80-odd years before Ben Stiller, Lupino Lane made his version of ‘A Night at the Museum’! This Educational Pictures short is from his golden period, 1926, and was directed by Charles Lamont. The leading lady is Katherine McGuire, best known for appearing opposite Buster Keaton in SHERLOCK, JR and THE NAVIGATOR. Lane’s brother Wallace Lupino appears as the villain.
There are some great gags in the opening sequence, including a lovely reveal shot and a nice chase sequence which Lane later adapted for his 1931 sound feature NO LADY.
Sorry about the print quality – this one doesn’t seem to be online already though, so I figured poor quality Nip is better than none. Enjoy!
As if Dave Glass hadn’t been busy enough this year working on the new Lupino Lane DVD/Blu Ray set, he’s also been uploading heaps of rare silent comedies on his YouTube account. The latest is HARD WORK,a very rare short comedy from 1928 featuring Wallace Lupino (younger brother of Lupino Lane).
It’s a print from my collection. I lucked into the 8mm print of this very rare short a few years back. It was hoped to include it on the DVD set as an extra, but this print isn’t the best quality, and searches for a 16mm copy all came to naught. Now you can enjoy it for free on Dave’s YouTube channel. Here’s the video, and below you’ll find a bit more info about Wallace and the film.
Wallace was a secret weapon in the Lane films, a versatile performer capable of portraying a range of parts. He can be seen playing parts ranging from threatening heavy to matronly woman, as well as ersatz Vernon Dent to Lane’s Langdonesque naïf. Schooled in the Lupino family tricks and traditions, he had been a performer since childhood too, appearing in pantomime as ‘Wee Wallace Lupino’. After war service and stage work in Britian, he later joined his elder brother in Hollywood, and was instrumental in helping Lane create the split second pantomime routines and double acts that make his films so wonderful. Though inevitably in his elder brother’s shadow, Wallace was also given a chance to star in his own shorts at Educational, starting with 1926’s SWEET BABY.
Educational’s series of Tuxedo and Cameo Comedies were one-reel shorts, simple gag-based endeavours starring less well-known performers like Johnny Arthur, Monty Collins and Cliff Bowes. Like Wallace, these were mainly performers better known for supporting roles, stepping up to the plate as stars. The films were a valuable career leg-up not just for performers, but also for directors. Particularly notable was the kid brother of Educational comedy producer Jack White; Jules White is best known today for his work with The Three Stooges, but before this, he cut his teeth on many Cameo comedies, including HARD WORK.
HARD WORK clearly bears White’s trademark of vigorous slapstick gags. The short is a simple tale of Wallace and his family (Betty Boyd & Jackie Levine) trying to renovate their home. Nothing original in that premise, but the secret to a good one reefer was taking a simple premise and getting as many good gags as you could from it. HARD WORK certainly does that; the film is saved from being so-so with some original, very funny gags involving animals, pianos and vacuum cleaners. And, for a one reeler, the scale of the destruction is pretty epic! Particularly good is the scene where Wallace gets his head stuck through the ceiling – he certainly earned his paycheck for this film! In sound films, I often find White’s predilection for big and violent sight gags unpleasant, but in the slightly dreamlike world of a silent one-reeler it works much better. (I think what I actually dislike about this most are the accompanying sound effects; Harry Langdon called White’s talkies the “oh-ouch-ow” comedies, and he was absolutely right. White seemed to think it was funnier if characters on the end of slapstick showed that they felt pain – but that’s not a problem in silents.)
Wallace is ably supported by two actors familiar from the Lupino Lane shorts. His long-suffering wife is ably played by Betty Boyd, who played leading lady in several Lane films like BATTLING SISTERS and PIRATES BEWARE.
Young Jackie Levine plays the bratty child. After appearing with Harold Lloyd in FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, he became a regular at Educational in the late silent years, often in the ‘Big Boy’ juvenile comedies (bit of an unfortunate name…). Little Jackie would play a thorn in Wallace (and Lupino Lane’s) sides again: he plays a bratty kid in SUMMER SAPS and JOY LAND. This overlap with the Lane shorts occurred often, reaching it’s apotheosis with CROWN ME, a short starring Wallace and directed by Lane. (I hope you’re following all this, as there will be a test at the end.)
