Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Oo

The O’Mers in “The Bricklayers” (1905)

Alternate Title: Les Maçons, Les O’Mers dans “Les Maçons”

This short film represents the first clear example of slapstick I’ve seen from Alice Guy. It has a “French” feel to it, but remains a fairly basic example of early filmmaking from the dawn of the Nickelodeon era.

OMers in Bricklayers

We see a stage with a building facade backdrop with a scaffold in front. Four men in work clothes are hauling materials to the work site. Two policemen enter, and soon are knocked down by the busy workers. What at first seemed an accident soon escalates as the workers continue provoking and assailing the officers. The police give chase, but are consistently outwitted and knocked repeatedly down. There are falls from ladders, things dropped from a pulley a man knocked into a wheelbarrow, and water sprayed at the face. In short, it is a very simple performance with many laughs.

Omers in Bricklayers1The print is somewhat more faded on this than other Guy films I’ve seen, but you can still make out the action. The title and the look of the film makes me suspect that this is a filmed version of a vaudeville ensemble, giving a performance much as they would on the stage, only now without sound. The performance is well timed to come off in a single take, and about seven performers have to time their entrances, exits, and physical performances with one another to make it work. The O’Mers, whoever they were, do a fine job in all respects, but the film itself is rather unimaginative for 1905.

Director Alice Guy

Camera: Unknown (possibly Alice Guy)

Cast: Someone called “The O’Mers”

Run Time: 2 Min 10 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

One A.M. (1916)

With this deceptively simple two-reeler for Mutual, Charlie Chaplin returns to his roots playing a funny drunk for laughs, but demonstrates his advancement as an artist by milking the concept for all it’s worth. Chaplin’s unique style dominates the screen for the entire run time, and hardly a single opportunity for laughs is missed.

One_A.M._posterThe movie opens with Charlie, in fancy dress, arriving home in a cab. Albert Austin, who plays the cab driver, sits stoically staring straight ahead while Charlie fumbles with the door handle and the meter, eventually staggering off to his own house. He can’t find his keys, so he enters via a window, stepping in the goldfish bowl along the way. Once inside, he finds the keys, so climbs back out the window (via the goldfish), goes up to the door and opens it. Then, he starts sliding on the rug, unable to maintain his balance. His house seems to be decorated with dead animals (a tiger-skin rug, a stuffed lynx, an ostrich), which become real to him, and engage him in chases around the floor. He tries to pour a drink from a table that consistently spins away from him every time he tries to reach the bottle or glass.

One_A.M.Eventually, he makes his way upstairs, only to encounter an over-sized cuckoo clock whose pendulum knocks him back down the stairs. After several attempts, he finds that it is easier to climb up the coat stand to get to the landing, but he still has to avoid the swinging pendulum that prevents access to the bedroom door. Inside the bedroom, the Murphy bed becomes another challenge. It crashes down when he is under it and leaps back up when he tries to sit or lie down. After destroying the bed, he goes into the bathroom and soaks himself in the shower with all his clothes on. Then, he lies down in the bathtub with a towel and goes to sleep.

One_AM PosterThis isn’t by any means the best thing I’ve seen from Chaplin, but it is a great demonstration of how much he could get out of how little. The movie is all him, except for the brief appearance of Albert Austin, and doesn’t let up for a second. It was probably one of the cheapest movies he made for Mutual (which may be why he made it after comparably high-budget pieces like “The Fireman”). Again, we see the more fluid camerawork of Roland Totheroh, which demonstrates that Charlie didn’t need to be locked into little boxes to be funny. The camera follows him up and down the stairs several times, which works better than editing between the stages would have. The first part of the film, downstairs, emphasizes the drunk’s inability to deal with ordinary things like doors and rugs, but with the spinning table and the dead animals, things become increasingly odd. Then, when he gets upstairs to the gigantic cuckoo clock and the Murphy bed, it seems as though his world has become a surreal mechanical obstacle course. These sections remind me particularly strongly of Jacques Tati and his character Hulot’s constant problems with technology.

Director: Charlie Chaplin

Camera: Roland Totheroh

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Albert Austin, a variety of inanimate objects.

Run Time: 24 Min

You can watch it for free: here (no music) or here (probably with music but I can’t get archive.org to work at the moment to confirm)

One Too Many (1916)

Oliver Hardy is often associated only with his sound-era performances with Stanley Laurel, but he had a long silent solo career behind him. This movie, according to the “Slapstick Encyclopedia,” was his 95th film, but it’s the first one I’ve had a chance to review. It shows his talent, but has a number of weaknesses compared to the best of the other comedies I’ve looked at.

