Laughter in Lockdown 2 – John Cleese, Rory Bremner and Friends hosted by Tim Vine

Laughter in Lockdown 2 – John Cleese, Rory Bremner and Friends hosted by Tim Vine

John-Cleese-Fundraiser-03-2016

Laughter in Lockdown 2 – John Cleese, Rory Bremner and Friends hosted by Tim Vine

For our second Laughter in Lockdown stream (see details about Laughter in Lockdown 1 here), we’ve selected a comedy fundraiser from Autumn of 2016 which at the time we styled “A Slap Up Feast Of Fun: A Evening Of Music And Laughter”

Headlined by none other than comedy icon, writer, actor and Python John Cleese, the evening also featured a set by Rory Bremner, who had lots of material to play with bearing in mind Autumn 2016 was just months before Donald Trump was elected president of the US.  As such, this event not only provides lots of laughs but also a fascinating snapshot of an important period in history seen through the eyes of one of the world’s leading impressionists.

The wonderful Monty Python collaborator Neil Innes, who is mainly known for his work in the Rutles and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, opened the show with some quintessentially and intrinsically witty songs. The “music and comedy” theme was further enhanced with a set by the inimitable Ronnie Golden and Aardman Slapstick Comedy Legend and ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue’ star Barry Cryer, who also might just have slipped a parrot joke or two into the proceedings buy inderal tablets (spoiler: he totally did).

Compering the evening was that king of the one-liners Tim Vine, brilliantly providing the glue that held all the other sets together.

In their review of the evening Bristol 24/7 wrote:

“All the performers are such national treasures that there was a very British family feel and innocence to the show that modern comedy somehow doesn’t evoke.”

…and concluded…

“It really was a gem of a line-up.”

 We hope you enjoy this rare chance to watch a once in a life time line up.


N.B. These recordings were made for archive purposes and as such are not recorded in ‘broadcast quality’. Where the odd word is hard to hear or the artist can’t be seen as they’re side stage, please remember that these films were never meant to be seen in public and this is a rare chance to glimpse these films thanks to the generosity of the artists involved allowing us to view them. Enjoy!

We’re releasing one video a week for the duration of lockdown – or for as long as we have events available. They will be going live on YouTube first so please subscribe to our channel over there via the button below.

Laughter In Lockdown – Slapstick To Release One-Off Gems From Its Archives

Laughter In Lockdown – Slapstick To Release One-Off Gems From Its Archives

Laughter In Lockdown – Slapstick To Release One-Off Gems From Its Archives

In recognition of the unique circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment with the ongoing C-19 pandemic, Slapstick have taken the decision to try to make a small difference in the only way we know how – by bringing some laughter into your lives. To this end, from Thursday this week we’ll be sharing previously unreleased footage captured during a selection of the unique events we’ve staged over the past decade featuring, one show every week.

The LAUGHTER IN LOCKDOWN roll-out will start at 10am on Thursday 9 April with film from what is believed to be the last on-stage ‘in conversation’ by Eric Sykes CBE, a comedy writer and radio, film, TV and stage performer who worked with a Who’s Who of stars during his 50 years plus career.

In it, Eric Sykes is interviewed by Slapstick board member, I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue panellist and one third of The Goodies, Graeme Garden who recalls:

“Eric Sykes was a comedy hero to me. He ploughed an idiosyncratic furrow between mainline comedy and the anarchy of his chums in the Goon Show. For much of his career he was profoundly deaf and relied on a hearing aid mounted in the frames of the heavy spectacles he wore. Later his vision failed as well, but that didn’t seem to blunt his enthusiasm or his energy. What I admired, apart from his distinctive delivery and physical https://cheapnolvadexpct.com/generic-nolvadex/ funniness, was his inventiveness and sense of mischief. And the mischief was still very much in evidence when I had the pleasure and honour of interviewing him in 2009.”

Other shows we have lined up for sharing include Harry Hill talking about his favourite comedy moments; highlights from when Sir Ken Dodd and French & Saunders received their Aardman/Slapstick Comedy Legend awards; a stand-up comedy set from John Cleese and the first stage reunion in decades of Little & Large, the double act best described as the Ant & Dec of their day and whose reminiscences now seem even more bittersweet following the death this month of Eddie Large (Hugh McGinnis).