Wallace starred in several other shorts for Educational. As well as those mentioned above, titles included ALL SET, AUNTIE’S AUNTE, THE LOST LAUGH, HUSBANDS MUST PLAY and WEDDED BLISTERS. These generally stayed in the format of simple situational comedies – ALL SET involves Wallace’s attempts to obtain a dress suit, and WEDDED BLISTERS is a tale of moving furniture to a new home. Of all these, the only other surviving entry I’m aware of is the namesake of this blog, THE LOST LAUGH. Ben Model shared his unique print of this fun little comedy on his Accidentally Preserved DVD and on YouTube. Here it is:Several of these films were issued on 16mm in the 1930s, but few seem to survive. Unless someone knows more, I believe HARD WORK was the only one to be issued on 8mm (possibly derived from Mogull Films’ 16mm print, the sole Lupino title they carried). I certainly wasn’t expecting to see it turn up on eBay. The print was anonymously labelled as ‘Wallace Lupino/Charlie Chase’; I took a punt and it turned out to contain both HARD WORK and Chase’s SITTING PRETTY on the same reel. A bargain for £5.00 GBP! The print isn’t the best quality ever, but it’s a nice little rarity that helps add to our appreciation of this very underrated performer. Enjoy!
I spent all of Saturday out in some dismal November weather, but when I got home my spirits were instantly lifted by the parcel waiting on my doormat:
Lupino Lane is one of the silent comedians who really made me take an interest in the forgotten performers of the era, and for years I’ve longed for a high quality release of his films. This year, silent comedy experts and all round good eggs Dave Glass and Dave Wyatt made this unlikely project come to life with a successful kickstarter campaign.
Included on the Blu Ray (DVD also available) are 8 of Lane’s classic short films, including some incredibly rare ones that I’ve longed to see for years. The project has been a remarkable work of coordination and restoration spearheaded by Dave Glass,involving a slew of archives, musicians and film collectors, not to mention Lane’s granddaughter Sara Lupino Lane. I’ve been honoured to contribute to the project in my own little way, conducting an interview with Sara and writing notes for the accompanying booklet.
So, on to the contents. The eight films are HELLO SAILOR, the classic Three Musketeers spoof SWORD POINTS, FISTICUFFS, GOOD NIGHT NURSE, BATTLING SISTERS, SUMMER SAPS, JOY LAND and the talkie FIRE PROOF. The selection of films shows off Lane (or Nip, to use his lifelong nickname) at his very best.
The rarest of these films (and completely new to me) are FISTICUFFS, JOY LAND and FIRE PROOF. FISTICUFFS is a comedy set in the 1830s, “when people could still remember how bad the good old days were”, and is based around a village blacksmith where Nip is the apprentice, and his brother Wallace an amateur boxer. There is some funny slapstick business with hot horseshoes and a great little scene of Nip in drag, wearing a hoop skirt that he can’t quite control. Wallace is kidnapped before the fight and so Nip takes his place, resulting in a string of original boxing gags. As with many of Lane’s best scenes, the boxing sequence is as much choreographed as directed – the laughs all come from intricately timed falls and funny body movements. It’s also a surprise to see Chaplin’s ally Albert Austin turn up as one of the boxing seconds (his only appearance in a Lane film, to my knowledge). A really fun little film that it’s great to have after many years in obscurity.
JOY LAND contains an iconic sequence of Lane diving in and out of trapdoors; this has been excerpted, but the rest of the film has seldom been seen. Would the rest of the film live up to its reputation based on the trapdoor scene? Absolutely! The first scene of Nip at work in a toy shop is full of some excellent material, particularly another classic pantomime routine where he and Wallace find themselves sharing two pairs of trousers, creating confusion as they try to work out who the third leg belongs to! There are also some good gags with bratty child Jackie Levine and his mother. In the second reel, Lane dreams himself into the Toy Land setting – what is really nice about the sequence is the way details from the first reel like toys, dolls, masks and characters reoccur in Nip’s fantasy. The marvellous trapdoor sequence is much longer than the excerpts we’ve seen, with pursuit by Bonzo the Dog adding extra complications! (In our interview, Sara Lupino Lane revealed the detail that this was actually George Atterbury, a live-in companion of the Lanes who Nip had trained to work in an animal skin). JOY LAND absolutely exceeded my expectations and might be my favourite Lane film of all.