One Too ManyOllie is “Plump,” a character often teamed with “Runt” (Billy Ruge), as in this film. The movie begins with a play on its title – Ollie appears to be hungover from over-indulgence from the night before. That’s not the point of the movie, however, this is a bit of comic misdirection. After a few moments of disorientation, Ollie discovers the real plot. He receives a telegram from his rich uncle (probably the one financing his indulgences) that he is coming to visit and looks forward to meeting his wife and baby. Bachelor Ollie is in trouble now, the jig could be up! He rushes across the hall of the boarding house to his (female) neighbor and announces “I need a wife and a baby right away!” Then he runs back to his flat. He summons Runt and pays him $50 (roughly the purchasing power of $1100 today!) to find him some stand-ins. Now the real meaning of the title becomes clear as Runt does his job a little too well, bringing in women and babies by the wagonload. Meanwhile, a prankster neighbor is sneaking in to the apartment and removing them whenever Ollie’s not looking! When the uncle arrives, the house is empty and Runt has to quickly dress up as a baby himself. The uncle is charmed…at first. Things get ever more ridiculous and chaotic up to the end, with women coming and going in their role as “wives” and various men looking for their babies complicate the story Ollie wants to tell.

Review from Moving Picture World.

Review from Moving Picture World.

I was surprised at the amount of wordplay and the large number of Intertitles in this movie. I’ve already mentioned the play of the title itself, and there are several jokes about Runt as a baby, the women who have agreed to be “wives” and the neighbors’ activities during the course of the film. There’s also a running gag about Runt having to haul a large box up the staircase (the elevator is out of order) and a cranky neighbor (Billy Bletcher) who wants to get past. In short, there’s a lot going on in this one-reel movie, and sometimes things get lost in all the chaos. I think Oliver Hardy holds up pretty well, but a lot of the other comics (including Runt) don’t have that much going for them. The camerawork and editing is quite unimaginative for the time, and the surviving print is in less-than-perfect shape. It’s less a genius work of slapstick, and more a representative sample of an “average” work with a few good points.

One Too Many1Director: Will Louis

Camera: Unknown

Cast: Oliver Hardy, Billy Ruge, Billy Bletcher

Run Time: 16 Min

You can watch it for free: here (no music) or here (with music).

Over the Top (1915)

Over the TopSixty seven years before “Fitzcarraldo,” a small automobile club tried something similar – using ropes to haul a car over the Sierra Nevada mountains. Subtitled, “A Battle with the Elements,” this film documents their efforts, or at least purports to document them. I say “purports to” because some of the shots are clearly staged, suggesting at least re-creations of the actual events, although it does seem to me that the film crew genuinely accompanied the car on its trans-montane journey.

Over the Top1The film begins with the explanation that the Reno Commercial Club is offering a trophy for the first car to travel from San Francisco to Reno on the newly-opened road. We see a city street, a shiny new Buick, and three clean-cut strapping young men, departing on the journey. At first, the trip seems dusty and bumpy, but not too bad, and we get some nice travel footage of the mountains and quaint mining towns with wooden sidewalks. Then, things take a turn as we reach a level below the snow line where the road has largely turned into “bottomless” mud. Those young men don’t seem so clean anymore. Soon, every shot depicts two of them helping to push the car and take up slack on the ropes attached to trees and stumps that are being used to winch the vehicle along. What kind of road is this! It looks like a far more “extreme” sport than a simple drive in the country. The boys take time to scale a pole and plant some flags, and also set up camp near the summit to cook dinner, so there’s not much sense of urgency – maybe they’re the only ones in this race. They do finally make it across, and down into the valley, where they can speed along at a decent clip, arriving in Reno and receiving their trophy. I thought the Commercial Club should buy them a new car, they really tore up the old one on the crossing!

Plenty of time for leisure activities.

Plenty of time for leisure activities.

As I’ve suggested, the “documentary” aspect of this movie is at least a bit staged. Nearly every shot begins with the cameraman in front of the car, so they must have frequently stopped to give him time to get into position and set up. Presumably, the rest of the time, he rode in the fourth seat in that car, but of course we never see that. There are some simple pans, but not a lot of camera movement, and few close-ups on the men are shown – the emphasis is always the car and its position vis-à-vis the elements. I wonder if the Commercial Club hoped that this movie would increase travel to Reno – the message seems to be that it’s a pretty inaccessible place, for adventurers only.

All for this?

All for this?

Cast & Crew Unknown

Run Time: 12 Min

I have not found this movie for free on the Internet. If you do, please inform us in the comments.

1002nd Ruse (1915)


Alternate Title: Tysycha vtoraya khitrost

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later; there was bound to be one film by Evgeni Bauer that disappointed me. After all, he set such a high standard with movies like “After Death” and “Silent Witnesses,” not all of his work could be so great. Still, when you love a film maker, it hurts to run across a miss in his list of hits. This movie is an attempt at comedy which didn’t even elicit a chuckle from me. Apparently, it’s based on a stage play, and I’d be willing to guess that it could work better with dialogue. The plot is simply that an old man reads the book “1001 Feminine Ruses” and spends the rest of the movie congratulating himself on being one up on his wife – until, of course, she invents a new one. It’s the sort of comedy that I’m not crazy about in general, since there are no sympathetic characters and everyone is basically nasty to one another, but I find that “situational” humor like this is especially weak in silent viewing. The movie is mercifully short, and Bauer still shows a degree of cinematic competence, but there’s nothing really brilliant here. He makes use of a keyhole matte to establish the husband’s spying, and there’s some nice exterior footage of a Russian city (Petrograd? Moscow? I’m not sure), but most of the shots are basic square stages and the camera never moves.

