Silent Comedy from Mack Sennett – Starting Tonight on TCM

If you enjoy silent comedy and film history, tonight is a big night on Turner Classic Movies. Beginning at 8 p.m. (EDT), TCM will present more than seven hours of the earliest available examples of filmed comedy, from the visionary brain of Mack Sennett. (A complete schedule for tonight is below.)

Born in 1880 in Danville, Quebec, Canada, Sennett began his career in Vaudeville in New York City, where he met famed filmmaker D.W. Griffith. Sennett went to work for Griffith at the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in Lower Manhattan, directing and starring in some of the first comedic short subjects. In 1912, he headed westward to form Keystone Studios in Edendale, California and then the Mack Sennett Comedies Corporation in 1917, helping to launch the careers of Charlie Chaplin, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, W.C. Fields, Harry Langdon, Mabel Normand, Charley Chase and Raymond Griffith.

In addition to producing, directing and starring in hundreds of short subjects, Sennett also helmed the first feature-length comedy, TILLIE’S PUNCTURED ROMANCE (1914) with Marie Dressler and Charlie Chaplin. You can see that film tonight at 12:45 a.m. (EDT).

There are 29 Sennett short subjects airing tonight. If you can’t catch all of them, TCM Senior Writer/Producer Scott McGee says don’t miss the following titles, airing during the 9 p.m. (EDT) block: THE BANGVILLE POLICE (1913), featuring the first appearance of the Keystone Kops; BARNEY OLDFIELD’S RACE FOR A LIFE (1913), a racing-themed film featuring the Kops; and MABEL’S DRAMATIC CAREER (1913) with Mabel Normand. During the 11 p.m. hour, McGee recommends THE KNOCKOUT and THE ROUNDERS (both 1914) with Chaplin and Arbuckle. And in the 2 a.m. block, Scott suggests you catch FATTY’S NEW ROLE (1915), featuring Edgar Kennedy and Billy Gilbert, two faces that will be familiar to fans of 1930s comedy.

In addition to silents , TCM is peppering the pot tonight with two rarely seen early talking shorts from Warner Bros. Vitaphone Varieties series: deadpan comedy team Shaw & Lee in THE BEAU BRUMMELS (1928) at 12:36 a.m. (EDT) and Ray Mayer and Edith Evans in THE COWBOY AND THE GIRL (1928) at 3:17 am. (For more information on the delightful Vitaphone series, read my 2009 interview with film preservationist and Vitaphone Project founder Ron Hutchinson.)

And the night closes out with the first two films Leo Gorcey and the Bowery Boys made at Monogram Pictures: LIVE WIRES (1946) and FAST COMPANY (1946), the latter directed by Three Stooges veteran Del Lord.

It’s an embarrassment of black & white comedy riches, and it’s only the first night of a month of fun. Every Thursday during September, TCM will highlight the work of Mack Sennett – 87 films, 76 of which have never before aired on the network!

Here’s a promo for the month-long Sennett Salute, written and produced by Scott McGee.

8-9 p.m. (EDT) – 5 Biograph shorts (1909-1912) 

THE CURTAIN POLE (1909)
Director D.W. Griffith, Mack Sennett (uncredited)
Release Date: February 15, 1909
Production Company: American Mutoscope & Biograph
Duration: 13 minutes
Cast: Mack Sennett (Monsieur Dupont), Harry Solter (Mr. Edwards), Florence Lawrence (Mrs. Edwards)

COMRADES (1911)
Director: Dell Henderson, Mack Sennett
Release Date: March 13, 1911
Production Company: Biograph
Duration: 11 minutes
Cast: Mack Sennett (Mack), John T. Dillon (Jack), William J. Butler ( Charles Franklin), Grace Henderson (Mrs. Franklin), Vivian Prescott (The Franklin Daughter)

THE MANICURE LADY (1911)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: May 18, 1911
Production Company: Biograph
Duration: 11 minutes
Cast: Mack Sennett (The Barber), Vivian Prescott (The Manicure Lady), Edward Dillon (The Rival)

