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Book Review: Marcel Perez, International Mirth-Maker
DVD Talk Book Review: 

Marcel Perez, International Mirth-Maker by Steve Massa

Reviewed by John Sinnott

In conjunction with Handcrank Productions release of The Marcel Perez Collection, the company has also released a book, "Marcel Perez, International Mirth-Maker" by Steve Massa. This is an interesting, though brief, look at the enigmatic silent comedian.



The biggest problem with Marcel Perez is that he was never as famous as he should have been. A talented comedian and director, the star made a bit of a splash in Europe before coming to America at the start of WWI. Because he was never a top tier star, there isn't a lot of information about him available. He died in 1929, his wife in 1958, and their son in 1996, so there is literally no one left alive who knew him when he was making movies.

That didn't deter Steve Massa however. Scouring through hundreds of issues of trade journals on microfilm from back in the day, he has managed to piece together a good picture of Perez's movements, especially once he came to America.

This was no easy task. Perez changed the companies he was working for frequently and along the way changed his name and the name of his character. From Robinet to Bungles, to Tweedledum to Twede Dan and more, it is hard to discover just what films Perez stared in, especially from brief notes in the back of issues of Motion Picture News.

The picture that emerges is one of a talent who just never got the big break that he needed. Employed by more minor companies like Vim, Eagle, and Encore Pictures, his films were distributed on a States Rights basis. The shorts would be sold (usually for a flat fee) to several distributors, each one having the rights to a certain region. The distributors then booked the films into as many theaters as they could to maximize their profits. This meant that distribution could be spotty. (It also meant that there wasn't a set 'release date' like with the big studios that would open a film all across the country on the same day, making it hard to pinpoint when some films were released.) He jumped from minor studio to minor studio, some of which went bankrupt.

The book does a very good job of tracking Perez through all of these companies, and chronicles his transition to a director. He worked with some talented comedians including directing at least one of the Fat Men Comedies (also known as the Three Fatties or Ton O' Fun) and a several films starring Alice Ardell. His life was unfortunately cut short just as he started directing at Universal.

While the text does trace Perez's various jumps from company to company, it doesn't give you a good picture of the man himself. That's understandable, he was never a top star who received write-ups in the press and no one who knew him is still alive, but the book does leave more questions than answers. Why didn't Perez head to Hollywood earlier? What happened to his early co-star, and did they ever marry? Did he arrive in the US with a contract in hand, or did he just leave Europe when the fighting started and hope for the best? Alas, we'll likely never know the answers to these and many more questions about the enigmatic comedian.

The biography of Marcel Perez takes up the first 30 pagers of this 100 page book. The rest is devoted to some nice goodies. There are dozens of stills, advertisements, and promotional pieces for various Perez films, including many that are lost. There's a picture of him directing the film Mummy Love, as well as a still from a movie where he wears Harold Lloyd style glasses.

Also included is a detailed filmography which is including which company released the films, what the name of Perez's character is, and the release date.

All in all, this is an indispensable resource for anyone wanting to do more research on this unknown actor. There's a lot of information about his movies and the companies that he worked for, I just wish there was a little bit more known about the man himself. Recommended.        

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