Tuesday 8 May 2007

The Caretaker's Daughter (1925) Leo McCarey

I've always found Charley Chase to be pretty inconsistent as a comedian. He didn't have a definable image like the big three of the silent era, he was far more of an everyman and that doesn't always work well for him. Here it makes him look a lot more believable than prohibition sleuth James Finlayson or caretaker James Parrott, who sport outrageous fake facial hair in the tradition of silent comedy shorts of a decade earlier. Then again facial hair is the key to this one.

Chase plays a character called Charley, as he often did, and he's a husband whose wife, played by Chase regular Katherine Grant, has strong doubts about his faithfulness. Suspicion and its comedic effects are what make this one, which is a decent comedy of errors even if it doesn't always make sense or follow any logical sense of the passing of time. The chief gag is that what seems like half the cast, Chase included, get to don fake moustaches to appear like the caretaker of a cabin where illicit liaisons go on, and that's mostly interesting because the real caretaker is James Parrott, who in real life was Chase's younger brother.

This made me smile but it didn't make me laugh, because it relies on what is such dated material nowadays. I performed this sort of stuff in pantomime and while I'm no talented actor, that really narrows what should be a much wider gap between me and what I'm watching on the screen. In the end, this felt like it would have been a great film in 1915 but not much at all in 1925. In other words it's retro even though it was made 80 years ago! It's more interesting for the Chase/Parrott double act or the fact that it's the debut film of Symona Boniface who went on to become a Three Stooges regular, as did Chase himself though as a director not an actor.

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