The Rough House

The Rough House is a 22 minute two-reeler starring Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton – the second of their films together. A brief Wikipedia article about the short states that this was the first film in which Keaton served as director.

There is a sort of story mixed in with the slapstick comedy, but it’s kind of hard to root out.

The story begins in a house by the sea – and we see some brief (but interesting) shots which show us that, indeed, the house is next to a large body of water. Mr. Rough (Fatty Arbuckle) is in bed early in the morning and he is smoking a cigarette but nods back off to sleep. The cigarette falls from his hand which results in a fire in the bedroom.

Rough awakes and sees the fire and begins the process of putting it out. He casually walks back and forth to the kitchen and gets water, a cup at a time, and even pauses for a snack on the way. His efforts have no effect on the fire and with the bed now fully engulfed, his wife (Alice Lake) and mother-in-law (Agnes Neilson), who are in the next room, get involved.

Eventually, they get the attention of a gardener (Buster Keaton) through the bedroom window and he provides a garden hose, which is used to put the fire out. When it’s all said and done Rough uses the hose to get a drink.

With this crises passed, the action shifts to the kitchen where a cook (Al St. John) and a female servant are preparing food. A delivery boy (Buster Keaton) arrives on a bicycle with a delivery and he likes the looks of the young female employee. This causes the cook and delivery boy to engage in an argument, complete with knives, that wreaks further havoc on the house.

At one point, Rough gets whacked and sees stars. During this process we are treated to some pretty high-tech 1917 graphics.

The Rough House - Arbuckle sees stars

The Rough House - Arbuckle sees stars

Here’s where this all starts to make sense: The delivery boy and cook are arrested after the argument spills outdoors. When they are hauled into the police station, instead of punishing them, they are conscripted into the ranks of the police force.

Meanwhile, back at the house, the Roughs are hosting a dinner and Mr. Rough has been reduced to being the cook. That’s not successful in any way. But, the important guests turn out to be jewel thieves so who cares?

All of this in 22 minutes.

According to, this film was one of only two movies made at the Norma Talmadge Studio in New York City.

The Rough House @

Posted in 1917, Buster Keaton, Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle | Tagged as: , , | Leave a comment

The Spider Woman

This is a Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) Mystery and can be watched in a short 63 minutes.

We begin with a series of shocking suicides dubbed by the press as “The Pajama Suicides.” Influential people are comitting suicide, one after another, dressed in their nightclothes while ready for bed.

Meanwhile, Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce), are on a fishing excursion. They have a discussion about the suicides and Holmes states to Watson that he knows they are actually murders.

While on the trip, Holmes also makes a startling revelation to Watson: He is suffering from a serious illness. Within minutes he suffers from a spell of dizzyness and falls into a river and is presumed drowned. Watson returns to London alone.

This leaves whoever may be behind the strange happenings without one major worry: Will they have to face Sherlock Holmes?

As in most of the Holmes mysteries, not much aout the story can be told without ruining it for someone who does not know the story.

This movie in an entertaining hour.

The Spider Woman @

Posted in 1944, Basil Rathbone | Tagged as: | Leave a comment

If I Had A Million

This review will contain spoilers. If you read the whole review, even with spoilers, you should still derive a great deal of enjoyment from watching this movie. Your humble reviewer has seen this movie several times and is of the opinion that it is among the best of movies from the early 1930s.

John Glidden (Richard Bennett) is a rich man. He owns The John Glidden Corporation – which includes at a minimum; The John Glidden Steel Corporation, The John Glidden Construction Company, and The John Glidden Shipyards. But, John Glidden is also a sick man and he’s expected to die very soon.

If I Had A Million - The wealthy Mr. Glidden

If I Had A Million - The wealthy Mr. Glidden

As you could imagine, with a multi-millionaire laying on his deathbed, quite a few people are thinking about their own bankbooks. Relatives and business associates have gathered in his home for the deathwatch – and, the moneywatch. Glidden, however, views none of them as worthy, and being completely disgusted by what he sees going on around him, orders his associates to bring him the city directory. He randomly opens the pages and begins to choose names – names of people who will each receive one million dollars to do with whatever they please.

His first recipient is Henry Peabody (Charles Ruggles). Peabody is an unassuming man. He works in a china shop and, since he’s a klutz, his rate of breakage is a detriment to his success as an employee. At home, his wife (Mary Boland) henpecks him to the point of ridiculousness. John Glidden pays him an unexpected visit.