Slapstick director Chris Daniels says:

“Like so many organisations, we’ve had to cancel a number of planned events because of Covid-19 risks, including some vital fund-raisers. But we have an archive full of funny and fascinating events staged at past festivals – all of them unique, never-to-be-repeated, one-offs shot as they happened. We’ve never released any of them before but now seems a good time to do it. Hopefully, it will give viewers some much-needed laughter in lockdown and remind them that Slapstick will be back with yet more special events just as soon as it is possible.”

Details of the first event will appear on our home page on Thursday. They will be going live on YouTube at the same time so please subscribe to our channel over there.

Gold Rush Competition

GOLDRUSH COMPETITION

Want to win two VIP tickets to our Silent Comedy Gala screening of Charlie’s Chaplin’s The Gold Rush?

One of cinema’s most iconic scenes is the bread roll dance from The Gold Rush! We would love to see your modern reinterpretations of this comic gem. To win two VIP tickets to The Gold Rush, simply upload a short video of your best bread roll dance to YouTube and then send us the link!

Please use the following hashtags in your description: #CharlieChaplin #TheGoldRush #BreadRollDance

We will have a small panel of judges who will choose the best and most creative video as the winner!

Email us the link to your video with the subject line “Bread Roll Dance” here: slapstickfest@gmail.com.

The lucky winner will receive two VIP tickets to The Gold Rush at The Forum in Bath on the 20th of June, 2020.

Entrants must be 18 and over and live in the UK and must be able to attend the screening. Accommodation and travel are not provided. Tickets to be collected by the winner in person from the venue on the night of the event.

The prize is for tickets to the screening only and there is no cash equivalent.

Entries will also be used by Slapstick Festival to help promote the event.

Entries must be received by the 10th of March and the winner will be notified by email on the 17th of March.

Competition! Win A copy of The Goodies: The Complete BBC Collection

Goodies fans will be thrilled to hear that the long wait is finally over as The Goodies: The Complete BBC Collection has, at last, been released!!! We have full details about this quite magnificent artefact below – plus a chance for two lucky people to win a copy of it!

The low down:

“The DVD set contains all the episodes (69, many of which haven’t appeared on DVD before!) that Tim, Bill and Graeme made for the BBC – from a giant white fluffy kitten called Twinkle to a slippery climb up a giant beanstalk, from the ancient Lancastrian art of Ecky Thump to fighting a ban on fun instigated by an all-too-real puppet government, this is television comedy at its undeniable best!”

The DVD will also feature the absolute bonus of “An Audience with The Goodies”. Recorded in June 2018, this one-night-only event saw Tim, Graeme and Bill reunited on stage to discuss their career and the enduring popularity of the series and to welcome questions from their most devoted fans.

The DVD is already on sale and should you fail to be lucky enough to win a copy in our competition (see below) you can purchase one via this handy link – then bring it along to our Goodies event during Slapstick 2019 to get it signed if you wish!

So – to be in with a chance to win a copy of The Goodies: The Complete BBC Collection simply email us on slapstickfest@gmail.com with the subject line “The Goodies Competition” and we’ll get back to the lucky winners some time after the 14th November 2018, the closing date for the competition.

Good luck everyone!

Oh, and of course it would be remiss of us not to mention that all three Goodies will be appearing at Slapstick 2019 – find out more details about that and all the other events programmed for Slapstick weekend at Bristol Old Vic’s website!

Slapstick 2018 – In Photos

Slapstick Festival 2018

Slapstick ’18 – In Photos

Here are a selection of photos from the 14th edition of Slapstick Festival which we reproduce here with thanks to our brilliant team of photographers, Paul Lippiatt, David Betteridge and Dave Nelson. Check out more of their work on their websites, which can be found here (for Paul), here (for David) and here (for Dave).

More photos are already on our social media channels and we’ll no doubt be adding even more over the coming days so please keep a lookout for them. We are on Facebook as SlapstickFestival, and on both Twitter and Instagram as @SlapstickFest.