WITH A KODAK (1911)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: January 25, 1912
Production Company: Biograph
Duration: 6 minutes (approx.)
Cast: Edward Dillon (The Secretary), Vivian Prescott (The Maid), Fred Mace (Mr. Hobbs), Kate Bruce (Mrs. Hobbes)

A DASH THROUGH THE CLOUDS (1912)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: June 24, 1912
Production Company: Biograph
Duration: 12 minutes
Cast: Mabel Normand (Martha), Fred Mace (Arthur), Phillip Parmalee (Slim), Sylvia Ashton (Carmelita), Jack Pickford (Mexican Boy), Kate Bruce (Old Mexican Woman)

9:00 – 10:30 p.m. (EDT) – 10 Keystone shorts (1912-1914)

THE WATER NYMPH (1912) a.k.a. THE BEACH FLIRT
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: September 23, 1912
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 8 minutes
Cast: Mabel Normand (Mabel), Mack Sennett (Mack, Mabel’s Sweetheart), Ford Sterling (Mack’s Father), Gus Pixley (Effeminate Man)
Note: Mack Sennett’s first film for Keystone.

THE GROCERY CLERK’S ROMANCE (1912)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: October 28, 1912
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 5 minutes (approx.)
Cast: Ford Sterling (Grocery Clerk), James C. Morton (Brown, the Husband), Gus Pixley (Brown’s Pal), Lincoln Plumer (Constable).

ON HIS WEDDING DAY (1913)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: March 31, 1913
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 6 minutes (approx.)
Cast: Ford Sterling (Krause, the Bridegroom), Dot Farley (The Bride), Nick Cogley (The Father), Hale Studebaker (The Minister)

A LIFE IN THE BALANCE (1913)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: April 14, 1913
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 10 minutes
Cast: Ford Sterling (The Landlord), Dot Farley (The Ladlord’s Wife), Raymond Hatton (Lead Arsonist), Laura Oakley (Neighbor)

THE BANGVILLE POLICE (1913)
Director: Henry Lehrman
Release Date: April 24, 1913
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 8 minutes
Cast: Fred Mace (Sheriff of Bangville), Mable Normand (Della, the Farmer’s Daughter), Nick Cogley (The Farmer), Charles Avery (1st Deputy), Dot Farley (Della’s mother), Rube Miller (2nd Deputy), Edgar Kennedy (3rd Deputy), Raymond Hatton (Farm Hand), Jack Leonard (Deputy), Fred Happ (Deputy)
Note: First appearance of The Keystone Kops

A FISHY AFFAIR (1913)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: April 24, 1913
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 6 minutes (approx.)
Cast: Ford Sterling (Perkins), Laura Oakley (Mrs. Perkins), Nick Cogley (Neighbor), Dot Farley (Neighbor), Bert Hunn (Prowler), William Hauber (1st Cop), Rube Miller (2nd Cop)

BARNEY OLDFIELD’S RACE FOR A LIFE (1913)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: June 2, 1913
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 13 minutes
Cast: Mabel Normand (Mabel), Mack Sennett (Mabel’s Boyfriend), Ford Sterling (The Villain), Barney Oldfield (Himself), Raymond Hatton (Loyal Henchman)
Note: Fourth film featuring The Keystone Kops

MABEL’S DRAMATIC CAREER (1913)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: September 8, 1913
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 14 minutes
Cast: Mabel Normand (Mabel), Mack Sennett (Mack, Mabel’s Sweetheart), Alice Davenport (Mack’s mother), Virginia Kirtley (City Girl, Mabel’s Rival), Charles Avery (Farmer), Ford Sterling (Actor/On-screen Villain), Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (Man in Audience), Billy Jacobs (Mabel’s son), Charles Inslee (Film Director), Dave Anderson (Driver)