Next is Violet Smith (Wynne Gibson). She’s a prostitute who works her trade out of a bar where Glidden finds her. At first, she thinks he’s a different kind of John. Instead, she is presented a check for one million dollars.

If I Had A Million - A rather risqué Violet Smith

If I Had A Million - A rather risqué Violet Smith

Edward Jackson’s (George Raft) name is chosen from the city directory next. Mr. Jackson is a forger who is already acquainted with the process of cashing a check. Unfortunately, when he cashes a check it’s not normally done in a legal manner. This presents a problem when Mr. Glidden gives him a check for one million dollars. No one will cash it.

Spoiler: Jackson is used to turning worthless checks into money but when presented with a real one, he quickly reduces its value to ten cents.

Emily La Rue (Alison Skipworth) owns a quaint little Tea Shop. Her husband Rollo La Rue (W.C. Fields) is an interesting character. (Isn’t W.C. Fields always an interesting character?) Emily feels that her life is complete except for one thing – she’s always wanted a car and today, a new car is being delivered.

Spoiler: As Emily and Rollo take their first drive in the car, it is destroyed by a reckless driver. When the couple returns bruised and battered to the tea shop, Mr. Glidden is waiting for them with a check.

If I Had A Million - The La Rues Go Car Shopping

If I Had A Million - The La Rues Go Car Shopping

The La Rue segment is very humorous and you’ll likely find yourself rooting for these folks. It seems that 1932 was plagued by many of the same problems on the roadways that we see today.

If I Had A Million - Rollo La Rue (and crew) return from a drive

If I Had A Million - Rollo La Rue (and crew) return from a drive

Glidden opens the city directory again and chooses the name John Wallace (Gene Raymond). Unfortunately, when Glidden locates Wallace he’s in the state prison on death row. And, today is the day of his execution. As he receives his last rites, he complains that had he been able to hire a lawyer to adequately represent him, he would not be where he is today.

When he’s presented with a check for one million dollars, just minutes before his execution, he feels that he has new hope. With this money he will be able to hire a new lawyer and get a new trial. Everything seems like it is going to be okay now.

If I Had A Million - John Wallace headed toward his destiny

If I Had A Million - John Wallace headed toward his destiny

Phineas Lambert (Charles Laughton) is a bookkeeper in a large office. This is the shortest example (and one of the funniest) of someone receiving one of Glidden’s gifts.

Next we meet Steven Gallagher (Gary Cooper). Gary Cooper was already over 30 years of age in 1932 and this was certainly not his first role. However, Cooper’s best days as a movie star are yet to come.

Gallagher and his friends are U.S. Marines. Sadly, they seem to spend more time in the hoosegow than anywhere else. When Glidden arrives and presents Gallagher with a check on April 1st, he takes it as a joke and throws Glidden out.

If I Had A Million - A young Gary Cooper

If I Had A Million - A young Gary Cooper

Spoiler: Gallagher is bested only by Edward Jackson. Jackson got 10 cents out of his check. Gallagher gets ten dollars for his.

The most touching scene in the movie is when we meet the final recipient of John Glidden’s generosity.

Mary Walker lives in an old folk’s home. That’s what we used to call them isn’t it?

It’s not a happy place. The women who live there are all lonely. Their husbands have died. Their families seem to ignore them. They live in an environment where they have to wear drab uniforms and they are ruled by a domineering administrator.

They are not allowed to play cards, bake, or even to enjoy the company of a kitten.

The existence of these ladies is very undesirable.

If I Had A Million - A sad state of affairs

If I Had A Million - A sad state of affairs

However, John Glidden comes to call and things will take a turn.

If I Had A Million - Promotional Poster

If I Had A Million - Promotional Poster

Your reviewer feels that this is an impressive example of early filmmaking. This movie has a message and it’s one that should reach everyone.

The technique of moving through several separate stories with a common theme is not unique to this movie but this is an early example, perhaps the first. Seven different directors directed the various segments. The film is well-made and is enjoyable to watch.

