Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Boxing

His Picture in the Papers (1916)

Douglas Fairbanks returns in yet another movie in which he must face unbelievable odds and travel immense distances in order to get married. This one takes advantage of his charm and wit, and occasional doses of his physical prowess, to get a good number of laughs from the audience.

His_Picture_in_the_Papers_PosterDoug plays Pete Prindle, first son and heir of Proteus Prindle (Clarence Handyside), the magnate behind “Prindle’s Products,” a line of unappetizing vegetarian goods. One of Prindle’s “disciples” (and, evidently, employees), is a fellow named Cassius Cadwalader (Charles Butler). His young daughter, Christine, (Loretta Blake) is of marrying age, but she doesn’t seem to like the thin, effeminate specimens he brings home; it’s very important that she marry a vegetarian, you see. Pete and Christine run into one another at a non-vegetarian restaurant and share a steak together – they both share the secret of rejecting their families’ diet. But, when Pete asks to marry her, Cassius tells him he must prove his worth by getting a 50% interest in the Prindle empire, and his father tells him the only way that will happen is if he gets out and gets some publicity for the company. His daughters have managed to get a story in a Vegetarian Journal, why isn’t he in the news, too?

Doug's got an idea. Watch out, world!

Doug’s got an idea. Watch out, world!

So, Pete sets out to get himself into the papers. First, he fakes an automobile accident, but only gets a small mention, not a picture. Next, he wins a boxing match, but the police raid it before any of the photographers can submit their pictures. Then, he has the bright idea of telling the papers he was miraculously cured of being an “invalid” by taking a competitor’s product – that only gets dad madder at him. Finally, trying to cadge a dollar for a fortune teller from a buddy in a men’s club, he winds up hungover in his pajamas in Atlantic City and gets into a brawl with some policemen, but his name is withheld.

Really, it could happen to anyone!

Really, it could happen to anyone!

While all of this is going on, a gang of hoodlums (one of whom is Erich von Stroheim, still new to America at the time) is trying to threaten Cadwalader for protection money. Cadwalader doesn’t think a Prindle’s man should back down so he has the police arrest one gang member, and when another one stabs him in the chest he’s defended by his trusty tin of Prindle’s lentils that he always carries. His daughter insists on hiring detectives, so from this point he’s constantly surrounded by four of them. One gang member tries throwing a bomb, but gets blown up himself. Now Prindle orders him to go down to Atlantic City to check on a shipment of Prindle’s Products that got delayed, and the gang devises a plan to crash his train.

His Picture in the Papers2Of course, Pete is walking along that very line, and catches sight of a railman they’ve disabled in order to pull the switch that will crash the train. Without knowing who he’s saving, he heroically dashes in and fights off the gang, finding the missing railroad car and using Prindle’s Products as weapons. The next day the headlines trumpet his saving one thousand people and capturing the crooks. He and Christine kiss behind a paper.

His Picture in the Papers3It’s interesting to note how often Doug plays the spoiled son of a wealthy man (even in “The Matrimaniac,” he’s rich and unmarried, although we never see his father) who has to make good somehow. I’ve really come to enjoy the style of humor of these early Douglas Fairbanks movies. In this case, the intertitles are the source of much of the humor, but they seem to match up with the wry grins and attitude of Doug himself. A lot of the humor is at the expense of vegetarianism, which actually makes it seem more relevant today than a lot of century comedies (remember, vegetarians, these products have come a long way in 100 years!). Doug climbs up a building to visit his sweetie’s balcony, and he also boxes, wrestles a goat, beats up two policemen, and swims ashore from a cruise liner. At one point, he is thrown off of a train because his ticket apparently specifies that he is a “fat man with whiskers.” That’s why he attacks the goat – he needs the whiskers! Much of this movie was shot in Fort Lee, New Jersey, but there are some recognizable shots of New York City (especially Grand Central Station) and the Atlantic City boardwalk (the one the property in Monopoly is named for!). There is good editing and shot composure, and a strong use of close-ups. The one scene that puzzled me was the boxing scene, which looked like it had been shot for Edison in 1896. The camera never moved, there were no cuts, and the whole fight was shot at such a distance that I couldn’t tell the boxers apart. Overall, it’s a very enjoyable movie, and the Flicker Alley version comes with a lively score by Frederick Hodges.

Director: John Emerson

Camera: George W. Hill

Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Loretta Blake, Clarence Handyside, Charles Butler, Erich von Stroheim

Run Time: 1 Hr, 2 Min

You can watch it for free: here (no music). For music, head on over to Flicker Alley and rent it, cheap!

Billy Edwards and the Unknown (1895)

Billy Edwards Fight

This is another quick round of a boxing match, which I assume would have been released along with other rounds, for viewing on a Kinetoscope in sequence. The fighters in this match are short – both noticeably shorter than the referee in the ring, and seem to be quick and determined to get as many hits in as possible before the camera times out. We see the end of the round and one of the fighters returns to his corner and gets fanned by a towel. There are a number of spectators in the background, and one gets the impression that this fight was quite an event, although we are still dealing with the small area of the Black Maria. The fashions are interesting: both fighters sport long mustaches and the ref is in an elaborate evening coat, with a style that reminds me of Severus Snape. Many of the spectators wear stove-pipe hats.