Also much better than expected was FIRE PROOF, one of only four talkie shorts Lane made. The others that I’ve seen are a little clunky and dialogue-heavy, but this one was really good for a 1929 sound short. There’s dialogue humour added, but Lane’s acrobatics are present, including a brilliant moment where he does a step-and-somersault from off a fire engine. The tumbles are presented smoothly, and don’t sound clompy as in many early sound films – Lane’s light-footed gymnastic training obviously paid off in this respect. Fired from the force, he sets out to start his own fire brigade. The firefighting theme and antique fire engine he uses were both seen earlier in the silent A HALF-PINT HERO, but this is definitely not a remake, with an entirely different set of gags! Among them is a very Laurel & Hardy-like sequence where Nip and Wallace indulge in some clothes ripping tit-for-tat. Lots of fun, and made me wish that Lane had stuck around for another season or two of talkie shorts.
The other films were more familiar to me, although several of them like SUMMER SAPS contain extra footage usually missing. Dave Glass has used multiple sources to make the most complete versions possible. A real labour of love. HELLO SAILOR and SWORD POINTS were already among my favourite Lane shorts, but now are even more enjoyable.
All the films look astonishingly good, especially GOOD NIGHT NURSE, which has elements of a 35mm nitrate print saved from destruction just in time and looks gorgeous. The detail is so great that you can read posters on the wall, see the dimple in Nip’s chin and spot Muriel Evans laughing in the background as he does a gag.
Particularly for obscure, hitherto unrestored films like the Lane comedies, most of my viewing experience has previously consisted of blurry images running too fast accompanied by indifferent ragtime piano on a maddening loop. While Lane’s astonishing stunts and acrobats can survive even this, the intricacies of the individual gags and his smaller-scale charms can be lost unless seen in good quality prints. Although I was already a Lupino Lane devotee, I came away with a whole new appreciation for his pantomime talents and skill at facial expression. There’s a special Lupino body language that was obviously part of the family training. Both Nip and Wallace have a certain way of reacting – a flickering glance here, a brief surprised opening of the mouth there – that is unique to them and very amusing. There are lots of other little grace notes that you can appreciate better now – for instance, in HELLO SAILOR, Nip falls in water and his clothes shrink. He and Wallace get to brawling and Wallace nearly falls in too. Nip stops him, shaking his head quickly and shooting a warning glance as he gestures to his shrunken bell bottoms.
GOOD NIGHT NURSE and BATTLING SISTERS are two cases in point; I always thought of these as two comparatively weaker shorts, Actually, I’d just seen dreadful copies of them. Now, in these beautiful versions I appreciated all sort of gags and nuances in a new way.
The pantomime business between Nip and Wallace in GOOD NIGHT NURSE, especially, is really great. The first reel has some intricately timed prop business involving a cane chair, a bowler hat, a watch and a stethoscope. How wonderful it must have been to see them do this kind of thing live on stage! Seeing it in this quality is the next best thing though.
The exemplary musical accompaniment from Meg Morley, Neil Brand and Donald Mackenzie further enhances enjoyment of the films. Their scores are just perfect, and it’s great to have a choice of organ or piano for each title.
Lastly, there are extra features. Two bits of candid footage show Lane filming THE FIGHTING DUDE and doing a bit of backwards-filmed clowning for the camera. There’s a workprint of Bob Monkhouse’s MAD MOVIES, featuring him introducing GOOD NIGHT NURSE, and best of all, the interview with Sara Lupino Lane. Sara was very kind and generous in sharing both her time and memories of her Grandad and family; we had a wonderful visit and came away with some terrific stories and facts that I don’t believe were previously known. Dave Glass has done a great job of intercutting the interview with some film clips and shots of Sara’s memorabilia and family scrapbooks.
