Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, Buster Keaton in: The Garage


And now, let me close out what’s become an Arbuckle-and-Keaton month of videos with The Garage, the last of their collaborations. This one, from 1920, is set in a small-town gas station-slash-fire station, which I guess will happen in your smaller towns, especially on-screen. From that starting point it’s able naturally to combine jokes about demolishing cars in the process of cleaning them with jokes about things being on fire.

The TCM article on this movie claims that Keaton cited it as his favorite collaboration with Arbuckle. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true. The film may be a string of gags loosely bound by some connective plot tissue but they’re good gags, timed well and paced well together.

Silent Comedies: The Mechanic (1924)


I’d like to offer another silent comedy bit today, so, let me offer The Mechanic, from 1924, starring Jimmy Aubrey, who I admit I don’t know much about. Wikipedia offers that he worked with Charlie Chaplin and with Laurel & Hardy, but that’s not so distinguishing a set of properties as you might think as Chaplin, Laurel, and Aubrey worked for Fred Karno. Karno was one of the leading producers for music hall performances, and brought quite a few of the greats of British stage comedy to British and to American attention, and so is one of the basic links to use if you need to connect any early 20th century stage performers. (And maybe later ones: Wikipedia delights me by noting that Karno’s houseboat, the Astoria, is still afloat at Hampton, Middlesex, where Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour uses it as a recording studio.)

The Mechanic is at archive.org, although it’s obviously not complete: credits, particularly, are missing, and if someone cut scenes from the reel before archive.org got hold of it I wouldn’t know. The jokes are stagy and somewhat padded, I admit, but the timing of jokes, particularly slapstick ones, has gotten generally much faster over the decades. The short, like many silents, also has the distracting value that if you look away from the action you can see actual Los Angeles of that time, and for that matter just the view of a garage back in the days when garages might be called things like Gasoline Alley are interesting. On archive.org the film is in two bits, a fifteen-minute main sequence and for some reason thirteen seconds that didn’t quite fit. Embedded below ought to be a YouTube copy of the first portion of this, and I trust you can find the last quarter-minute.