A Dogs Life © David Betteridge
A Dogs Life © David Betteridge
Tim Vine © David Betteridge
Tim Vine © David Betteridge
slapstickgala 2018 6456 preview
slapstickgala 2018 6456 preview
Lee Mack Barry Cryer Custard Pie 1 © David Betteridge
Lee Mack Barry Cryer Custard Pie 1 © David Betteridge
Lee Mack Barry Cryer Custard Pie 2 © David Betteridge
Lee Mack Barry Cryer Custard Pie 2 © David Betteridge
Lee Mack Barry Cryer Custard Pie 3 © David Betteridge
Lee Mack Barry Cryer Custard Pie 3 © David Betteridge
Lee Mack © David Betteridge
Lee Mack © David Betteridge
Jason Donovan Rocky Horror © David Betteridge
Jason Donovan Rocky Horror © David Betteridge
Jason Donovan Robert Ross Rocky Horror © David Betteridge
Jason Donovan Robert Ross Rocky Horror © David Betteridge
Rocky Horror Best Costume Competition Entrants 2 © David Betteridge 1024x683 1
Rocky Horror Best Costume Competition Entrants 2 © David Betteridge 1024×683 1
Rocky Horror Best Costume Competition Entrants © David Betteridge
Rocky Horror Best Costume Competition Entrants © David Betteridge
Ade Edminson Nigel Planer © Paul Lippiatt 1024x682 1
Ade Edminson Nigel Planer © Paul Lippiatt 1024×682 1
Jo Brand © Paul Lippiatt 681x1024 1
Jo Brand © Paul Lippiatt 681×1024 1
Jo Brand 2 © Paul Lippiatt 1024x682 1
Jo Brand 2 © Paul Lippiatt 1024×682 1
Sunday Roland © Rivron Paul Lippiatt 1024x682 1
Sunday Roland © Rivron Paul Lippiatt 1024×682 1
Kevin Brownlow David Robinson © David Nelson 1024x830 1
Kevin Brownlow David Robinson © David Nelson 1024×830 1
David Robinson Chris Daniels © David Nelson 1024x704 1
David Robinson Chris Daniels © David Nelson 1024×704 1

Three Ages Program Notes

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Three Ages

THREE AGES (1923)

Directed by Buster Keaton

USA 63 mins U

Three Ages is the first feature-length film that Buster Keaton wrote, directed, produced and starred. The film contains three different stories set in three different time periods of human history: the Stone Age, ancient Rome, and modern times (the Jazz Age). The film was shot in this manner as a kind of insurance for the studio. If it failed, the film could easily be broken up into individual shorts.  The film also works as a satire of D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916), which was a film that told four different stories over the span of 2,500 years. Three Ages was made in 1923, and starred Buster Keaton, Margaret Leahy, and Wallace Beery.

The three time periods that are depicted in the film have characters portrayed by the same actors. In the Stone Age, Keaton is a caveman who competes in a show of strength with another bigger, brawnier caveman (Wallace Beery) for the attentions of a cavewoman (Margaret Beery). In Ancient Rome, Keaton is shown in a rivalry to gain the affections of a Roman noblewoman. Keaton participates in a chariot race and is thrown into a lion’s den. In the modern age (Jazz Age), Leahy is to marry another man, but Keaton discovers that he has been charged with forgery and bigamy.

Three Ages was the first feature-length film where Keaton wore so many hats, but Buster Keaton’s first starring role in a feature-length film was in The Saphead (1920). He was recommended for the role in The Saphead by Douglas Fairbanks. Fairbanks had played the role onstage but had other commitments and, as the film was to have a more comedic slant, put Keaton’s name forward for the role.

This was the only film that Margaret Leahy made. She was discovered in a beauty pageant in England that was seeking new film stars. The stars were then flown out to Hollywood to make a film. Her first attempt was not a success and she was dropped from the film. She ended up making Three Ages, but never acted again after this film. Instead of moving back to England, Leahy chose to remain in California.