As a huge fan of Lupino Lane who had a bit of involvement in the project, I’m obviously a bit biased but I think this is a simply wonderful collection that shows off this wonderful perfomer in the quality he deserves. An amazing effort from Messrs Glass and Wyatt. I hope you’ve all ordered a copy!
The new issue of The Lost Laugh Magazine is now available! There are exclusive articles, rare photos, reproduced articles from trade magazines and news and reviews.
Our cover star this time is British silent comedian Walter Forde; in this issue we focus on his early career and short films (including a complete filmography) , with his feature films to follow in the next issue.
Last time we looked at Monty Banks’ starring comedies. Issue 12 continues his story into the sound era, examining his handful of starring films, and his work as a director.
Other articles include:
*some of Roscoe Arbuckle’s most obscure films
*A Q & A with Ben Model, all about The Silent Comedy Watch Party
*Mabel Normand’s missing film ONE HOUR MARRIED.
*New DVDs featuring Lupino Lane, Laurel & Hardy, Charley Chase and Harry Langdon
*Screening notes on some rare films from Hal Roach and Mack Sennett studios.
Click on the link below to open the pdf of the magazine, or right click and ‘save target as’ to download the file:
Hope you’re all doing ok out there in this strange new world. Thank goodness for technology, which means we have a wealth of entertainment at our fingertips, and what a tonic the great comics can be in troubled times. I’m digging through some old favourites and finding some new gems to share here.
It seems like there’s never been a better time to share this classic radio episode of Hancock’s Half Hour, in which Tony and his housemates Sid James, Bill Kerr and Hattie Jacques try to pass a Sunday stuck indoors. It’s one of the best examples of Hancock’s humorous despair, finding comedy in the mundane everyday. Incidentally, it was a favourite of Stan Laurel, who kept a tape copy in his collection.
On a similar note, here’s Lupino Lane on enforced lockdown during a rainy holiday, in SUMMER SAPS (1929). Wherever you’re isolating, I hope you have better neighbours than this!!
On a serious note, I hope that this terrible situation isn’t treating you too badly. Stay safe and well, and keep smiling!
Many of the great comedians had come up through the stage and had to be all-round entertainers. When sound film came in, one of the benefits was allowing them to show off these talents. Many of the silent clowns seemed to enjoy the novelty of performing a song or dance once in a while, and of course performers who primarily worked in this area now had a new outlet for their talents. These routines always make me smile, so here are a choice selection.
Let’s kick off with Laurel & Hardy doing a bit of a dance. Nope, not that dance! While their moves to ‘At the ball, that’s all’ in WAY OUT WEST are iconic, this scene from BONNIE SCOTLAND is less well-known, but has a charm of it’s own. There’s a kind of infectious joy to L & H’s dancing moments, and this one is no exception.
Fellow Roach studios comic Charley Chase positively flourished with the chance to strut his stuff in talkies. Chase had a deep love of music, writing his own songs and choreographing routines for them to use in his comedies. This example, from his penultimate Roach short ON THE WRONG TREK, is a real charmer.
Over to Britain now. The bright and breezy Jack Hulbert had made his name in musical comedies on stage, often partnered with his wife Cicely Courtneidge. His lanky frame made him quite a talent as an eccentric dancer, and here he gives us a song and a bit of tap. This is from JACK OF ALL TRADES (1936), one of several dated but extremely charming romantic comedies he made for Gainsborough Pictures in the 30s.
Another British comic who made his career in musical comedy (though opposite in build to Hulbert!) was Stanley Lupino. This routine comes from OVER SHE GOES, one of his plays adapted for film in 1937. Leslie Halliwell was right on the money when he called this scene “one of the most dextrous routines I’ve ever clapped eyes on”. It’s glorious.
Did someone mention Lupinos? Here’s Stanley’s cousin, Lupino Lane, in a wonderful slapstick ballet with Lillian Roth. It’s from THE LOVE PARADE (1929), and is one of my very favourite scenes of his. That Lupino family training really paid off, didn’t it?? (By the way, if you like what you see of Mr Lane, don’t forget there’s currently a Kickstarter appeal running to get some of his films on DVD). This clip is a little slow to get going, but kicks in at about the 1.50 mark..
