Archive for Snub Pollard

The Sunday Intertitle: Bronchial Mixture

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2021 by dcairns

I wanted to see a typical “Broncho” Billy film to admire his gunplay, but the first one I came up with, HIS REGENERATION, isn’t typical at all. Firstly, Chaplin is in it. Secondly, at some point Essanay decided to capitalize on his walk-on appearance by making him the top-billed star and erasing poor Broncho. Thirdly, it’s not a western. I remain unsure how much of Gilbert M. Anderson’s post-GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY were the western’s he’s most associated with. He seems to have made quite a few comedies.

But, with his strange, unhandsome countenance, Anderson does seem to have played a lot of “good bad man” roles, like William S. Hart a bit later, and the modern crime story HIS REGENERATION (not a rip-off of Raoul Walsh’s feature-length gangland epic THE REGENERATION, it came out months prior) exemplifies this.

Since I was a newcomer to Broncho, I at first struggled to tell him apart from the man he fights at the start of this movie. It’s a good fight, though, and the cutaways to enthralled/horrified extras, really enhances the drama. Broncho seems like a good director.

What he should never have allowed is the appearance by Chaplin, which throws the whole thing off. Chaplin’s whole style of acting, or indeed being, is antithetical to the slightly underplayed melodrama going on with Anderson. Of course it turned out well for the star, whose company produced the short and profited by cashing in on CC’s cameo, but it wrecks the movie, which is disjointed anyway. The whole barroom opening is disconnected from what follows, and the film’s entire plot takes place during the subsequent burglary sequence.

Still, Anderson’s performance is very good — he uses his eyes well, although the darkened eyelids is a strange piece of make-up. But the delicate little raising of those kohl-smeared lids set in that big, harsh face on that big, burly body makes for an electrifying contrast. In the burglary, he and his partner black up completely for nightwork, so the whites of their eyes pop out of the gloom like characters in a cartoon blackout. But with added luminous shirt collars.

Incidentals: the guy Broncho fights is future director Lloyd Bacon; Ben Turpin’s wife Carrie is somewhere in there (I want to picture her with matching crossed eyes but of course no); future Preston Sturges players Snub Pollard and Vic Potel are in the mix.

HIS REGENERATION stars Alkali Ike; Frozen Body of Jasper Adams; Adenoid Hynkel; Princess of Dawsbergen; Director of Comedies (uncredited); A. Panther; Madame Zola (uncredited); Faulty Shooter (uncredited); and Mr. McKeewie.

The Sunday Intertitle: Oil Swindlers

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on May 17, 2020 by dcairns

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A passel of oil swindlers, each clutching his own tiny derrick in readiness.

This is IT’S A GIFT, not the WC Fields classic but the 1923 demi-classic starring Snub Pollard. After he stopped being a pint-sized antagonist to Harold Lloyd the Australian knockabout specialist made a string of his own shorts, the couple I’ve seen are quite odd.

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Pollard plays a madcap inventor hired to help the struggling oil tycoons of America — where is he now, in their hour of need? Underground, same place as the oil. A fat lot of use.

IT’S A GIFT is moderately well-known for this image ~

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Snub’s absolutely non-explosive gasoline alternative. But since he’s a mini-Edison of the slapstick kind, he lives in a Rube Goldberg contraption — if houses are machines for living in, he has taken the idea to its limit. If Caractacus Potts and Doc Brown invented a means to reproduce, their offspring would live in this concatenation of contrived conveniences.

His automated pull-cord-for-service breakfast routine allows Snub to make it halfway through the film without getting out of bed. But you can’t call him lazy. He manages to drop a cop down a manhole and, in loaning his walk-on-water shoes to another, to help save a drowning man, he is apparently responsible for two fatalities before getting to the oil company to render his services.

I’m always interested in these moments of black comic discomfort when they don’t work — this one is pretty ghastly. They don’t make me like the films more, rather the opposite, but I’m interested in the sensibility that produces them. The director here is Hugh Fay, who had his own series of shorts as star, playing a character called Percy. I will check him out, if possible.

In the seriously decayed closing images, Pollard goes full Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as his magnetic motor sprouts wings and takes off — on invisible wires, all in one shot. You wouldn’t get me in that thing.

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The Sunday Intertitle: Luke Out

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on August 11, 2019 by dcairns

OK, one last Lonesome Luke film, LUKE JOINS THE NAVY. It seems to be the last one on YouTube, increbibly: they’re all out of copyright so I thought there might be lots.

This one is… short and mostly inoffensive. There’s a little dwarf-kicking, but they expect it, don’t they. The film looks to be only a fragment or truncation. Lloyd shows great agility. There’s even an intertitle, luckily for me, though it looks modern and who knows if even the wording is authentic?

Again, there’s no real difference between Snub Pollard’s character and Luke’s. Why have the little guy at all? When Harold discovered the “glasses character,” who quickly revealed a gentler side, Snub almost immediately became the heavy, which gave him a reason for being there. And maybe it’s OK to have a short, stocky villain? Like Yosemite Sam? Although I think in the later features Lloyd always benefitted from being up against impossible odds, otherwise it was too obvious that the clean-cut boy next door was going to win.

My favourite bit here might be the zero tolerance approach to pathos. Luke definitively loses the girl (an embryonic Bebe Daniels, I think) less than a minute in, and launches into a vile, gurning bawl. An old-timer smacks him hard in the face, and he snaps right out of it and gets back to his knockabout. Good!