It’s a common refrain about silent movies that they’re often fascinating just because they’re accidental documentaries. 1917’s The Butcher Boy, here, is one of them because it showcases a model of store that’s basically extinct in the United States: the general store in which all the merchandise is kept safely tucked away from the customers’ hands, thank you, and for that matter the person who gets what you want off the shelves isn’t necessarily the same person who wraps up your packages, and may well have nothing to do with the person who takes your money and counts your change (if you didn’t just put it on your account).
Since the model of the self-service market took over — it really got going in the 1920s — it’s hard to quite believe this used to be normal. It almost seems designed exclusively to stuff movie scenes full of comic actors, standing at the edge of an abundant supply of missiles, with hapless customers standing in the middle ready to get hit by accident when the grand battle inevitably starts. I’m honestly a touch disappointed when the action moves from the store to a women’s boarding house; as energetically paced and frantic as the action gets at that point, it seems like they’re giving up on a fantastic setting. (Were they worried 25 minutes was too long to spend in one location?)
Anyway, here’s another “Fatty” Arbuckle film, featuring also Buster Keaton’s screen debut, which makes clear pretty quickly why he was going to be a movie star. Archive.org has a copy of it with French intertitles, and played a little faster than the version on YouTube. (Converting film speeds from silent movie days to modern speeds is a bit arbitrary.)
In a coincidental bit of business, Steve McGarry’s TrivQuiz biographical comic strip/quiz panel features Ben Turpin, who you may remember in collages of silent movie stars as “oh yeah, that guy”. Funny fellow. Besides a touch of information about the actor, the panel also includes a couple trivia questions related to silent movie stars which should probably make you feel better for being able to answer.
To keep up the listing of things and numbers and especially countries that’s oddly popular around here let me review what WordPress says the humor blog did here the past month. The big news is I had my most popular month, by page views, on record, 468 things looked at, which is thrilling because I’d hoped that sometime I’d write stuff that was viewed by not more than ten percent less than 500 times in a single month. There were 199 unique visitors, too, which ties for second for my all-time records without being a suspiciously neat 200. I bet WordPress deducted one just so it wouldn’t look like too round a number was being reported. Anyway, all that’s up fro February 2014’s 337 views and 170 visitors, and even the views per visitor went up from 1.98 to 2.35.
The top five articles this month produced a four-way crash for fifth place, which isn’t that always the way? But here’s the list of them:
- The Chuckletrousers Decade, a lightly biographical bit about something funny that happened on Usenet back when Usenet happened.
- I’m No Good At Music, the really not at all exaggerated story of how bad I am with doing music.
- Next, The Comics, pointing over to my mathematics blog and showing off a Beetle Bailey cartoon printed literally days after the Soviet Union had the world’s first successful intercontinental ballistic missile launch.
- Dream World Investment Tips: My Little Pony Edition, as apparently there’s a very peculiar fortune to be made out of this show.
- Warnings From The Dream World: Trans-Dimensional Travel Edition, as there are hazards in going through dystopian alternate universes and hassling with their movie cashiers.
- Five Astounding Facts About Turbo, That Movie About A Snail In The Indianapolis 500, because really isn’t every fact about this movie astounding?
- Escaping To Lansing, and the various disasters you won’t see there.
- Better Eating For 2015, and how Olive Garden figures it will provide this.
The countries sending me many readers this month were the United States (342), the United Kingdom (22), and the Canada (11). Just a single reader each came from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Pakistan, Russia, and Switzerland. None of those were on the list for February, so again, the whole world is very gradually kind of tolerating my stuff.
Among the search terms that brought people here:
- “robert benchley’s “opera”” (I put it into three parts, Die Meister-Genossenschaft, then Il Minnestrone, and then Lucy de Lima, though the original article had them all run together)
- “any course is there to run departmental store” (there probably are but I’ve never taken one)
- “odysseus’s letter to penelope for school” (the good Robert Benchley once again turns out to be my biggest draw here)
- “dreams transdimensional” (no idea how this could have brought anyone to me; it must have been somebody’s prank)
- “the indianapolis 500 snail”, as well as “movie turbo facts”, “turbo movie fun facts”, “what is interesting in the movie turbo”, and “can a snail race in indianpolis 500”
- “charley chase” (I’ve linked to Love, Loot and Crash and to A Versatile Villain before).
- “ben turpin side of house scene” (I’m not sure it’s what they were looking for, but, Ben Turpin is credited with the first pie-in-the-face movie scene)
I haven’t the time to be entertaining on my own today, so let me instead point you to Ben Turpin’s 1909 short feature Mr. Flip. It’s got a lot of what you imagine to see in silent comedies, including what Wikipedia credits as the first filmed pie-in-the-face gag. I certainly accept that it’s an early one, since the pie-in-the-face isn’t framed very well or set up as clearly as it probably would be if the director, “Broncho Billy” Anderson (who played three roles in The Great Train Robbery), or Ben Turpin realized they were producing the first filmed instance of such a slapstick icon. (It’s in the final scene, at about 3:35 into the action.)
Ben Turpin achieved his greatest fame in Mack Sennett comedies and if his face looks familiar it’s probably because, well, it’s a very distinctive face and you probably saw him in clips from the Sennett shorts.
As before, the Archive.org link above is probably going to be a lasting URL, but it’s easier to embed from YouTube so here’s that.