Back in 2008 All Day Entertainment announced that they were
going to release a set of Charley Chase shorts, Becoming Charley Chase. Unfortunately market conditions tanked and
with the slowing of DVD sales, particularly silent film, the project
shelved. At the time I thought the
project would never see the light of day, but happily I was wrong. All Day, their previous releases include the
and Found: The Harry Langdon Collection and American
Volume 1 and Volume
2, has teamed up with VCI to finally release this
collection of silent comedy shorts.
Covering over a decade in time, this set starts with Chase's
at Keystone, progresses to his time at the Hal Roach Studio where he
blossom, and even contains a disc of comedies he directed.
Though he was never as big as Chaplin, Keaton, or Lloyd, Charles
Parrott, better know by his stage name of Charlie Chase (though he
directed under his real name) was an amazing character.
Not only was he an accomplished actor, he was
also a gifted director, writer, and editor.
A true Renaissance Man of the silent era.
He started out working for Al Christie's studio in 1912 and
by 1915 moved up to Mack Sennett's outfit.
There he honed his skills, both
in front of and behind the camera. In
1920 he made the jump to the Hal Roach Studios and a year later he was
the place. As Director-General at Roach,
he oversaw all of the productions with the sole exception of Harold
When Lloyd left Roach in 1923, another comic was needed on
the lot and Parrott went in front of the camera once again. Directing himself for a time, Leo McCarey
eventually took over the directing of his shorts and the two created
amazing and hilarious shorts before McCarey went on to cast a tall thin
actor (Stan Laurel) together with a large man who usually played the
(Oliver Hardy.) After McCarey's
departure Chase took up directing himself once again.
So, how are the Chase shorts? Overall
they're well thought out funny pieces
that deserve more attention than they get today. Chase
(especially in the later comedies)
played an average, middle class man.
That's quite different from Chaplin's tramp or Lloyd's young
go-getter. While those two comedians were
trying to survive or climb to the top, Chase was just trying to get
day, something that a lot of us can relate to.
His comedy was much more grounded in reality than many of his
contemporaries, and that's one of the reason's they've aged so well.
A lot of Chase's short play out like situational comedies
more than the slapstick affairs that were common in the day (especially
Sennett's studio.) One particularly
amusing short, an early one-reeler, has ending up with some business
identify him as the bouncer at the "Bucket of Blood Café". Needless to say, even the toughest hoods that
see the card shrink away from the innocuous Chase.
The genius to the short is that rather than
reveling in mayhem, as many comedies did at the time, the humor derives
Chase's lack of violence.
Having said that, these films are not all masterpieces.
Sometimes Chase would take a potentially
funny gag and not a lot would happen. In
one short he goes to help a lady close the convertible top on her car,
instead of making it into a big production the way Keaton or Chaplin
have, he merely closes it. At other
times the gags don't pay off as well as they should.
There were a couple of shorts that left me
cold (more the earlier ones) that didn't seem to be as tight and well
they should have been. These were very
few however, but I kept on thinking back to them when wondering why
made it to the big time.
Even more damning than a couple of weaker short though, is
the fact that Chase never made the transition to feature films. He made one long subject that was released by
Universal, the talking film Modern Love (1929) but it did not do well
returned to two reel films. That's sad,
because as this collection attests, he was very talented comic.
This four disc set contains the following films (as listed
on the All Day web site):
CHARLES PARROTT AT KEYSTONE (AND MORE!)
PEANUTS AND BULLETS 1/30/15 Music by the Snark Ensemble
LOVE IN ARMOR 3/11/15 Music by Ben Model 13:29
SETTLED AT THE SEASIDE
03/29/15 Music by Redwine Jazz 6:32
THE RENT JUMPERS 04/08/15 Music by Redwine Jazz 11:01
LOVE, LOOT, AND CRASH 04/24/15 Music by Ben Model 12:21
A VERSATILE VILLAIN 05/29/15 Music by Ben Model 13:00
HE WOULDN'T STAY DOWN 05/30/15 Music by Ben Model 14:23
MARRIED TO ORDER 10/30/20 Music by the Snark Ensemble 16:11
CHARLEY CHASE BECOMES JIMMY JUMP
AT FIRST SIGHT 01/06/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 9:57
ONE OF THE FAMILY 01/26/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 10:13
JUST A MINUTE 02/03/24 Music by Ben Model 12:17
POWDER AND SMOKE 02/10/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 9:57
HARD KNOCKS 03/02/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 10:41
DON'T FORGET 03/23/24 Surviving extract Music by the Snark
THE FRAIDY CAT 03/30/24 Music by Ben Model 10:46
PUBLICITY PAYS 05/04/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 9:55
YOUNG OLDFIELD 06/22/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 9:41
STOLEN GOODS 06/29/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 10:30
JEFFRIES, JR. 07/06/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 9:27
A TEN-MINUTE EGG 7/20/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 9:56
SEEING NELLIE HOME 07/27/24 Partial reconstruction from
surviving material Music by Ben Model 5:43