Wallace Beery was at one point the world’s highest paid actor. He started out in silent films at the Essanay Studios portraying a Swedish maid in drag named Sweedie. Beery made several of these films including one with his wife, Gloria Swanson. His most notable silent films include: The Lost World (1925), Robin Hood (with Douglas Fairbanks – 1922), The Last of the Mohicans (1920), and Beggars of Life (with Louise Brooks – 1928). He was fired from the studio with the advent of sound, but was contracted by Irving Thalberg to MGM as a character actor. Beery was nominated twice for the Best Actor Academy Award, winning one of them.

Introduction by Peter Lord. Piano accompaniment by Daan van den Hurk.

Keaton: The MGM Years Program Notes

SO FUNNY IT HURT: BUSTER KEATON AND MGM (2004)

Directed by Kevin Brownlow

UK 38 mins U

Buster Keaton is currently the most popular comedian of the silent era.  But in the late 20s, he was giving anxiety to his producer, Joseph M. Schenck.

Schenck decided that since his releases for United Artists were not as successful as he had hoped, he would pass him over to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, owned by his brother Nicholas.  Here he could be sure his comedies would have stronger support, both in production and release.  And so it turned out – to begin with.

Despite his string of brilliant comedies, MGM insisted that he worked from a script, something he had not done before, Buster dutifully made The Cameraman just as MGM wanted.  It was a tremendous success.  Spite Marriage was another.  But thereafter, problems assailed him.  Sound became a fact of life.  Coming from vaudeville, Keaton had no fear of talk, but MGM did not yet know how to handle it.   The front office arranged his subjects, and the writers to work on them, and Buster was less and less involved.  Gone was his free and easy picture-making style when he could make it up as he went along, stop if he got stuck and play baseball, spend as much as the project required.

He was given a supervisor.  At least one MGM director had left after having that indignity forced upon him.  And it wasn’t as if the supervisor knew anything about Keaton’s style of comedy.  Lawrence Weingarten specialised in sophisticated, light comedy.  The company kept borrowing the co-workers he depended upon and not giving them back.  On top of which Buster was experiencing marital trouble, was being denied access to his sons, and was drinking heavily.

During Prohibition drink swept through Hollywood like a tidal wave.  Keaton was one of those alcoholics who only needed a couple of drinks to make him incapable.  His state is all too apparent in some of his later MGM pictures, where this once athletic actor had to play sitting down.  He also gambled for high stakes – often with the very producers who were crippling his career.  Of course, it was all done with his best interests at heart.  Having made one film he didn’t care for, he was obliged to repeat it three or four times for foreign versions.  In an attempt to increase his popularity, he was given a partner – the silent Buster was teamed up with the garrulous Jimmy ‘Schnozzle’ Durante.  But his popularity didn’t need increasing – even his bad films were huge box office successes, something which him all the more depressed.

He moved out of his bungalow into a land yacht which, parked on the backlot, became notorious for wild parties.  Finally, Louis B Mayer confronted Keaton and ordered him off the lot.  ‘You studio people warp my character’ said Buster.

Keaton eventually returned, on a far lower salary, as a gag-writer, helping to create some of the funniest sequences in film history.

So Funny It Hurt is the story of Keaton’s years at MGM.  It includes rare footage, such as a home-movie shot in New York in 1928 of The Cameraman in production, and it is presented from the old MGM studios by the actor James Karen, a close friend of Buster’s from the 1950s.

Program notes from Kevin Brownlow.

Kevin Brownlow will be in discussion with David Robinson.

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The Vagabond Queen Program Notes

THE VAGABOND QUEEN (1929)

Directed by Géza von Bolváry

UK 62 mins U

This unparalleled essay in European absurdism was one of the most regrettable casualties of the coming of sound. Released as a silent in May 1929, it was re-issued with synchronized music and sound effects in August 1930 – but too late. Variety, reviewing the new version on its London release, admitted that its production values (with fine photography by Charles Rosher) were far superior to most British pictures, yet mercilessly damned its chances: “Picture doesn’t mean anything in these talker days.” Significantly, perhaps, the same page carried a review of the Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers.