Director: W.K.L. Dickson

Camera: William Heise

Run Time: 31 seconds

You can watch it for free: here.

Glenroy Brothers No. 2 (1894)


This Kinetoscope movie depicts a boxing match, but, unlike last night’s “Corbett – Courtney Fight” or the previous “Leonard – Cushing Fight,” it probably didn’t get anyone at Edison Studios in trouble. It is a comedy routine performed by two actors known as the Glenroy brothers, and is an early example of the use of slapstick in silent film. It is included with other “Buffalo Bill” Kinetoscopes in “The Invention of Movies,” but it doesn’t look like a Wild West act to me. Charles Musser in The Emergence of Cinema refers to the Glenroy Brothers as “a burlesque boxing act” – let’s remember that “burlesque” had different connotations at the time, because this is, if anything, a less sexy fight than Corbett & Courtney’s. I would say that this, along with the Annabelle Moore movies, represents one of the first genuine crossovers between moving pictures and Vaudeville, two forms of entertainment which would be closely linked in the years to come. Once again, there is no surviving “no. 1” of which I am aware, so this was probably a remake of a damaged film.

Director: W.K.L. Dickson

Camera: William Heise

Run Time: 36 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph (1894)

Corbett and Courtney

In “The Invention of the Movies,” film historian Charles Musser takes some time to introduce this short Kinetoscope clip, arguing that it is symbolic of the “transgressive” nature of early cinema. It may not seem like all that big a deal to audiences today. However, it’s important to recall that boxing was illegal nearly everywhere in the USA, and that boxing was considered a violent “blood sport” equivalent to cock fighting. Edison was in fact prosecuted because of this movie, but got off, it would seem, due to his popularity among the type of men who sat on juries, on the claim that he was “away” the day this film was shot. The original version of this film was actually six one-minute reels, each showing a single round of the fight. Kinetoscope viewers could pay a nickel or dime to watch each round in sequence, moving from one machine to the next sequentially, or could save money and just watch the final reel to see who won. The version that survives is just a segment of one of the rounds, but I’m not certain which. The two fighters seem unevenly matched, one is much larger than the other and seems to have the upper hand, but this is a much more convincing match than the movie “Men Boxing” made previously as a experiment at the Black Maria studio. The larger of the two men (Corbett, I believe) is wearing rather revealing shorts, which ride up his rear almost like a g-string, which may have increased its “transgressive” nature for some audiences.

Director: W.K.L. Dickson

Camera: William Heise

Starring: James J. Corbett

Run Time: 45 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

Leonard – Cushing Fight (1894)


AKA: “Boxing Bout”

This early Edison Kinetoscope example returns to several of the themes I’ve been discussing lately. As I mentioned in “Men Boxing,” the art of pugilism was of special interest, not least because it was banned in the United States at the time. That is, it was illegal to organize, participate in, or attend a boxing match, not necessarily to photograph one (the law hadn’t thought that far ahead). Since it was legal to look at a still photograph of a boxing match, it must be legal to look at a motion picture as well (again, it was too early for anyone to argue that the movie constituted evidence that someone had organized and participated and that at least the cameraman had attended the match). So, here the filmmakers shrewdly found a way to give part of the public what it wanted, and couldn’t legally get otherwise. However, bear in mind that this is of course a fake. No one took a camera to a fight to make this; instead, the boxers were brought into the Black Maria in order to stage a performance of a fight in front of the camera. The film satisfies the thrill of the forbidden both by pretending to be an actuality of an illegal event, and also through the very skimpy outfits the fighters wear.

Director: WKL Dickson

Camera: William Heise

Starring: Jack Cushing, Mike Leonard

Run Time: 37 seconds.

You can watch it for free: here or here.

Knockout, The (1914)


A boxing ring is a natural site for slapstick, and Keystone brought together nearly all of its star power for this boxing-slapstick comedy. Fatty Arbuckle (from “Fatty Joins the Force” and “The Rounders”) stars as “Pug,” a large, innocent fellow with a yen for Minta Durfee (his real-life wife, also in “A Flirt’s Mistake” and “Fatty Joins the Force”). After several escapades with local tramps, he gets fast-talked into ten rounds against “Cyclone Flynn” (Edgar Kennedy, who was in “A Flirt’s Mistake” and “A Star is Born”). Charlie Chaplin (who also co-starred with Fatty in “The Rounders”) shows up about halfway through as the referee, Mack Swain (from “The Gold Rush” and “Tillie’s Punctured Romance“) is there as the gambler who threatens Fatty if he doesn’t win, and the Keystone Cops show up at the end, when everything has gone completely out of control. It’s a much larger cast and more elaborate scenario than usual in the shorts of the period, with substantially more intertitles, and the editing is tight and the camerawork imaginative as well. The funniest sequence by far is the actual match, in which Kennedy is just “straight” fighting, Fatty is clearly outclassed, but scared to lose, and Chaplin is desperately dodging the blows of the two other men, while trying to trip Fatty up in order to get the ordeal over with sooner.

Director: Mack Sennett

Starring: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Minta Durfee, Edgar Kennedy, Mack Sennett, Charlie Chaplin

Run Time: 27 Min

You can watch it for free: here.