"Billy Whiskers" (1922)

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Matt Barry
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"Billy Whiskers" (1922)

Postby Matt Barry » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:22 pm

Does anyone have any info on this series? I came across these shorts on an old VHS tape with some other early films from Video Yesteryear. The notes indicate that they were produced by Hans A. Spanuth and are dated 1922. The video consists of four very short subjects: "The Life of a Fireman," "The Soda Water Clerk," "In the Taxi Business," and "In Bed With the Police."

I haven't been able to find any further info on these four shorts, though IMDB has a listing for one entry in the series from 1920, with a review that indicates that it was shot in Chicago. Is there any information about the cast and crew available, or how many shorts were produced as part of this series?



Thanks in advance for any information,
Matt
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Richard M Roberts
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Re: "Billy Whiskers" (1922)

Postby Richard M Roberts » Wed Aug 02, 2017 12:46 am

There isn’t a heck of a lot to tell, this was an independent series produced by Harry A Spanuth under his Commonwealth Pictures Corp in Chicago in early 1920, based on a series of childrens books by Frances Trego Montgomery. Spanuth hit the trades with little publicity bits on the series in the Spring of 1920, mostly in attempts to sell the series to various states-rights distributors, but it is questionable as to how many or what exchanges picked them up. Spanuth claimed to have produced a season of two-reelers in 1920, but there really have been only three that we’ve ever found record, and the Library of Congress has at least two of them. There seems to be one just called BILLY WHISKERS, then BILLY WHISKERS BUTTS INTO THE MOVIES, and then perhaps one with a circus theme.

We ran the one that was just titled BILLY WHISKERS as the chaser in the 2005 Slapsticon special program at the National Gallery of Art (some of this short is in the cutdowns you have on Youtube, I recall the part with Billy Whiskers driving the car being part of that) and though I warned the packed National Gallery Audience about the short, it actually went over well (though I did have people come up to me concerned about the goat looking like it had it’s hooves glued to the steering wheel).

Though Spanuth put more stories in the trades referring to a new series of Billy Whiskers one-reelers in early 1921 to follow the “successful” series of two-reelers the year before, I think the telling true story of the series “success” is in the fact that the only other advertising found on the films are non-theatrical prints on the shorts that start appearing as early as late 1921 (and these seem to be one-reel versions of the same three two-reelers). Those 100 foot versions came out in the mid-1920’s from the U.S. Personal Film Trading Company out of Chicago, an early home movie distributor that former Essanay mogul George K. Spoor had a hand in, that also released some early Essanay titles in these 100 foot versions. They are beautiful quality, probably from original negatives, and these cutdowns on the Billy Whiskers all seem to derive from the same three two-reelers.

Maybe Steve Massa has more on the shorts, but how much attention they really deserve, who can say---it’s a goat. They’re okay for obscure independent comedies with an animal, but I think Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd (and even Snooky the Humanzee) don’t need to feel threatened.

RICHARD M ROBERTS

Matt Barry
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Re: "Billy Whiskers" (1922)

Postby Matt Barry » Wed Aug 02, 2017 1:40 pm

Hi Richard,

Thanks for this information. These little films at the end of this tape were a bit of a mystery to me over the years -- good to know more about them.

Best regards,
Matt
Matt Barry

Richard M Roberts
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Posts: 1880
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 6:30 pm

Re: "Billy Whiskers" (1922)

Postby Richard M Roberts » Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:36 pm

Matt Barry wrote:Hi Richard,

Thanks for this information. These little films at the end of this tape were a bit of a mystery to me over the years -- good to know more about them.

Best regards,
Matt


You're welcome Matt, and BTW, yes, the titles Steve Massa mentioned are indeed the titles of the 100 foot cutdown versions, not the original release titles.

RICHARD M ROBERTS


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