The film represents an extraordinary marriage of a native British nonsense tradition with the sprightliness of Hungarian operetta. The story is by Douglas Furber (1885-1961), one of the most prolific English writers of revue and musical plays between the wars (his songs included “The Lambeth Walk” and “The Bells of St Mary’s”). The story is a merciless send-up of Ruritanian romance and in particular The Prisoner of Zenda. Betty Balfour plays the dual role of Sally, maid-of-all-work in a seedy London lodging house, and Princess Xonia of Bolonia, a revolution-prone Balkan state. Sally is carried off to Bolonia to take the Princess’s place in the forthcoming coronation procession, at which a regicide is confidently anticipated. Luck and nonsense naturally save the day.

The prolific Géza (von) Bolváry (1897-1961) began directing in his native Hungary in 1920, but from 1923 to 1958 he mostly worked in Germany. In 1928-9 he made a group of films in Britain or as Anglo-German co-productions: these included the excellent The Ghost Train (1927), Number 17 (1928), with Ivor Novello, Bright Eyes (Champagner, 1929), which teamed Novello with Betty Balfour, and finally The Vagabond Queen.

The musical score added to the film is of particular interest both in the evolution of music from silent to sound cinema, and in the subsequent progression of Bolváry’s career. It was assigned to the composer-compiler-conductor John Reynders, and was almost certainly prepared in close collaboration with the director. Reynders was London’s best-known cinema compiler-conductor of the silent film period. From its opening as a cinema in 1923 until the end of the silent period, he was musical director of the Tivoli Theatre, where he presented much-admired scores for the British premieres of – among numerous others – Greed, Ben-Hur, The Merry Widow, and Moulin Rouge. Subsequently he became a prolific composer of sound film music. His score for The Vagabond Queen is brash and energetic, and contributes very positively to the comedy, with its own jokes and aural commentary. It is particularly interesting that the film was actually extended by 1042 feet when the sound was added; the orchestral score accentuates the distinctly musical rhythm of the action. The creation of this novel comic balletic style may well have influenced Bolváry’s direct progression into film operetta, starting with Zwei Herzen im 3/4-Takt, which was to exert a great influence upon the development of German and Austrian musicals in the 1930s.

In addition to its star, the film boasts an excellent cast. Ernest Thesiger (1879-1961) – a favourite embroidery companion of the Dowager Queen Mary, he practically qualifies as a “Funny Lady” himself – has one of his most abandoned comedy roles as Lidoff the Bolonian diplomat. Patrician by birth and originally a painter, Thesiger had an unbroken theatrical career from 1909 to the end of his life, creating among other roles that of the Dauphin in George Bernard Shaw’s St. Joan. He made his first film appearance in 1916 and his last (in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone) in 1961. His most memorable appearances were in James Whale’s The Old Dark House and The Bride of Frankenstein, though nowhere is he as extravagant as in The Vagabond Queen. Glen Byam Shaw (1904-1986), the juvenile lead, made his stage debut in 1923, and went on to become a distinguished Shakespearean actor and director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (1953-1959).

Program notes courtesy of David Robinson. Introduction by Lucy Porter.

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The Vagabond Queen

Skinner’s Dress Suit Program Notes

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Skinners Dress Suit2 300×273 1

SKINNER’S DRESS SUIT (1926)

Directed by William A. Seiter

USA 70 mins PG

This show is intended to revive the reputation of a comedian of the silent era – not on the scale of a Lloyd or a Keaton, but extremely amusing and entertaining in his own right. I have several of his Universal comedies in my collection – they were released on 16mm by both Kodascope and Universal’s Show-at-Home library and tonight’s film is a good-quality copy of one of these.

