Silent Comedy from Mack Sennett on TCM – Week 2

The silent film fun continues on Turner Classic Movies tonight, with the second of four Thursday nights this month highlighting the work of comedy pioneer Mack Sennett.

After 30 (!) short subjects last Thursday, this week we quiet down a bit with 18 one- and two-reelers produced by Sennett’s Keystone Film Company between 1915 and 1917. No Chaplin this time around, but you will recognize Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who directs and stars in three offerings tonight, Mabel Normand (two appearances, both with Arbuckle), Charley Chase (also two), and “slow-burn specialist” Edgar Kennedy, who turns up five times tonight. If you’ve only seen the bald-pated Kennedy in 1930s comedies like DUCK SOUP, note that he has a full head of hair in thee shorts. Such are the vagaries of male pattern baldness (don’t ask me how I know that.)

Brew a pot of coffee (or three), because tonight’s don’t miss short airs at approximately 2:00 AM EDT. Gloria Swanson and Wallace Beery star in Clarence G. Badger’s TEDDY AT THE THROTTLE (1917), along with silent cinema’s first leading pup, Teddy the Wonder Dog. The Great Dane starred in 18 films for Sennett and, at the height of his fame, reportedly eared $350 week. Co-star Swanson got her big break with Sennett in 1916, though not as one of his “Bathing Beauties,” a frequent misnomer that Swanson apparently vehemently denied in later years. Wallace Beery also appears in A CLEVER DUMMY (1917) with Ben Turpin at around 3 AM. Other notables to look for tonight include Harold Lloyd in A SUBMARINE PIRATE (1915) sometime around 10:30 PM and Charley Chase in DO-RE-MI-BOOM! (1915) at around 10:40 PM and HER TORPEDOED LOVE (1917) at 2:20-ish. Raymond Griffith, later to be a top-hat-wearing star of comedic features like Clarence C. Badger’s HANDS UP! (1926), also makes an appearance tonight at around 1:30 AM in THE SURF GIRL (1916).

Sorry for all the approximate airtimes, but the order in which TCM ran the Sennett shorts last week differed from the lineup on the website. Also, there is some confusion about durations. According to IMDB, at least two of the shorts airing tonight are only one-reel, yet national TV listing services like Zap To It give those films a 22-minute timeslot.

Finally, if you were wondering why TCM is airing 83 Mack Sennett shorts this month, wonder no more. I learned today that Michigan-based company CineMuseum is currently preparing an epic Sennett DVD box for release in December. That set will include the titles TCM is playing this month (nearly all of which have been restored by CineMuseum), along with 50 additional films, for more than 125 in total.  And, according to an email I received today from a CineMuseum representative, “there will also be a bonus disc containing extras, outtakes and other goodies that we’re sure will delight audiences!”

In addition, CineMuseum has commissioned new original scores for these films, from some of the top names in the business: Ben Model, Donald Sosin, Andrew Simpson, Dennis Scott and Philip Carli. I’ve listed the name of the composer/accompanist below, along with information on each film airing tonight. (Thanks to CineMuseum for this information.)

The Sennett DVD box is not yet listed on Amazon, but you can check out other Silent Era collections released by CineMuseum, like The Forgotten Films of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, a four disc set of silent classics, and Industrial Strength Keaton, a two-DVD set featuring Buster Keaton shorts, industrials, promotional films, commercials, TV appearances and outtakes.

Enjoy the movies! The line-up is after the picture.

