Both from The Show (1922) and both pretty much sum up the narrative ingredients needed for for a seminal Semon short (Seminal Semon shorts? That can’t be right!): goo, wild animals, and explosives.
Category Archives: Slapstick Signage
A Fatty Arbuckle short involving the literal mailing of a drunk socialite (right).
Viewing all these shorts for wordplay, a theme is emerging. Advertisements are shown as one or more of the following:
1) Harmful lies (see W.C. Fields, etc.)
2) Ineffective promises
So in the first example, ads are pernicious tricksters destined to befoul the proverbial sucker . In the second, they advocate hopeless wastes of one’s time. The third, ads are implied as innocuous at best and meaningless at worst; their very existence one to which we are always-already ignoring.
Our backs are turned:
A crate in the back of The Last Gasp Saloon in Edward F. Cline’s My Little Chickadee, written by W.C. Fields and starring Mae West and Fields. On the box is written the words “Last Gasp” – a reference to the literal denouement of the film as well as the nurturing nature of the bar – and, underneath, “Greesewood” – the name of the western town the film takes place. (Cline also directed most of the best Buster Keaton’s shorts, including the infamous Balloonatic, and was the best of all Field’s directors with the possible exception of Norman Z. McLeod)
Fields, like Groucho Marx, was known for his insinuating names for things and characters, and though not this film, often penned scripts using pseudonyms. His favorite pen-name, or at least the one hi chose most often, was Charles Bogle. He also used Mahatma Kane Jeeves and Otis Criblecoblis, the former in another of Cline’s directions: The Bank Dick.
The most frustrating element surrounding My Little Chickadee is that it’s not considered a screwball. This is a gross error even though the reasoning is simple: the characters are not in any way wholesome.
Conversely, in a typical screwball otherwise “normal” human beings are made mad or abnormal by their desires for each other, desires that neither one can speak of in any straight-and-arrow way, hence the clever use of innuendo and comedy.
But in My Little Chicakdee you have two unabashed heathens – Flower Belle Lee and Cuthbert Twillie – speaking with virtual clarity about their mismatched desire for nasty indecencies: Flower Belle shakes her hips for everyone except Twillie; and inversely, Twillie pines only for the shapely Flower Belle.