Denny had been his father’s stage name – he was W H Denny, the Gilbert & Sullivan singer. Reginald adopted it when became an actor. He was born in Richmond, Surrey in 1891 as Reginald Leigh Dugmore – and he died in Richmond, Surrey in 1967. He was educated at St Francis Xavier College in Mayfield, Sussex. He felt he had been educated enough for a theatrical career, so ran away at 16 and got a job as an extra at the Duke of York’s theatre in London. He was hired as a chorus man by a prominent major American producer and opened in The Quaker Girl in New York in 1911. He is supposed to have made a film in 1912 but his memoirs don’t mention it. He signed a contract as a leading baritone with the Bandmann Opera Co touring India and the Orient. Rehearsals were held aboard ship bound for Bombay. It was obvious that Denny was not experienced enough, nor was his baritone deep enough, so he was relegated to lesser roles. He went into partnership with a crook, found himself stranded but managed to raise enough money to get back to America. In 1914 he played his first film role with Hazel Dawn for Famous Players in Niobe, directed by Hugh Ford. He had plenty of roles in the theatre, but this was 1917, and when America entered the war, he decided it was time to enlist. He was shipped by to England to train for the Royal Flying Corps. While he was on his pilot’s training course at Hastings, he won the Brigade Heavyweight Boxing Championship. The Armistice was signed before he finished his course, and on his discharge he returned to America. He found work at the World Studios in Fort Lee, in Bringing Up Betty and The Oakdale Affair, both with Evelyn Greely and both made in 1919. Denny was starred in a boxing series called The Leather Pushers. The money ran out, but Carl Laemmle, head of Universal, took an interest in them and with studio finance they became one of the most popular series of the 1920s. He was sent to California and starred in a series about the North West Mounted Police. With no riding experience, he was thrown and broke an ankle. Which was fortunate, because he then starred in a Jack London story, The Abysmal Brute (1923) about a backwoods boy who becomes a boxer. At Denny’s insistence, light comedy was injected into the melodrama. Universal quickly capitalised on his talent – realising that combining humour with handsome physique was what had made Douglas Fairbanks a star. Not too long afterwards, Denny became the highest-paid English star next to Chaplin.

Bryant Washburn had played this Skinner role in 1917 for Harry Beaumont at Essanay, and it was so successful he made two more Skinner stories. Glenn Tryon remade it in 1929 as Skinner Steps Out directed by Wm James Craft with Glenn Tryon and Merna Kennedy.

As you’ll see, Denny’s characterisation was that of a typical young American entangled in the problems of suburban life. The trouble was that Harold Lloyd did the same thing and was strong competition. And when talking pictures revealed an impeccable English accent, Denny’s career as a star comedian was over. He began a second career as a featured player – appearing in everything from Romeo and Juliet with Barrymore to Abbott and Costello Meet Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He became one of America’s favourite Englishmen. His career in silent pictures was forgotten, not only by audiences but by Denny himself.

In the 1960, I went down to Palm Springs to meet Laura la Plante. She was a delightful person, and very funny, but pathologically shy. How she managed to become a leading lady is beyond my comprehension. She pleaded with me not to bring a film crew down. We did go down, but only to interview her husband, Irvin Asher for the Hollywood series. However, she did say how much she enjoyed working on this film, and praised Denny highly… She must have enjoyed her experience because director Bill Seiter became her first husband.

Here are some extracts from my diary for my first trip to California in December, 1964,

I was staying at the house of film collector David Bradley in the Hollywood Hills. Bradley had gone to spend Christmas in Chicago and he arranged with his partner, Tom Webster to give me the run of his collection and to do all the driving. It could not have been a better arrangement.

December 12th; Tom picked me up and we headed for the Pasadena Freeway to meet Reginald Denny. Los Angeles was full of signs for Denny’s – a coffee shop which had nothing to do with him. But on Hollywood Boulevard we passed a model shop named Reginald Denny’s, and it turned out that in 1936 he had begun working on a radio-controlled system for model planes. He adapted it for use with anti-aircraft gunnery. These models were designated TDD – which stood for Target Drone Denny.

When we located his street, we saw a tall, unmistakable figure standing on the kerb, lit by the light from his open door. It was a particular thrill to meet Denny, because I knew his younger self so well thanks to Bill Eversons’ screenings. He looked older than I expected and while he talked enthusiastically of his youth, I had the impression that he had thought little of his films. He admitted that he had not seen any of his silent for over twenty years. He clearly had little idea of how good he was and it took some persuasion before he agreed to see Skinner’s Dress Suit.

