Though he was the biggest comedian working in short subjects in the mid- and late Twenties, unfortunately Charley Chase is largely forgotten today. Happily, however, as more of his work becomes available on DVD and released to the public, it seems as though more and more fans of vintage comedy are rediscovering just how talented and funny he truly was, right up there with the likes of Keaton, Chaplin, Lloyd, and Linder. This disc brings together six of his shorts, four two-reelers and two one-reelers.
'Mum's the Word' (1926) was previously released on Vol. 9 of 'The Lost Films of Laurel and Hardy.' Charley plays a young man who is coming home from school to visit his mother, who has just remarried. On the train home, he meets a young lady whom he, of course, falls in love with. It turns out that she's travelling to the same house he is, where she works as a maid, and that once home, he must pretend to be a new butler, for his mother hasn't yet told her new husband the rather important fact that she has a grown son. It also comes out that the new maid isn't being totally honest about her true identity either.
'Long Fliv the King' (1926) starts out with the not-so-original plot device of a young woman, Helga, having to marry by a certain date and time, but in this case she's not being rushed to marriage because she's got money coming to her--she's got a royal crown coming to her. She settles on Charley, who is in prison and scheduled to die soon. What the new queen didn't count on was that just after they were married and she left for her kingdom, Charley would be sprung from prison and cleared of the false charges against him. He trails her to her kingdom with his new friend/lackey Warfield, played by the wonderful Max Davidson, who is even more forgotten than Charley today. His own films aren't shown too often because of modern-day concerns and sensitivities towards the rather stereotyped Jewish characters he often was stuck playing, but in films such as this (though it does contain a few somewhat cringe-worthy moments), he was more or less allowed to just be himself and to be funny that way. Of course, complications arise when Charley arrives in Thermosa. Many people at court don't want some outsider on the throne, and try to overthrow him. Oliver Hardy also plays a small role in this one.
'April Fool' (1924) is from Charley's days playing a character called Jimmie Jump. Being a one-reeler, the plot is fairly simple and straightforward, people at his newspaper office playing tricks on one another all day, with his sweetheart, the boss's daughter, eventually getting in on the fun too.
'Mighty Like a Moose' (1926) was previously released on Vol. 9 of 'The Lost Films of L&H.' Charley, Mr. Moose, has horrible teeth, and his wife has a rather unfortunate nose. Unbeknownest to the other, they each get surgery, and are so unrecognisable to one another afterwards that they make a date to go to a party being thrown by their doctor. Since they both think they're cheating on the other spouse, a lot of comedy ensues as they're each getting ready for the date. Things get even more sticky when a picture of the two of them shows up on the front page of the paper after the party was busted for having alcohol.
'Crazy Like a Fox' (1926) was previously released on Vol. 6 of 'The Lost Films of L&H,' and co-stars Oliver Hardy in a minor role. Charley is very unhappy because he's being forced to marry a woman he doesn't know, and even more so after meeting and falling in love (or at least lust) at first sight with a young woman he meets at the depot. She too is being forced to marry against her will, but what neither of them know is that Charley is the man she's been matched with. Determined to avoid this marriage, Charley decides to pretend to be absolutely crazy when he arrives at the young woman's mansion. His riotous act may end up working a little too well, however.
'All Wet' (1924) is another Jimmie Jump comedy. Jimmie, who is staying at a boarding house, gets an important telegram telling him to be at the train station by 2:30 to pick up a litter of English Pitbull puppies. He happily dashes off to fulfill what he thinks will be a routine errand, but meets with nothing but car (and other) trouble along the way. Though he was really good in these one-reelers, he was just too funny and talented to be served well in such a short timeframe. He needed that extra reel to continue building up the storyline and his character.
Overall, this is a solid enough introduction to Charley's work for a new fan, though the one-reelers really aren't at the same mature polished level as the later four shorts. It's also unfortunate that fully one-half of this collection was previously released; it's not fair to fans to be asked to buy that much duplicate material just to see a few new shorts. Having three repeats from previous collections might not be that bad had there been more than just six shorts here, but since there are only six, it seems like it would have made more sense for there to be more newly-released material, no matter how great the three repeats are.