OUTDOOR PAJAMAS 09/14/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 8:38
SITTIN' PRETTY 09/28/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 10:15
TOO MANY MAMMAS 10/12/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 9:00
ACCIDENTAL ACCIDENTS 11/9/24 surviving extract Music by Ben
EVOLUTION OF A GAG: tracing the history of the mirror gag
JIMMY JUMP BECOMES CHARLEY CHASE
THE POOR FISH 12/07/24 Music by the Snark Ensemble 9:30
THE RATS KNUCKLES 01/04/25 Music by Ben Model 9:17
HELLO BABY! 1/1/8/25 Music by the Snark Ensemble 10:29
FIGHTING FLUID 02/01/25 Music by the Snark Ensemble 9:50
SHOULD HUSBANDS BE WATCHED? 03/14/25 Music by the Snark
IS MARRIAGE THE BUNK? 03/29/25 Music by the Snark Ensemble
BAD BOY 04/12/25 Charley Chase's first surviving two-reel
short Music by the Snark Ensemble 18:24
BIG RED RIDING HOOD 04/26/25 Music by the Snark Ensemble
LOOKING FOR SALLY The last appearance of Jimmy Jump 05/10/25
Music by Ben Model 20:20
NO FATHER TO GUIDE HIM 09/06/25 Music by the Snark Ensemble
DIRECTED BY CHARLEY PARROTT
A ROLLING STONE Billy West 01/20/19 Music by Ben Model 18:48
THE FLIRTS Harry Mann & Jimmie Adams 04/08/19 Music by
the West End Jazz Band 21:38
THE DUMB BELL
Snub Pollard 07/16/22 Music by Ben Redwine and Redwine Jazz 9:23
SOFT PEDAL Paul Parrott 12/16/22 Music by Ben Model 9:50
COURTSHIP OF MILES SANDWICH Snub Pollard 06/24/23 Music by
the West End Jazz Band 19:12
JUS PASSIN THROUGH Will Rogers
Music by Ben Model 27:05
DEAR OLD PAL Snub Pollard and Paul Parrott, the last film
directed by Charles Parrott before he became Charley Chase 11/11/23
Redwine Jazz 9:38
These shorts are all accompanied by original scores
preformed by Ben Model, The Redwine Jazz Band, The Snark Ensemble, and
more. I was happy with all of the music
as it fit the mood of the shorts and accented the action on screen. As anyone who has screened a budget label
silent film that has public domain music just thrown on knows, the
make a huge difference.
Okay, we need to talk about the video quality. These
are unrestored prints of varying
gauges, though if I'd have to guess I'd say most of them are from 16mm
know at least one short comes from 9.5 mm film (the only surviving
copy.) The prints are scratched, have poor
in general, lack the fine definition of 35mm film, and generally look
average even for silent movies. Here's
the thing: This is the only place you
can easily see these films. They are all
watchable, but people used to restored classics like the Chaplin,
Lloyd films will be disappointed. The
problem is that it is just not economically feasible to restore these
especially the ones that need more work.
If someone thought they could make a good profit by pouring
top-notch restorations, it's obvious that they would do so, as
film restorations have shown. Given
Charley Chase's low name recognition and the fact that these films are
the public domain, it's doubtful that we'll ever seem many of these
restored. Even if we do get a couple
cleaned up will
that be years or decades from now?
So what are we left with?
Two options: either don't see
these at all, or watch the best available unrestored prints that can be
found. Personally I'd rather have the
option of viewing these, even with less than pristine prints, than not
the chance at all. I'll gladly take the
scratches and spots on 16 mm prints over nothing at all.
Here's where All Day and VCI separate themselves from the
various public domain companies that will release anything they can get
for: this set is packed with
extras. Every short includes an audio
commentary by one or more of the following film scholars:
David Kalat, Ben Model, Ken Gordon, Yair Solan, Robert Arkus, Steve Massa, Bruce Lawton, and Richard M. Roberts. (I've undoubtedly forgot someone... sorry if I
have.) These commentaries are
entertaining and very informative, talking about not only Chase and his
but also the supporting actors, the crew, and other aspects of the
shorts. One of my favorite commentaries is
for a film
on the second disc where David Kalat reads off the credits and then
viewers could have figured that information out for themselves. Having sat through WAY too many commentary
tracks where the star or director does nothing more than describe
what's on the
screen, I found Mr. Kalat's soft jab at that type of commentary
In addition there is an overview of Chase's career, both in
front of and behind the camera, The
Parrot Chase. This 45-minute
featurette is filled with
interviews with Parrot/Chase scholars and clips from his movies. Though the interviews look like they were
recorded a while ago with consumer grade equipment the content is quite
interesting. A nice overview of the man
and his times.
The Sounds of Silence is a 25-minute featurette that follows the Snark
Ensemble as they score a silent film.
Finally there is also a 15-minute interview with Charley's
daughter, June Chase, conducted in 1997.
She reminisces about her father, her 'Uncle Jimmy', their summer
vacations, etc. The talk is illustrated
with stills of Charley and is well worth checking out.
All Day and VCI have released another wonderful set of
silent films. The bottom line is that
these are funny, and well worth watching.
Even if you've never heard of Charley Chase before, you should
these out. They run from amusing to
hilarious and will provide hours of laughs.
I do wish that these films looked better, but there is little
incentive to restore these rather obscure silent films, even if they
classics. A very strong recommendation.