Dec 14;

Tonight is our Reginald Denny screening, to be held at Bradley’s house. Tom and I go out to buy a lot of drink (which no one drinks). And as we return, the crowd arrives. Reginald Denny and his wife, who played opposite him in a late silent, Night Birds, Reginald Denny jr, Denny’s daughter, Joan and son-in-law, awaiting the show with a trace of nervousness. We settled them in and started with an episode from The Leather Pushers, the boxing series which brought Denny to Hollywood. This showed him as a likable but rather flat character, what humour there was came from the other members of the cast. But it was a surprise to see a leading man box so convincingly.

Then Skinner’s Dress Suit – Bradley’s print was a faded amber with bits missing, but although the audience seemed to miss some of the subtlety, it seemed to go over well. Smooth directed by Wm Seiter, it showed Denny at his best – as a comedian whose polish and technical brilliance never outshone his genuine warmth.

As the Denny family watched this 1926 comedy, the atmosphere noticeably changed. The picture’s gags at first received restrained, relieved chuckles. But as the story took hold, the audience, which included Sennett comedienne Minta Durfee, gave the film their whole-hearted approval. Mrs Denny spotted herself as an extra, and identified Janet Gaynor as another.

The children were very pleased to see that their father was so good as an actor and Denny himself was very bucked. At the end, he was assailed with congratulations. Grinning shyly, he confessed that he had expected the film to creak. “It stands much better than I thought it would,” he said. Then they all left, purring with delight.

Please note that there are a couple of short section missing.

Program notes provided by Kevin Brownlow. Introduction by Kevin Brownlow. Piano accompaniment by Daan van den Hurk.

Spite Marriage Program Notes

SPITE MARRIAGE (1929)

Directed by Edward Sedgwick and Buster Keaton

USA 76 mins PG

Spite Marriage is the tale of a tailor who is madly in love with an actress… so in love, that he’s gone to see her play countless times! He is given the chance to marry the woman of his dreams, but what he does not know, is that she is only marrying him to make her old flame jealous!

The film was made in 1929 and stars Buster Keaton, Dorothy Sebastian, and Edward Earle. Spite Marriage was directed by Edward Sedgewick and Buster Keaton. It was written by Lew Lipton, Ernest Pagano, Richard Schayer, and Robert E. Hopkins.

Dorothy Sebastian’s most famous films were in the late 1920s. She was contracted to MGM, and when her contract was over she was relegated to smaller parts. Her other well-known films include A Woman of Affairs (1928) and Our Dancing Daughters (1928). Sebastian and Keaton were romantically linked during the production of Spite Marriage. Edward Earle was a leading man during the early 1920s with roles in East Lynne (1921), False Fronts (1922), and A Dangerous Flirtation (1924).

Edward Sedgwick directed most of Keaton’s films during their time at MGM. They had a shared love of baseball and shared an office on MGM’s backlot. Sedgwick also directed Laurel and Hardy and is credited as discovering Lucille Ball.

This film has the distinction of being Buster Keaton’s last silent film. It is also the second film that he made for MGM after becoming a contract player. The previous film was The Cameraman, also directed by Edward Sedgwick. The Cameraman was a financial success for MGM. In addition to being his last silent, Spite Marriage was also the last film where Keaton was allowed any creative control. When MGM signed Buster Keaton, one of their concerns was over the budgets of his films. In crafting his films, Keaton often used a lengthy improvised approach. MGM wanted Keaton to stick to a shooting script.

Keaton’s original idea for the film was to make a sound comic western. Keaton realised that the success of The Jazz Singer in 1927 was a signal that the age of silent film was about to end. At the time, MGM only had one stage that was used for making sound films. Sound was being reserved for other types of films. It was felt by MGM that comedies that used physical humour where much better made as silent films. Buster Keaton wanted to use sound effects in his films, but keep the dialogue to a minimum.

One of the film’s funniest scenes involves Buster Keaton putting his drunk wife to bed. This scene was recreated with much lesser comedic effect by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953). Buster Keaton would go on to recreate the scene himself on stage in the 1950s with his wife, Eleanor Keaton.

Accompanied live by Günter A. Buchwald, Frank Bockius, and Romano Todesco performing as The European Silent Screen Virtuosi.

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Spite