Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Lawrence Trimble

Her Crowning Glory (1911)

Before there was a “big three” (or four, or five) comedians, before Keystone Studios, before almost anyone (except Ben Turpin), there was John Bunny, the best-known film comedian of his day. Bunny was a large man with a red face and a larger-than-life style of acting. His frequent co-star, Flora Finch, was thin, pinched-faced, and demure. Together, they made a series recalled as the “bunnyfinch” shorts. We’ll be looking at one of those today.

A strong reaction to a hairdo.

A strong reaction to a hairdo.

John stars as an apparently wealthy widower with a small daughter. His daughter is becoming spoiled, as John’s instinct is to indulge her and let her get away with whatever she wants. A “friend” who looks like a typical D.W. Griffith-style bluenosed busybody comes over and tells him the child needs discipline. She recommends a governess of her acquaintance, emphasizing that she is a “strict disciplinarian.” The governess is, of course, Flora Finch. Although when she arrives her long hair is tied up, Bunny shows considerable attraction to it – despite the fact that Finch has been made up to look even uglier than usual. John’s daughter does not take to Flora, however, sticking her with a pin and otherwise being bratty. The relationship proceeds along these lines, with John being fascinated by Flora’s hair, and the child being as contrary as possible, until Bunny proposes to Finch. She happily says yes, and the maid now decides she needs to take action. That night, she gives the little girl a pair of scissors while Flora is combing her hair before bed. Exhausted (probably from running after the child all day!), Flora falls asleep in her chair and the child gives her a haircut while she snoozes. John wakes her with a kiss, but when he sees what has happened, he calls off the wedding, and Flora leaves in shame. John and the child go back to playing as before, and there is an indication that John has noticed how attractive the maid is for the first time.

Don't try this at home, kids!

Don’t try this at home, kids!

John Bunny was not known as a slapstick comedian; his movies are “situational” in their humor. This one seems fairly average, based on the few I’ve seen. It’s a little funny, in terms of the situation, but doesn’t really get me laughing very hard. The most interesting part of the movie is the child, played by Helene Costello (who would become an adult star in the twenties), whose willfulness and dislike of snooty adults is compelling. Silent movie children are often much more natural than their sound-era counterparts, confirming the old adage that “children should be seen but not heard.” Helene does look at the camera once or twice, and does seem to follow instructions from off-screen as she spies on her daddy with the governess. The contrast between Finch and Bunny is played up here – it helps to sell us on the idea that Finch is not the right woman for him, he is simply distracted by her head of hair. The movie is shot in a conventional manner for 1911 (few edits, long shots, stationary camera), but does include an important close-up on the hair as it is cut.

Director: Lawrence Trimble

Camera: Unknown

Starring: John Bunny, Flora Finch, Helene Costello, Kate Price

Run Time: 14 Min

You can watch it for free: here.

Daisy Doodad’s Dial (1914)

Daisy Doodads Dial

This is a truly unusual British short from a female director and star, Florence Turner (who was in a silent version of “Macbeth” in 1908 and would do “Far from the Madding Crowd” in 1915). It is essentially a situational comedy, but one which wisely plays on visual themes and the actors’ bodies rather than complex interpersonal relations for its humor. Turner plays Daisy Doodad, a young married woman who apparently has theatrical aspirations. One day, she shows her husband (Lawrence Trimble, also in “Madding Crowd” and also “Fools Gold”) an ad for a “face-making contest” at the local actors’ club – apparently “dial” is a slang term for “face.” But, on the day of the contest, she stays home with a toothache and her husband wins the prize. She jealously plots to enter the next contest, and rehearses on the public train into town. She causes an uproar among the passengers and passers-by on the street, and is arrested for “disturbing the peace.” When her husband comes to bail her out, she accuses him of paying the police to frame her. He sleeps alone on the armchair that night, and she dreams of her own contorted features. Turner’s performance reminded me of both Gilda Radner and Lucille Ball, the latter especially during her crying jag at the police station.

Director: Florence Turner

Starring: Florence Turner, Lawrence Trimble

Run Time: 8 Min 55 sec.

You can watch it for free: here.