Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: William Nigh

The Star Boarder (1914)

Way back in 2014, I watched every movie Charlie Chaplin made at Keystone Studios, but there were so many (and so many other things I wanted to cover), that I never finished reviewing them all. Now I’m taking the time to fill some of those gaps, starting with this early film about Charlie getting in trouble in a boarding house.

The movie begins with a wide shot in a kitchen, establishing the household staff. Minta Durfee is the landlady, and she supervises a man in an apron (Edgar Kennedy) and another woman as they do the cooking. A boy (Gordon Griffith) has a small camera box, but Minta shoes him away. Minta goes into the dining room and sets up the dinner, then rings a bell to summon the guests. A large group of them appears, but we cut back and forth to Charlie’s room, where he is lounging and smoking a cigarette. He slowly gets up and dresses for dinner, while Minta continues ringing away. He flirts a bit with Minta on his way into the dining room, and Edgar glares at him as he serves the food. After dinner, another man seems to want to talk to Minta, but Charlie throws his napkin at him. He and Minta flirt a bit more until Edgar interrupts them.


Later, Minta and Charlie are play tennis together, though Charlie’s occasional pratfalls suggest he may have had a few drinks in his room first.  He knocks a tennis ball well out of court, and they go to look for it together. The child spots them and begins snapping photos, all the while laughing uproariously. Edgar again finds them and intervenes, finding the ball before either of them, since they seem more interested in one another. Minta now goes over to a rosebush, climbing up on a ladder, but falls off when Charlie comes over to her, and again the child is snapping photos and laughing. They go back to the house together, and Edgar escorts an older lady boarder. Left alone briefly in the kitchen, Charlie raids the liquor cabinet and there are several more pratfalls as he drunkenly attempts to sneak up to his room with two bottles and a pie.



The child now approaches another boarder (Harry McCoy), and shows him the slides he has prepared and he agrees to set up a projector so the whole house can enjoy his slideshow. When the audience is assembled, the child, laughing hard again, starts to show them shots of Charlie and Minta together, though he also shows Edgar with his companion, and soon the audience devolves into chaos as Edgar and Charlie fight and bump into the others, causing a general rout. Charlie manages to escape the room, stumbling through the screen, and Minta spanks the naughty child.


There are no surviving intertitles on the print I’ve been able to see, so a certain amount has to be inferred. Evidently, Minta and Edgar are married, although the cliché is for the landlady of a boarding house to be widowed or a spinster. Also, evidently Gordon is their son. Minta really does seem quite receptive to Charlie’s advances, and (surprisingly for the time), we see Charlie quite openly admiring her backside. No doubt this contributed to the idea that his movies were “vulgar.” Charlie is in full “Little Tramp” getup at this stage, even his mustache is down to the familiar width, and some of his signature gestures (such as his “what, me?” shrug) are clearly established. He’s still building a lot of his act around “funny drunk” bits, and he’s less inclined towards violence in this picture than in others around the same time. That doesn’t stop the movie from ending in a classic Keystone riot, however.

Director: George Nichols

Camera: Frank D. Williams

Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Minta Durfee, Edgar Kennedy, Gordon Griffith, Harry McCoy, Alice Davenport, Phyllis Allen, William Nigh, Al St. John

Run Time: 11 Min, 30 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

Salomy Jane (1914)

Salomy Jane-1914

This early Western was shot around the Bay Area and in the Redwood Forest, and makes good use of the landscape as an important feature of its story-telling. It takes place in the town of “Hangtown,” a city with few women, and the kind of saloon where everyone ducks when someone new comes in the door, in case shooting is about to break out. When and old man and his young daughter (Beatriz Michelena, a bit more on her in a moment) move to town, everyone takes an immediate interest – apparently the old man is from a family in Kentucky that had a feud with one of the local families, and the daughter is, well, a not-unattractive woman in a town full of men. Of course, a heroic man rescues her from a villainous one. The movie was meant as a breakout vehicle for Michelena, who had been acting and singing on stage since she was 11 and was married to local car dealer George Middleton, who promoted her as the next big thing. She never was that big, but she does go down in history as the first Latina movie star, and apparently this is the only surviving complete film of hers today. In this movie, they had her wear a large wig that seems to have been borrowed from Mary Pickford, and, to my mind, doesn’t work for her facial features.

Director: William Nigh & Lucius Henderson

Camera: Arthur Caldwell, Arthur Powellson, Hal Mohr

Starring: Beatriz Michelena, House Peters, William Pike

Run Time: 87 Min

I have been unable to find this for free online, please comment if you can find it.