Though he was never as big as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton,
or Harold Lloyd, Charles Parrott, better know by his stage name of
Chase, was a very talented comic. He
wasn't only funny in front of the camera, but he was a gifted director,
and editor as well. He directed the
Three Stooges, and was Director-General at Hal Roach's studio,
running the whole show for a time.
Though he's not very well known today, a fair selection of his
work is available on DVD. Unfortunately,
few of his sound shorts have been released... until now.
Thanks to Sony's MOD program some of the
talkies that he did in at Columbia
have seen the light of day. They look
beautiful, the gags are funny, and there's even a rare short featuring
comedy team Joe Smith and Charlie Dale that Chase directed. What more could you want?
Charles Parrott 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, taking the name Charley Chase when he appeared
in films. In 1920, having worked for several studios by that time, he joined
Studios and a year later he was running the place.
As Director-General at Roach, he oversaw all
of the productions with the sole exception of Harold Lloyd's films.
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 movies before McCarey went on to cast a tall thin
actor (Stan Laurel) together with a much larger man who usually played
heavy (Oliver Hardy) and made movie history.
He managed to make the transition to sound without any problems
a nice singing voice that he would show off whenever he could in his
was one of the most popular comedians still doing shorts in the 1930's,
alongside another Hal Roach hit, Laurel and Hardy.
In 1936 Roach stopped making shorts. Chase
was put into a feature film, and when
that turned into a disaster (it was eventually edited down to a
and released as Neighborhood House), Chase
left the studio he had been with for 15 years.
He found work at Columbia
and there he teamed up with veteran director Del Lord for a series of
that are still funny today.
Unfortunately the pair only had four years to work together
Charley died of a heart attack in 1940 at the age of 47.
It's interesting to see how Chase integrated himself with
the wild and wacky style that the Columbia
shorts (and director Del Lord) were known for at that time. His work at Roach usually started somewhat
realistically and proceeded from there.
Chase wasn't a daredevil like Lloyd or an acrobat like Keaton. Though he was at home doing slapstick, his
films were more situational comedies rather than maniacal slugfests
The Three Stooges stars. At Columbia he
came up with a nice compromise... his comedies there still had one foot
in reality (or at least they tired) but the situation would become
bizarre (and funny) as the movie went on.
It took Chase and Lord a little bit of time to come up with
the right mix, but they hit on the formula fairly quickly.
The first film in this set, Man Bites
Lovebug, is a good illustration of this process. Chase
plays a marriage expert, Charles
Clayfoot Chase, who is good friends with a scientist, Theodore (played
T. Murray). The scientist doesn't have
time for his wife, Imogene (Mary Russell), and feels sorry that he's
her. When Chase comes to visit for the
weekend, Theodore has a great idea:
Charles will pretend to flirt with Imogene and then Theodore
him in the act of wooing her and fly into a jealous rage, thereby
he still loves her. The only catch is
that the Indian servant isn't in on the plan and doesn't take kindly to
interloper trying to breakup the marriage.
The short starts off calmly enough, with Charles complimenting
while the servant glares at him, but before long Charles is being
both a gun wielding butler and his ex-friend.
These early shorts aren't as good as Chase's silent work,
but they're still very entertaining and will give some good laughs. Yes, the situations are absurd (my teenaged
son had trouble suspending his disbelief on some of them) but that's
two-reel shorts. And are they any more outrageous than today's sitcoms? (The hilarious Big Bang Theory
is populated with successful research scientists
who live with their mothers or have to share an apartment...yeah, right.)
Chase usually portrays a good-intentioned man who just
happens to be a bit of a dolt, but he plays a very different character
best short in this collection, The
Heckler. It's one of the last films
that he made before his untimely death, and he's firing on all
cylinders. Chase plays a loud, obnoxious
sports fan who is
attends a baseball game and manages to distract the home-team players
that they loose the game. When some
gamblers see the result of his work, they figure that they can make a
of his presence, but an untimely chest cold complicates things
This is a hilarious short.
Chase's character is so insufferable and irritating that it's
not to laugh. The short starts off well,
with Chase attending, and ruining, a tennis match and goes from
strength. If I wanted to show someone
just how entertaining early sound short can be, The Heckler would be on my
This set also includes a Smith and Dale short, A Nag in the
Bag, one of two the pair did for Columbia
(both of which were directed by Charley Chase).
Though very obscure today, the duo were big stars in vaudeville
performed together for an amazing 70 years.
The Neil Simon's play The Sunshine
Boys was based on the team and it's great to see one of their movie
appearances; they only made a handful of films.
Their act is a bit dated, and result isn't anything great but it
have its moments. (And silent comedian
Chester Conklin makes an appearance too!)
The films included in this collection are:
Man Bites Lovebug (1937)
The Mind Needer (1938)
The Chump Takes a Bump (1939)
Rattling Romeo (1939)
Skinny the Moocher (1939)
The Awful Goof (1939)
The Heckler (1940)
South of the Boudoir (1940)
A Nag in the Bag (1938)
These nine shorts arrive on a single DVD-R in a standard
The two-channel mono soundtrack sounds very good for movies
that are 70-75 years old. Though limited
by the technology of the time, there isn't any distracting background
The full frame video is very impressive. Restored
from 35mm negatives these all look
like they were filmed yesterday. The
image is clean and clear and there's an impressive amount of detail. Viewers will be very pleased.
Unfortunately, there are no extras.
This is a very good collection. It doesn't
include the best Chase shorts,
those were done years earlier, but even these slightly lesser offerings
fantastic. Well crafted and funny, fans
of early cinema will be very pleased with this set.