One of the classic Mack Sennett scenes of the 1920s shows a “normal” day in Sennett’s office: the floor is littered with custard pies, two comedians battle to show him who is funnier, director Vernon Dent pitches an idea. Through the chaos, Sennett is unperturbed, even bored-looking. Then, the studio lion wanders in. While the others scatter, Sennett calmly finishes his phone conversation before shooing the lion out and telling his secretary “Keep that cat from coming in my office!”
This clip has been used several times in documentaries and film compilations to portray the madness of the Sennett studios. But, like many of the iconic Sennett scenes, its parent film remains obscure. THE HOLLYWOOD KID (1924) has most often been seen in a one-reel cut-down version, but now Dave Glass has done a fantastic job of recreating the whole film from a variety of sources.
In its entirety, the film is not just a day-in-the life of the studios, but a rags-to-riches story of Charlie Murray and Louise Carver as their little son is talent scouted by Vernon Dent. (The premise of Murray and Carver’s son being so photogenic is a gag in itself as they both habitually look like they’re sucking lemons!) Along the way there are backstage glimpses of Phyllis Haver, Madeline Hurlock and Ben Turpin, and an inevitable double-duty appearance by Andy Clyde, Sennett’s man of a thousand faces! The whole short is lots of fun, and it’s wonderful to see the whole thing.
If you’re not familiar with Sennett comedies of the 20s, this is an excellent place to start. All the key Sennett elements are here, but with a stronger plot thread than usual. If you are familiar with his films, then you’ll still find something new in this fab restoration.