. In fact I've only seen one previously, 1911's Her Crowning Glory. Here he's Tupper, a rotund widower intent on keeping the boys away from his eligible daughters, yet eager to land a new wife of his own. He discovers Miss Whipple, a rich lady played by his regular foil Flora Finch, and because she's a baseball fan he tries to impress her by starting his own team.

Needless to say nothing goes his way, not least because he gets to play an exhibition game against the Brooklyn Dodgers and it proves hard to win even when they're trying to throw it for him. He ends up winning the game by scoring a home ride, because the opposition have to carry him round in a wheelbarrow. That's the level of the humour here but the story is more consistent than I'd expect for 1914. It does veer off into subplots about escaped lunatic ballplayers but those scenes are actually the funniest bits.

Bunny was the first real American screen comedian and he's actually pretty good and surpasses his material. His films were known as Bunnyfinches because he starred so often opposite the same lady, and had he lived longer they could easily have become as memorable a screen pairing as, say, Laurel and Hardy. What a shame.

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