8:00 – 9:30 PM – 4 Shorts from 1915

A BIRD’S A BIRD (1915)
Director: Edwin Frazee
Release Date: February 8, 1915
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 11 minutes (1 reel)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Donald Sosin (composer/performer)
Cast: Chester Conklin (Mr. Walrus), Minta Durfee (Mrs. Walrus), Hank Mann (A Foreigner), Al St. John (Pa), Slim Summerville (Mr. Spegle)

GUSSLE’S DAY OF REST (1915)
Director: Charles Avery
Release Date: March 29, 1915
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 22 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Donald Sosin (composer/performer)
Cast: Syd Chaplin (Reggie Gussle), Phyllis Allen (Mrs. Gussle), Cecile Arnold, Slim Summerville

DO-RE-MI-BOOM! (1915)
Director: uncredited
Release Date: April 7, 1915
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 11 minutes (1 reel)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Ben Model (composer/performer)
Cast: Chester Conklin, Charley Chase, Nick Cogley

COURT HOUSE CROOKS (1915)
Director: uncredited
Release Date: July 5, 1915
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 22 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Donald Sosin (composer/performer)
Cast: Ford Sterling (The District Attorney), Charles Arling (The Judge), Minta Durfee (The Judge’s Wife)

9:30 – 11:00 PM – 3 Shorts from 1915-1916

DIRTY WORK IN A LAUNDRY aka A DESPERATE SCOUNDREL (1915)
Director: Charley Chase
Release Date: July 19, 1915
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 22 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Donald Sosin (composer/performer)
Cast: Ford Sterling (The Desperate Scoundrel), Minta Durfee (Laundry Employee), Harry Bernard (Laundry Manager)

A LOVER’S LOST CONTROL (1915)
Director: Mack Sennett
Release Date: August 2, 1915
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 22 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Donald Sosin (composer/performer)
Cast: Syd Chaplin (Reggie Gussle), Phyllis Allen (Mrs. Gussle), Heinie Conklin (Mr. Lewis), Virginia Fox (Mr. Lewis), Edgar Kennedy

A SUBMARINE PIRATE (1915)
Director: Charles Avery, Syd Chaplin
Release Date: November 14, 1915
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 44 minutes (4 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Andrew Simpson (composer/performer)
Cast: Syd Chaplin (Ambitious Waiter), Wesley Ruggles (The Inventor’s Accomplice), Harold Lloyd (Cook), Glen Cavender (A Shrewd Inventor), Phyllis Allen (A Pugnacious Guest), Virgina Fox, Edgar Kennedy, Heinie Conklin

11:00 PM – 12:30 AM – 4 Shorts from 1915-1916

DIZZY HEIGHTS AND DARING HEARTS (1915)
Director: Walter Wright
Release Date: January 2, 1916
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 22 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Dennis Scott (composer/performer)
Cast: Chester Conklin (Mr. Walrus), Claire Anderson, Nick Cogley (Father), Dave Anderson, Walter Klintberg, Billy Mason (Airplane Owner)

FATTY AND MABEL ADRIFT (1916)
Director: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle
Release Date: January 9, 1916
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 33 minutes (3 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Philip Carli (composer/performer)
Cast: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (Fatty), Mabel Normand, Al St. John (Hiram Perkins’ son)

HE DID AND HE DIDN’T (1916)
Director: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle
Release Date: January 30, 1916
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 20 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: Laughsmith Entertainment (2005)
Score: Unknown
Cast: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (Fatty), Mabel Normand, William Jefferson (Her Schoolmate), Al St. John (A Bounding Burglar),

WIFE AND AUTO TROUBLE (1916)
Director: Mack Sennett, Dell Henderson
Writer: Roy Del Ruth
Release Date: March 5, 1916
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 22 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Donald Sosin (composer/performer)
Cast: William Collier Sr. (A Meek Husband), Blanche Payson (His Wife), Joseph Belmont (His Brother-in-Law), Alice Davenport (His Mother-in-Law), Mae Busch (A Speedy Stenographer)

12:30 – 2:00 AM – 4 Shorts from 1916

HIS BITTER PILL (1916)
Director: Mack Sennett, Fred Hibbard
Release Date: April 30, 1916
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 22 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Ben Model (composer/performer)
Cast: Mack Swain (A Big Hearted Sheriff), Louella Maxam (The Girl He Loves), Ella Haines (His Mother), Edgar Kennedy (His Rival)