If I Had A Million @

Posted in 1932, Charles Laughton, Gary Cooper, George Raft, W.C. Fields | Tagged as: | 1 Comment

The Cook

According to a Wikipedia article about this 22 minute short, it was believed to be lost until it was discovered in Norway. So, if you want to feel like you discovered lost treasure, here’s your chance. Fatty Arbuckle is the headliner in this production and Buster Keaton gets second billing.

Your humble reviewer is particularly interested in silent film and the older, the better. Anything pre-1920 is interesting. Apparently, Arbuckle and Keaton make sixteen shorts together and this is the eleventh.

Arbuckle was an interesting person and one of the first big stars in movies. The Wikipedia article about him is quite interesting and tells the story of his troubled life. Arbuckle and Keaton were apparently good friends, having met in New York City.

Interestingly, both Arbuckle and Keaton were natives of Kansas. Arbuckle was born in the Northern Kansas town of Smith Center and Keaton is from a flyspeck point on the map called Piqua in Eastern Kansas. Your reviewer is a native of the State of Kansas as well and has been through both towns. Piqua, Kansas is not much more than a country grain elevator and a handful of houses clustered next to the road.

As in many short films, The Cook is a comedy that has a loose story. Arbuckle is a cook in a fairly nice restaurant. Keaton is the assistant chef and a waiter. Arbuckle’s performance as a cook is probably similar to what actually goes on in the kitchens of popular restaurants today.

The Cook - Arbuckle Makes Pancakes

The Cook - Arbuckle Makes Pancakes

There’s some pretty clever stunts involving the passing of food and drink from Arbuckle to Keaton and note the large pot on the left side in the photo above. It seems to magically dispense all sorts of things when needed.
We get several minutes of frivolity around the restaurant when in enters a villain (Al St. John). He causes some problems and the action shifts out onto the street – which is an amusement park. I suspect that this is Coney Island.
The Cook - Roller Coaster Action

The Cook - Roller Coaster Action

The ending seems to come abruptly but it makes sense. Apparently, the actual ending has been lost.

To this reviewer, this kind of fare is a treasure. Don’t pass up any chances to see it.

The Cook @

Posted in 1918, Buster Keaton, Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle | Tagged as: , , , | Leave a comment

An American in Paris

“This is Paris, and I’m an American who lives here. My name is Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly), and I’m an ex-G.I. In 1945 when the army told me to find my own job, I stayed on. And I’ll tell you why: I’m a painter, and all my life that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. And for a painter the Mecca of the world for study, for inspiration, and for living is here on this star called Paris.” And thus, we meet Jerry Mulligan in his attic apartment/studio at the beginning of the movie.

Our next acquaintance is Adam Cook (Oscar Levant). He’s a struggling concert pianist that lives in the next attic apartment.

Henri Baural (Georges Guétary) is a well-known Parisian nightclub singer who frequents the neighborhood and meets up with old friend Cook to tell him about his girlfriend Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron). She’s just about perfect according to Baural.

Mulligan is one of many struggling artists who set up on the street to sell paintings. There, he meets a lady named Milo Roberts (Nina Foch). She is interested in him from the outset and agrees to purchase two of his paintings. It turns out that she’s very wealthy and he does not really know what to make of her.

Later in the day she takes him to a nightclub where she introduces him to some friends. While there, he catches first sight of a girl, who turns out to be Lise Bouvier. The minute he sees her is enamored. Although he’s just earlier in the day met Henri Baural, he has no idea that she is his girlfriend.

He quickly falls in love. Jerry loves Lise. Henri loves Lise. Milo loves Jerry. Lise loves…? Looks like this is going to be a problem.

The music is by Ira and George Gershwin and it’s top-notch. Memorable songs from the soundtrack include “Our Love Is Here to Stay” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”

Gene Kelly dances frequently as there are elaborate production numbers throughout. An American in Paris also won the Best Picture Oscar in 1952 as well as winning five other Oscars. Other than French exterior shots the movie was filmed on MGM’s lot and the backdrop is very appealing for the entire movie.

Leslie Caron is a native of France and was first “discovered” by Gene Kelly when appearing in a ballet in Paris (according to her profile on Kelly was looking for a newcomer to play the part of Lise Bouvier in this movie and she was chosen.

An American in Paris is almost two hours long. If you love musicals, like your humble reviewer, you should find this film quite satisfying.

An American in Paris @

Posted in 1951, Gene Kelly | Tagged as: , , | Leave a comment