One-hundred, ten years ago, today, the black & white, silent comedy short (13 min., 14 sec.) Barney Oldfield’s Race For A Life was released. Directed & produced by Mack Sennett, it starred Mabel Normand, Sennett, Ford Sterling, Barney Oldfield, Raymond Hatton, William Hauber, Helen Holmes, Rube Miller & Carmen Phillips (per IMDb). Wikipedia is a bit different and I’m not sure why. Additional actors are Hank Mann, Al St. John and The Keystone Cops. Usually, cast listings match between IMDb & Wikipedia, as well as release date. The release dates don’t match, either…off by one day.
Virtuous Mabel rejects the improper advances of a villainous cad. The furious villain, and his henchmen, then seize Mabel and chain her to a railroad track. Mabel’s anxious boyfriend turns for help to the great Barney Oldfield, who jumps in his racing car and speeds to the rescue.
A lady, Mabel Sweet and Lovely, is courted by a gentleman, A Bashful Suitor. He offers her a corsage, which she accepts. They coyly share a kiss. After the Suitor leaves, the Villain appears and grabs the lady. She hits him and escapes. This angers the Villain and he vows to get his way. At the next opportunity, the Villain, once again, kidnaps the lady, this time with the help of two henchmen and chains her to the railway tracks.
The three villains travel by handcar to the station, where they assault two workers and steal a locomotive engine. The villains drive the train back towards the location of Mabel, who is still tied to the tracks. The railyard worker alerts the Suitor about the situation, who then rushes to ask his friend, racecar driver, Barney Oldfield for help.
The two friends jump in the automobile and race the speeding hi-jacked locomotive to rescue the damsel in distress. Mabel is dramatically saved at the last moment and is carried away to safety. The foiled villain kills his accomplice and shoots five Keystone Cops arriving by handcar to arrest him. Finally, he turns the gun on himself but, upon discovering the bullet chamber empty, he drops dead in a rage.
Wikipedia Plot Summary
Eighty-five years ago, today, the black & white short comedy Why Pay Rent? was released. Directed by Lloyd French and, co-written by Dolph Singer & Jack Henley, it starred Roscoe Ates, Shemp Howard, Billie Leonard, Ethel Sykes and Ron Le May.
Elmer (Roscoe Ates) fixes up a room for his just-married, freeloading brother-in-law and wife. When the newlyweds show up, Henry (Shemp Howard) brings a surprise in the form of stepson Junior. The apartment is now too small so, Henry decides that they’ll buy a lot and build a do-it-yourself home, a disaster in the making when Junior switches the house’s part numbers. It doesn’t help matters that Elmer, Henry and the wives are all incompetent.
In the 1930s, the Vitaphone division of Warner Brothers made a bunch of very uninspired and, often, unfunny comedy shorts. One of them, Why Pay Rent? is a bit like One Week (with Buster Keaton) but, only if the folks building the house were dumber than a pile of bricks. In many ways, this might have worked better as a Three Stooges short, which is interesting because Shemp Howard stars in this one, as well as Roscoe Ates, an incredibly unfunny comedian whose shtick was stuttering…which was annoying rather and cruel.