THE SPEED KINGS (1913)
Director: Wilfred Lucas
Release Date: October 30, 1913
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 8 minutes
Cast: Mabel Normand (Mabel), Ford Sterling (Papa), Teddy Tetzlaff (Himself, a Race Car Driver), Earl Cooper (Himself, a Race Car Driver), Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (Masher), Barney Oldfield (Himself, a Race Car Driver), Billy Jacobs (Boy in Crowd)

A FLIRT’S MISTAKE (1914)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: January 12, 1914
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 8 minutes
Cast: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (The Husband), Minta Durfee (The Wife), Frank Cooley (1st Flirt in Park), William Hauber (Cop with Handlebar Moustache), George Jeske (Clean-shaven Cop), Edgar Kennedy (The Rajah), Virgina Kirtley (Girl on Sidewalk), George Nichols ( 2nd Flirt in Park)

10:28 p.m. (EDT) LAUGHING GRAVY (1931)
Director: James W. Horne
Release Date: April 4, 1931
Production Company: Hal Roach Studios
Duration: 31 minutes
Cast: Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie)

11:00 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (EDT) – 7 Keystone shorts (1914)

THE KNOCKOUT (1914)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: June 11, 1914
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 27 minutes
Cast: Charles Chaplin (Referee), Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (Pug), Charley Chase (Spectator), Minta Durfee (Pug’s Sweetheart), Billy Gilbert (Society Singer) Edgar Kennedy (Cyclone Flynn)

MABEL’S MARRIED LIFE (1914)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: June 20, 1914
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 17 minutes
Cast: Mabel Normand (Mabel), Charles Chaplin (Mabel’s Husband), Mack Swain (Wellington), Eva Nelson (Wellington’s Wife), Hank Mann (Tough in Bar), Charles Murray (Man in Bar), Harry McCoy (Man in Bar)
Notes: Available at Archive.org

THE GREAT TOE MYSTERY (1914)
Director: James W. Horne (uncredited, unconfirmed)
Release Date: July 25, 1914
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration:
Cast: Charley Chase (The Shoe Clerk)
Note: Charley Chase is credited as Charles Parrot.

RECREATION (1914)
Director: Charles Chaplin (uncredited)
Release Date: August 13, 1914
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 7 minutes
Cast: Charles Chaplin (The Tramp), Charles Bennett (Seaman on Park Bench), Helen Carruthers (Girl in Park), Edwin Franzee (Short Cop), Edward Nolan (Tall Cop)

THE ROUNDERS (1914)
Director: Charles Chaplin (uncredited)
Release Date: September 7, 1914
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 16 minutes / 10 minutes (TCM print)
Cast: Charles Chaplin (1st Reveller), Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (2nd Reveller), Phyllis Allen (Charlie’s Wife), Minta Durfee (Fatty’s Wife), Al St. John (Bellhop)

SHOT IN THE EXCITEMENT (1914)
Director: (uncredited)
Release Date: October 26, 1914
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 11 minutes (approx)
Cast: Al St. John ( The Daughter’s Suitor), Alice Howell (The Daughter), Rube Miller (The Suitor’s Rival), Josef Swickard (The Father), Edwin Frazee (1st Cop), Grover Ligon (2nd Cop)

“CURSES!” THEY REMARKED (1914)
Director: (uncredited)
Release Date: November 5, 1914
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 11 minutes (approx)
Cast: Chester Conklin (Blackheart Jr.), Frank Opperman (Blackheart Sr.), Norma Nichols (Miss Ethel Rocks), Billie Bennett (Blackheart Jr.’s Wife), Edgar Kennedy (Ethel’s Former Boyfriend)

12:36 a.m. - SHAW AND LEE, THE BEAU BRUMMELS (1928)
Director: (uncredited)
Release Date: September, 1928
Duration: 9 minutes
Production Company: Warner Bros., The Vitaphone Corporation
Cast: Al Shaw, Sam Lee

12:45 a.m. - TILLIE’S PUNCTURED ROMANCE (1914)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: December 21, 1914
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 82 minutes
Cast: Marie Dressler (Tillie), Charles Chaplin (The City Guy), Mabel Normand (The Other Girl), Mack Swain (Tillie’s Father), Charles Bennett (Tillie’s Uncle), Chester Conklin (Mr. Whoozis).
Note: Available at Archive.org 