Carrying on the theme of slapstick dance, here’s a wonderful routine from Buster Keaton. Buster’s MGM sound features were undoubtedly a waste of his talents compared to his silent masterpieces, but they do have some charming moments of 100 proof Keaton in them. The studio’s zeal for making the most of sound with singing and dancing lets us see another side of Keaton’s talents not often displayed. Like the other comics here, he was a stage veteran too, so could pull off this stuff very well indeed, even if it’s not really the idiom we expect of him. Here he is in the highlight of DOUGHBOYS, an Apache dance routine. Quite a few comedians incorporated their knockabout into one of these , but Keaton’s superior athleticism makes this really something special.
And, to finish off, just a tiny but more Buster. Here’s his international dancing medley from the short GRAND SLAM OPERA (1936). He’s waiting backstage at a radio station when hearing the band spurs him into motion… Great fun.
Very excited to be able to share this. Dave Glass & Dave Wyatt, who recently put out a fabulous DVD of rare Lloyd Hamilton films, are turning their attention to Lupino Lane.
One of my favourite forgotten clowns, Lane was an appealing performer somewhere between Keaton and Harry Langdon. He was also one of the most amazing tumblers and acrobats to ever have stepped in front of a movie camera. Schooled in a family tradition of pantomime and tumbling going back centuries, he had an extraordinary ability at visual comedy and slapstick. This was seen to full advantage in a string of eye-popping, gag and acrobatic-filled two-reelers for Educational Pictures in the 1920s. Often writing and directing the films as well as starring, he drew on a vast bank of gags and routines to create some unique films.
These are usually only seen in grainy, miserable quality, but Dave & Dave’s new Kickstarter project collects some fabulous prints from archives and collections. Here’s more from Dave Glass on the contents:
“We’re delighted to say that we have some exceptional prints (most are 2K scans of nitrate) of some VERY rare films.
Through the generosity of Serge Bromberg and Lobster Films, Elif & Co at the EYE Film Museum and Patrick Stanbury (Photoplay) we present the following films:
HELLO SAILOR (1927) (one of the special event hits at Pordenone 2019)
SWORD POINTS (1928) (35mm 4K restoration)
FISTICUFFS (1928) (even Steve Massa hasn’t seen this one!!)
SUMMER SAPS (1929) (complete 2 reel version!)
GOOD NIGHT NURSE (1929) (new scan of 35mm nitrate)
JOYLAND (1929) (the complete ‘Toyland’ rarity – a Joy!)
AND….. we hope to add one more to that list. (We’re still “negotiating”, so we don’t want to commit to anything just yet. But it’ll be a goodie!!)”
Here’s the trailer for the project, showing just how gorgeous these films look:
Amazing! I’m really proud to be contributing an essay to the booklet for this amazing project. Historian Glenn Mitchell is too, and there will be wonderful accompaniment for the films by Neil Brand and others TBC.
So, I finally got round to finishing the new issue – number 11! This time, there are articles on Monty Banks’ feature comedies, perennially soused character actor Arthur Housman, some Laurel & Hardy discoveries, and reviews of rare films starring Harold Lloyd and Lupino Lane.
If you’re a subscriber, hopefully it’s arrived in your inbox now; if not, head to The Lost Laugh Magazine to download the pdf. I do hope you enjoy reading it!
Here’s something I just picked up on eBay for the princely sum of £1.75… An original autographed postcard from Lupino Lane’s career as a boy comedian. In those days he was billed as Master ‘Nipper’ Lupino Lane. The nickname came from the expression ‘little nipper’, but Lane grew to dislike it as a ‘nipper’ was also slang for a pickpocket. He preferred to be known as ‘Nip’, an appellation which would stick with him for the rest of his life.
The eBay listing dates it as 1910 but I’m fairly certain it’s from before then; Lane looks much younger than 18 in the photo, so I’d date it from the first half of the 1900s. There’s a note on the back soliciting ticket sales. I wonder if it was successful..