THE WAITER’S BALL (1916)
Director: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle
Release Date: June 25, 1916
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Filming Location: Eastern Triangle Studios – Fort Lee, New Jersey
Duration: 16 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: Laughsmith Entertainment (2005)
Score: Unknown
Cast: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (The Cook), Al St. John (The Waiter), Corinne Parquet (The Cashier), Joe Bordeaux (Her Brother), Kate Price (The Dishwasher) Alice Lake (A Fair Customer)

THE SURF GIRL (1916)
Director: Harry Edwards
Release Date: July 9, 1916
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 20 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Donald Sosin (composer/performer)
Cast: Fritz Schade (Lifeguard), Raymond Griffith (His Assistant), Glen Cavender (An Angry Father), Dale Fuller (His Wife), Al Kaufman (Sledgehammer Man), Ivy Crosthwaite (His Girlfriend)

MADCAP AMBROSE (1916)
Director: Fred Hibbard
Release Date: July 16, 1916
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 22 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Donald Sosin (composer/performer)
Cast: Mack Swain (Ambrose), Polly Moran, Edgar Kennedy, Frank Hayes

2:00 – 3:30 AM – 4 Shorts from 1916

TEDDY AT THE THROTTLE (1917)
Director: Clarence G. Badger
Release Date: April, 1917
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 24 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Donald Sosin (composer/performer)
Cast: Bobbie Vernon (Bobbie Knight, A Fickle Hearted Youth), Gloria Swanson (Dawn, His Sweetheart), Wallace Beery (Henry Black, Her Rascally Guardian), May Emory (the Guardian’s Sister), Blanche Phillips (The Boy’s Mercenary Aunt), Teddy the Dog (Teddy)

HER TORPEDOED LOVE (1917)
Director: Frank Griffin
Release Date: May 13, 1917
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 20 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Donald Sosin (composer/performer)
Cast: Louise Fazenda (The Servant Girl), Ford Sterling (Reginald Scuttle), Wayland Trask (Her Lazy Husband), Harry Booker (Phillip Nobrains), Tom Kennedy (Roy Mulligan the Hobo/False Minister), Charley Chase, Edgar Kennedy

A CLEVER DUMMY (1917)
Director: Herman C. Raymarker, Ferris Hartman, Robert Kerr
Release Date: June 28, 1917
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 23 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Dennis Scott (composer/performer)
Cast: Ben Turpin (A Romantic Janitor), Chester Conklin (A Playful Property Man), Wallace Beery (A Vaudeville Manager), Juanita Hansen (A Leading Lady), Claire Anderson (An Object of Affection), James Donnelly (Her Inventive Father), James Delano (His Interested Partner)

THIRST (1917)
Director: uncredited
Release Date: July 29, 1917
Production Company: Keystone Film Company
Duration: 22 minutes (2 reels)
Restoration: CineMuseum (2012)
Score: Donald Sosin (composer/performer)
Cast: Mack Swain, Ether Teare, Cliff Bowes, Eva Thatcher

Hotlinks lead to unrestored (unlicensed) versions on You Tube. Please note that these are not the versions that will air on TCM, or appear on the upcoming DVD release.

About willmckinley

Will McKinley is a New York City-based writer, producer and classic film and TV obsessive. He’s been a guest on Turner Classic Movies (interviewed by host Robert Osborne), Sirius Satellite Radio and the official 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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4 Responses to Silent Comedy from Mack Sennett on TCM – Week 2

  1. celeste says:

    Thank you! This is just fantastic -if only I’d known of you last week. I was absolutely lost in the TCM listings.

  2. celeste says:

    How adorable is Luke the dog in “Fatty and Mabel Adrift “? What a champ.
    Thanks to Will McKinley for his posts

  3. Pingback: Silent Comedy from Mack Sennett on TCM – Week 3 | cinematically insane

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