2:00 a.m.- 3:17 a.m. (EDT) – 6 Keystone shorts (1914-1915)

THE NOISE OF BOMBS (1914)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: November 19, 1914
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 12 minutes (approx..)
Cast: Edgar Kennedy (Police Chief), Charles Murray, Chester Conklin, Slim Summerville, Al St. John, Edward F. Cline, Harry McCoy, Kate Price, Josef Swickard, Richard Smith

LEADING LIZZIE ASTRAY (1914)
Director: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle
Release Date: November 30, 1914
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 12 minutes
Cast: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (A Farm Boy), Minta Durfee (Lizzie, The Farm Boy’s Fiancee), Ed Brady (A City Slicker), Mack Swain (In from the Mines), Edgar Kennedy (The Slicker’s Chauffer)

AMBROSE’S FIRST FALSEHOOD (1914)
Director: Dell Henderson
Release Date: December 12, 1914
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 12 minutes
Cast: Mack Swain (Ambrose), Cecile Arnold (Mrs. Ambrose), Charley Chase (Neighbor), Edgar Kennedy, Minta Durfee, Slim Summerville

HASH HOUSE MASHERS (1915)
Director: (uncredited)
Release Date: January 16, 1915
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 12 minutes (approx..)
Cast: Charley Chase, Virginia Chester, Chester Conklin, Frank Opperman, Fritz Schade

FATTY AND MABEL AT THE SAN DIEGO EXPOSITION (1915)
Director: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle
Release Date: January 23, 1915
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 14 minutes (approx..)
Cast: Mable Normand (Mabel), Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (Fatty)

FATTY’S NEW ROLE (1915)
Director: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle
Release Date: February 1, 1915
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 13 minutes
Cast: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (Hobo), Mack Swain (Ambrose), Edgar Kennedy, Slim Summerville, Al St. John, Luke the Dog

3:17 a.m. – THE COWBOY AND THE GIRL (1928)
Director: (uncredited)
Release Date: April 21, 1928
Production Company: Warner Bros., The Vitaphone Corporation
Duration: 8 minutes
Cast: Ray Mayer, Edith Evans

3:30 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. – The Bowery Boys comedies for Monogram Pictures

3:30 a.m. – LIVE WIRES (1946)
Director: Phil Karlson
Release Date: January 12, 1946
Production Company: Monogram Pictures
Duration: 65 minutes
Cast: Leo Gorcey (Terrence Aloysius “Slip” Mahoney), Huntz Hall (Sach Jones)
Note: The first of 48 Bowery Boys movies

4:45 a.m. – THE FAST COMPANY (1946)
Director: Del Lord
Release Date: June 22, 1946
Production Company: Monogram Pictures
Duration: 65 minutes
Cast: Leo Gorcey (Terrence Aloysius “Slip” Mahoney), Huntz Hall (Sach Jones)
Note: The second of 48 Bowery Boys movies

Sources: Internet Movie Database, TCM.com 

About willmckinley

Will McKinley is a New York City-based writer, producer and classic film obsessive. He’s been a guest on Turner Classic Movies (interviewed by host Robert Osborne), Sirius Satellite Radio and the TCM podcast. Will has written for PBS and his byline has appeared more than 100 times in the pages of NYC alt weeklies like The Villager and Gay City News.
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2 Responses to Silent Comedy from Mack Sennett – Starting Tonight on TCM

  1. Thank you for taking the time to put together this primer. If not for your post on twitter last week I’d have never seen the first appearance of the Keystone Kops! We’re taking our time and watching a few at a time while referring back to your site.

    • willmckinley says:

      Thanks Greg. I’m glad you found it useful. TCM was driving me crazy that night, altering the order of the shorts that had been indicated on their website. So I had the post open and would make revisions as they aired, just in case anybody was recording. I’m glad to know somebody was!

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