If you’ve been stopping by this site for a while, you’ll have probably noticed that Lupino Lane is one of my favourite silent clowns. He may not have reached the character based heights of Chaplin, Keaton or Laurel & Hardy, for instance, but he was a very special talent indeed. Nobody could do out-and-out slapstick like him.Steeped in his family’s tradition of pantomime, music hall and acrobatics, he was almost without equal at creating dazzling, lightning-paced routines out of almost nothing at all. If you’re a fellow fan, there’s some great news of two DVDs featuring his work. If you’ve not discovered him yet, both are a great place to start discovering his often jaw-dropping physical comedy.
Firstly, there’s a volume of five of his silent shorts amongst Grapevine Video’s new releases:
These are from his heyday in Hollywood, working for the (inappropriately named) Educational Pictures.
MAID IN MOROCCO (1925) was his first short for the company. Directed by Charles Lamont, it features Lane honeymooning in Morocco. His blissful time is spoiled when the local Caliph (his brother Wallace Lupino, omnipresent in these films) decides to steal Lane’s new bride for his harem. Lane’s attempts to rescue her produce some great, gag-packed chase sequences, including his amazing stunt of running 360 degrees around the inside of a Moorish arch! MOVIE LAND (1926) is a great little comedy, with some wonderful routines as Lane makes a date with actress, Kathryn McGuire, accidentally stands her up, then tries to crash the studio to apologise. Best of all is his routine disguised as a stunt dummy. Complete prints of this film contain a Lloyd Hamilton cameo, but it most often circulates as a cut-down edition. Time will tell how complete this print is.
Kathyrn McGuire is again the love interest in NAUGHTY BOY (1927). A notch below the other two films for gag-packed excitement, this is still a very entertaining two-reeler. It’s closer to a Hal Roach situation comedy in its plot than usual, as Lane is forced to pose as a young boy when is father remarries and lies about his age. The last two films on this disk showcase Lane’s fondness for dropping his bewildered, mild little character into dramatic or epic settings to provide comic contrast. FANDANGO (1928) has him as an unlikely bullfighter, caught up with serenading sultry Anita Garvin and his rival toreador Wallace Lupino. Directed by Lane under the pseudonym Henry W George, this is one of his best-made comedies, with some wonderful camerawork. BATTLING SISTERS (1929) is a bizarre, futuristic gender-bending semi-spoof of ‘THE BIG PARADE’, with men and women’s roles reversed. One of the rarest films here, it’s also by far the strangest, offering the spectacle of Wallace Lupino, in drag, vamping the helpless house husband Lane!
Grapevine lists a running time of 100 minutes, with music scores by David Knudtson. Order here
Lane didn’t abandon his silent comedy technique totally when sound came in. After returning to his native Britain in 1930, he starred in and directed the comedy feature ‘NO LADY’. Essentially an extended reworking of his silent short ‘SUMMER SAPS’, it’s a bit creaky, but once it gets going it features a host of his classic silent comedy routines (including that ‘running round the arch’ gag) amidst some fantastic vintage location shooting in the seaside resort of Blackpool. The final chase, melding silent comedy to strategically place sound elements, seems to me exactly what Buster Keaton wanted to be doing at this point.
Incredibly enough, ‘NO LADY’ has been pulled from obscurity and newly released on a triple-film DVD, ‘The Lupino Collection’, alongside films starring other members of the Lupino showbiz clan. Lane’s brother Wallace supports in the fairly dire ‘ SHIPMATES O’ MINE’, while his niece (and the most famous Lupino) Ida appears in ‘HER FIRST AFFAIRE’. This one’s not so great either, but ‘NO LADY’ is more than worth the price. Order here
Finally, if you’re in the UK and want a rare chance to see some Lane films on the big screen, I’ll be showing excerpts from his career, alongside extracts from his book ‘How to become a Comedian’, at Kennington Bioscope’s Silent Laughter Weekend in London. We’ll also be showing two very rare LL films in their entirety: his 1927 short ‘ A HALF PINT HERO’, an acrobatic riff on Chaplin’s ‘THE FIREMAN’, as well as the sound film of his hit stage show ‘Me and My Girl’, ‘THE LAMBETH WALK’ (1939)
Lane is about to exact revenge on brother Wallace Lupino in ‘A HALF PINT HERO’. Tom Whiteley looks on.