Heads up on a new Grapevine release you should all know about. It’s a 2-DVD set of all 12 of the Joe Rock Produced two-reelers in the FEARLESS THE DOG DETECTIVE set.
Transferred from rare, beautiful original multi-tinted Kodascope prints (from my collection BTW), these are fun shorts that feature a number of silent stars and comedians.
Here’s what I wrote in the Slapsticon 07 program book about one of the shorts:
“FEARLESS THE CANINE DETECTIVE: FANGS OF VENGEANCE (Van Pelt Productions-Chesterfield Motion Picture Corp. released September 21, 1926)
Director: William Bertram, Producer: Joe Rock, Story: Clarence Logan.
Cast: Fearless the Dog, Joe Young, Dick Carter, Betty baker, Lafe McKee, Billy Franey.
Okay, technically this one ain’t a comedy, but we’re showing it because it’s a short subject made by comedy professionals trying to break into sorta-serious filmmaking and it’s probably funnier because of that. Quit crabbin’, it’s twenty minutes out of your life and we bet you haven’t seen it.
An animal even more popular than monkeys in pictures has to be dogs. Pre Rin-Tin-Tin there was Rover, Luke, Teddie, the incredible Brownie the Wonder Dog. Post Rin-Tin-Tin, the kennels became casting agencies as the screen was littered with Ranger, Strongheart, Napoleon, Lightning (a friend of mine just shelled out bucks for original posters on two Lightning films, CLAWS and FANGS. I was holding out for the sequels, WORMS and HAIRBALLS). So comedy producer and former comic Joe Rock figured out that there was a buck or two to be had to be made in the leading dog business and sold the fledgling Chesterfield Motion Picture Corp on a 12 part series starring Fearless the Canine Detective!
Yep, the poochie private-eye, a german shepherd flat-foot on all fours who manages to solve the crime in each and every episode. Now, if this concept wasn’t silly enough what makes it more interesting is the casting decisions made in the human parts. Rock was essentially a comedy producer at this stage of the game, so he’s got a lot of comics hanging around looking for work. Nothing needed on the latest Ton of fun today, put `em to work on the new Fearless short. Every episode of FEARLESS, THE CANINE DETECTIVE features one or two supporting comics who pepper the Rock product, people like Billy Franey, Al Alt, Max Asher all playing it more or less straight while Fearless saves the day.
FANGS OF VENGEANCE features Joe Young, older brother of Robert Young, and a veteran of many a Sennett, Stern, and Weiss brother comedy, here playing what actually passes for a leading man in these shorts. More importantly, Slapsticon’s own poet-laureate Billy Franey plays Goofy Bill, apparently an evil Italian character who’s one of the villainous henchmen in the piece. The mystery takes place around an oil-drilling rig, as Fearless manages to uncover criminal chicanery (all I want to know is, how does he hold the magnifying glass?).
FEARLESS THE CANINE DETECTIVE indicates the greater ties that the production of short comedies, B-westerns, and serials had where comics always can be spotted moonlighting in major supporting roles far more often than in the A-pictures. It’s still an entertaining bit of nonsense, probably taken less seriously by it’s makers than the comedies they produced. (RMR)”
And as well as the above mentioned comedians, the shorts also feature silent stars and performers like Grace Cunard, Dick Hatton, Jack Mower, George Larkin, Edmund Cobb, Lafe McKee, Kathryn McGuire, Tui Lorraine, Josephine Hill, and Florence Ulrich, as well as several Fearless’s (they seem to change dogs every few films).
Definitely worth grabbing, and worth watching.
RICHARD M ROBERTS
So you want to discuss silent drama, science fiction, horror, noir, mystery and other NON-COMEDY films? Look no further, this is the place.
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