Silent-era slapstick dealt with social, cultural, political, and aesthetic themes that continue to be central concerns around the world today. Issues of Race, ethnicity, gender, and public order have traditionally been among the most vital sources for rude forms of comedy. Drawing on MoMA’s holdings of silent comedy, acquired largely in the 1970s and 1980s by curator Eileen Bowser, these programs present this otherwise little-seen body of work
to contemporary audiences from an engaging perspective. These highlights from the first two installments in the series (in 2009 and 2010) feature comedy on the subjects of sexual identity, surrealism, and child care. All films are silent with piano accompaniment by Ben Model.
Organized by Ron Magliozzi, Associate Curator, with Steve Massa, film historian, and Ben Model, film historian and accompanist.
Yamaha Modus H1 piano generously provided through Yamaha Artist
Services, New York.
Related Film Screenings
There are no upcoming film screenings currently scheduled.
Program 1: Gender Benders—Masculine Women/Feminine Men
1919. Directed by Al E. Christie. A Christie Comedies production. With Fay Tincher, Eddie Barry, Katherine Lewis, Harry Depp, Al Haymes, George B. French, Edgar Blue. As tough as any cowboy, Ann is sent back East to learn how to be a lady. 20 min.
Hearts and Flowers
1919. Mack Sennett. Directed by Edward Cline. A Paramount Pictures production. With Louise Fazenda, Ford Sterling, Phyllis Haver, Billy Armstrong, Jack Ackroyd, Kalla Pasha, Edgar Kennedy, Bert Roach, Charles Lynn, Eva Thatcher, Virginia Fox, Sybil Sealy, Sennett Bathing Beauties. A smarmy roue romances a flower girl he thinks is rich. 20 min.
1924. Mack Sennett. Directed by Roy del Ruth. A Pathé production. With Harry Langdon, Kalla Pasha, Alice Day, Andy Clyde, Tiny Ward, Joe Young, George Cooper, Gordon Lewis, Eli Stanton. Kidnapped by pirates, a newly married couple engage in cross-dressing to protect themselves from the advances of a brutish captain. 15 min.
A Sorority Mix-Up
1927. Directed by Joseph Basil. A Bray Productions/Sunkist Comedies production. With Buddy Messinger, Anne Porter, Madelynne Field, Henry Roquemore, Mr. X (chimp), Alice Belcher, the Sunkist Bathing Beauties. Girls’ school hazing leads to human and animal drag. 14 min.
1924. Directed by Fred Hibbard. A Hamilton Comedies/Educational production. With Lloyd Hamilton, Dorothy Seastrom, Blanche Payson, Robert McKenzie, Louise Carver, Mark Hamilton, Jack McHugh, Tommy Hicks. After a series of mishaps on the subway, effete Ham ends up married to bossy Amazon Blanche Payson, who surprises him with a brood of brats. 15 min.
Program 2: The Surreal Life—Dallying With the Absurd
1916. Directed by Billy Dunn. An Eagle Film Company/Tweedledum Comedies production. With Manuel Fernandez Perez (aka Marcel Fabre), Babette Fabre (aka Nilde Barrachi). When Tweedledum’s girl is kidnapped by bad men, he springs into action. 11 min.
A Schoolhouse Scandal
1919. Directed by Eddie Cline. A Fox Film Corp./Sunshine Comedies production. With Slim Summerville, Ethel Teare, Tom Kennedy, Polly Moran, Harry Booker, Jack Cooper, James Donnelly, Francis Carpenter. A surrealistic stew of airplanes, tornadoes, trick mirrors, and underwater car repair. Footage was recycled for the studios’ 1920 release Hold Me Tight. 15 min.
Kiss Me Quick (aka Don’t Tickle)
1920. Directed by John G. Blystone. A Fox Sunshine Comedy production. With Clyde Cook, Blanche Payson, Bobby Dunn, Frank Alexander. Clyde gets in hot water with his Amazon wife and her tough sailor brother, culminating in a wrestling match and escape by airplane. 17 min.
1922. Directed by Al St. John. A Fox Film Corp/Al St. John Comedies production. With St. John, Otto Fries, Ford West, Sy Jenks, Tiny Ward. A newly married couple find that their seaside home is too close to the water in this remake of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s Keystone short Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916). The surrealistic undersea and rapid-growth visual effects were greeted as a refinement of the slapstick form. Scholar Steve Massa believes this may be the first film Arbuckle directed anonymously after his infamous sex scandal. 20 min.
1926. Directed by Charles Bowers, Harold L. Muller. An R. C. Pictures Corp./Whirlwind Comedies production. With Bowers, Winifred Leighton. An inventor of unbreakable eggs hatches himself a brood of infant Model-T automobiles. 19 min.
An Elephant on Their Hands
1912. Directed by Frederick Thomson. A Vitagraph production. With George Ober, Kate Price, Flora Finch, Lillian Walker, Robert Gaillard, Charles Eldridge, Hughie Mack. While in his cups, an older gentleman buys a surprise for his family—one that eats peanuts and weighs 11,000 pounds. 10 min.
Cat, Dog and Co
1929. Directed by Anthony Mack. A Hal Roach production. With Our Gang (Joe Cobb, Wheezer, Farina, Mary Ann Jackson, Jean Darling, Harry Spear, Pete the pup, Hedda Hopper, Dorothy Vernon, Syd Saylor, Silas Wilcox, Robert McGowan). Wheezer enjoys mistreating animals, until they take their revenge. 18 min.
Mind the Baby
1924. Directed by Al Herman. A Century Comedy production. With Pal, Lillian Biron, Fred Spencer. Pal the dog saves a kidnapped baby from raging waterfalls and hungry alligators. 18 min.
1923. Directed by Len Powers. A Hal Roach production. With The Dippy-Doo-Dads. Intelligent monkeys, dogs, and ducks enact a spoof of boxing dramas. 10 min.
When Summer Comes
1922. Directed by Roy Del Ruth. A Mack Sennett production. With Billy Bevan, Mildred June, Kewpie Morgan, Billy Armstrong, Jack Cooper, Tiny Ward, Hughie Mack, Edgar Blue, John Rand, Cubby. Rampaging lions are on the loose in a hunting lodge. 18 min.
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