Archive for Billy Bevan

The Sunday Intertitle: Time And Relative Dimensions In Cow

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , on November 5, 2017 by dcairns

First time I’ve seen racist language, as opposed to merely racist attitudes, in a Keystone comedy. The offending film is WANDERING WILLIES (1926), starring the Australian Billy Bevan and the Scot Andy Clyde as hoboes on the make. Through contrivances of plot too complicated and demented to go into fully, they’ve disguised themselves as a dead cow and find themselves about to be dismembered and fed to a lion at the zoo by an uncredited and unknown African-American performer.

Is it OK if I call him Mr. Halloran until we know better, or am I being racist now? I don’t mean to be.

I guess the filmmakers would have regarded the language as merely casual, rather than hateful. Same thing, really — casualness in what you call someone denotes lack of respect.

Lots of interesting stuff in the film, including one or two funny moments and Billy Gilbert, if we believe the IMDb, in three roles, not looking like himself in any of them.

I don’t think this is Billy Gilbert, do you? You know, Mr. Pettibone from HIS GIRL FRIDAY, the doctor from COUNTY HOSPITAL, Herring from THE GREAT DICTATOR…

Also the attempt to photograph actors inside a cow is amusing — it seems mighty spacious in there. A bovine TARDIS.


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The Empty Bride

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on April 10, 2017 by dcairns

“An eerie image,” I observed of this shot in Lubitsch’s MONTE CARLO (1930).

“Yeah, an empty bride,” said Fiona.

Bring on the empty brides!

This is one of Lubitsch’s early operetta films and it has a lot to commend it. The empty bride is discovered by extruded turtle/shaved deerhound Claud Allister, who’s expecting to marry Jeanette MacDonald, not a wraith. We then cut to Jeanette catching a train in just a coat and her undies. When the ticket collector expresses surprise, she says “I’ve just come from a wedding,” by way of explanation. To my delight, the ticket man is former silent comic Billy Bevan, Uncle Arn from CLUNY BROWN (my favourite Lubitsch).

It takes a while for an explanation to emerge. Jeanette was on the verge of marrying Allister for his money, except that the dress didn’t fit, which suddenly gave her pause, and caused her to run away (for the third time, in fact) while she had the chance. (Lubitsch’s films with JM nearly always begin with her in undies.)

This is really good writing — the image of the abandoned dress — the image of the fugitive in scanties — the jokes with the discombobulated ticket man — finally, once we’re properly interested, but so entertained we hardly require an explanation, the explanation. Which element came first?

Sunday without Intertitles: A Scotsman and an Australian walk into a detective agency, a mansion, a train…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on October 4, 2015 by dcairns


Found this in a random search of YouTube. Comedy short starring Australia’s Billy Bevan and Scotland’s Andy Clyde, apparently packaged for TV at some point in the past under the title Comedy Capers. The short itself claims to be called THE CRYSTAL BALL.

No such film exists on the IMDb, but a search turned up WHISPERING WHISKERS, which matches the cast list and plot synopsis exactly, so the mystery would seem to be solved (but read on…)

Del Lord apparently directed, with many cartoonish gags — the best, for my money, being the sudden stop-start of the train at the end.

Billy_Bevan_(1)

Billy Bevan and friends

Clyde, from Blairgowrie in Perthshire, went on to play Hopalong Cassidy’s sidekick, California Carlson. Billy Bevan, from New South Wales, played a lot of cockneys in talking films (there weren’t enough Australian roles, and who in Hollywood could tell the difference?) — you may have seen him in BRINGING UP BABY or CLUNY BROWN. Here, they play nondescript clowns — the fact that their characters change from cleaners to detectives to hobos, with little apparent motivation, can’t have helped them build consistent characters in the space of the film’s twelve-minute runtime.

But IS it a film? Silent shorts can be pretty eccentric, often rebooting their narratives halfway through when the initial set-up runs out of steam (look at any of Keaton’s early films for Arbuckle). But this one breaks cleanly in two, with its opening situation never resolved, and its central character recast in life and transplanted to a fresh locale at the halfway mark, apparently by supernatural means.

The movie starts off screwy, with an unexplained mission to a Spanish-deco mansion which then turns into a kind of séance. But all this at least seems to be causally connected — I presume the weirdly baffling narrative was fairly clear until somebody cut out all the intertitles for kids’ TV (because kids don’t like to read, and never understand anything anyway). But when the crystal ball transforms Bevan and Clyde into a knockabout Vladimir and Estragon and teleports them to a railway track, something tells me that what we are looking at is two separate shorts spliced together. Maybe this happened in 1926, when Mack Sennett was dissatisfied with the ending of the detectives/fortune-teller flick and the train/tramps flick was running short, or maybe it happened later, in television land. Or else this is the slapstick ancestor of MULLHOLLAND DR.

Silencio! There, I’ve said it.