Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen




For, Friday, April 15, 2016

Next week, the Organ Loft’s silent-movie program will be “Comedy of Prisoners,” comprised of three star-studded two-reelers, short films that run approximately 20 minutes each and are full of inventive gags by a quartet of comic geniuses. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, April 21-22.

Charlie Chaplin slips into his Little Tramp persona for his 12th and final Mutual comedy, “The Adventurer” (1917), and essentially throws story out the window and goes strictly for laughs with one rapid-fire gag after another.

Chaplin is an escaped convict pursued by the coppers (which allows for some hair-raising acts of derring-do) until he rescues a drowning woman and finds himself drawn into her highfalutin lifestyle, which leads to a frantic finale and a grand ball.

Chaplin regular Edna Purviance, who appeared in 30 of his early films, plays the woman, and Eric Campbell (another Chaplin regular) is a jealous suitor who tries to get Chaplin thrown back in the hoosegow. Hilarious stuff.

Next, Buster Keaton stars in “Convict 13” (1920), a typical knockabout, surreal farce that puts Keaton’s acrobatic abilities to good use.


One day while golfing with his girlfriend — and after retrieving his ball from a fish in a water hazard — Keaton is knocked out just in time for an escaped convict to switch clothes with him. This, of course, leaves Keaton to be captured and “returned” to prison where he learns that he’s on death row!

This is one of Keaton’s sillier films but it’s still loaded with wild, funny gags, proving that even with a less-than-believable pretext, Keaton could still create funnier bits of business than just about anyone.

Finally, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy star in “The Second Hundred Years,” one of several 1927 shorts in which they co-starred. This was the year Laurel & Hardy became an official team after making about a dozen films together and this is one of their funniest silents.


They star as convicts digging a tunnel to escape from prison when they are detoured by a broken water pipe, which causes them to dig their way into the warden’s office. Later, they disguise themselves as painters and walk out the front gate, wandering down a street painting everything in sight, hoping to fool a local beat cop. Then get into a limo and steal the clothing off a pair of visiting French policemen, only to find themselves on their way to the prison to have dinner with the warden!

Filled with the kind of comic material that would later evolve into signature bits for the two comics, who were, arguably, the greatest of all movie comedy teams.

Any way you slice it, these three shorts make for a hysterical night at the movies.