Director: Evgeni Bauer

Starring: Lina Bauer, S. Rassatov, Sergei Kvastnitskii

Run Time: 14 Min, 30 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

Obsession, The (1912)


This cautionary short by Louis Feuillade allows Renée Carl to show nearly every emotion during its 23-minute duration. She plays a woman who is duped by a phony fortune teller into believing that her husband (René Navarre, from “Fantômas” and “The Trust”) is doomed to die, a suspicion confirmed for the audience when he books a passage aboard the Titanic! But, he survives and returns, causing her to fear that her son must be the one fated to die. The avuncular godfather tricks the palmist into returning and giving a glowing prediction, giving away the game and saving Renée from her obsession. Unfortunately, the final scenes are missing, so had to be summarized in intertitles, but what there is here is interesting. I was particularly struck by the a-typical (for the time) lighting, as demonstrated in the still above. The practical lamp on the right is used again in a scene where the mother worries over the child, and she is able to pick it up and shine it on the bed. This is remarkable, because my understanding is that film of that time was not fast enough to “see” light from a practical source, unless you put a super-powerful bulb in it. So, either there was a clever lighting trick done to make it seem like the light moved with the lamp (without it casting a noticeable shadow), or Renée was in danger of seriously burning herself when she picked it up. Or else I’m badly misinformed on this point. At any rate, it’s a rare shot for the period, and looks pretty good, however it was done.

Director: Louis Feuillade

Starring: Renée Carl, René Navarre

Run Time: 23 Min, 43 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

Over Silent Paths (1910)

Over Silent Paths

This was one of the movies D.W. Griffith made on his first journey to California for Biograph, and it makes good use of the desert outside LA for a bleak setting. An old miner and his daughter (Marion Leonard, also in “A Burglar’s Mistake” and “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them”) are preparing to pack up and return to civilization, when a Mexican-looking “desert wanderer” (Dell Henderson, who we’ve seen in “The Usurer” and “The Sunbeam”) stumbles into the camp. She’s off getting water, so the villain kills the old man and takes his gold. She buries him and vows revenge. Soon, he’s stumbling around lost and desperate for water, when the girl rides up in her covered wagon. She revives him, not knowing who he is, and soon they are in town and beginning a courtship. When he proposes to her, of course, he shows her all the money he has, in a purse she recognizes as her father’s! She overcomes her emotions and grabs his gun, bringing him in to the sheriff and apparently getting a reward to boot, but the only reward she cares about is the opportunity to go to a lonely grave and say, “I did it, dad.” A fairly typical example of the shorts Griffith was turning out like sausage at the time, boosted by Marion’s performance and the desert backgrounds.

Director: D.W. Griffith

Camera: Billy Bitzer

Starring: Marion Leonard, Dell Henderson, Arthur V. Johnson, Alfred Paget

Run Time: 16 Min

You can watch it for free slightly edited: here (first scene missing)

One is Business, the Other Crime (1912)

One is Business

In classic Griffith fashion, this short film uses cross-cutting to contrast the lives of two newlywed couples, one rich, one poor, in order to make a social comment about the way we treat dishonesty at different ends of the income spectrum. When the poor man (Charles West, who we’ve seen in “The Unchanging Sea” and “The Burglar’s Dilemma”) cannot find a job, he finally breaks and tries to steal from the rich man’s (Edwin August, also in “The Eternal Mother” and later appeared in “The Magnificent Ambersons”) home. Said rich man has just accepted an offer of a bribe for his “vote” (I assume on a committee of some kind, since surely his vote on a ballot measure wouldn’t count for more than anyone else’s) in favor of a new railroad. Rich wife Blanche Sweet (from “The Painted Lady” and “Judith of Bethulia”) catches the would-be robber and holds him at gun-point, but, finding out about her husband’s illicit dealings, lets him go and upbraids her spouse. Chastised, the rich husband returns the money and offers poor Charles a job, apparently in a brickyard he owns. The happy ending probably pleased both working class viewers, who enjoyed seeing the rich man shamed, and the more middle class of film audiences, who wanted to believe that honesty pays off.

Director: D.W. Griffith

Camera: Billy Bitzer

Starring: Charles West, Dorothy Bernard, Edwin August, Blanche Sweet.

Run Time: 15 Min, 22 seconds.

You can watch it for free: here.