Arbuckle Gags in B Westerns

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Richard M Roberts
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Arbuckle Gags in B Westerns

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:29 pm

Was watching the 1945 PRC western SHADOWS OF DEATH today and it was fun watching Al "Fuzzy" St. John recycling a number of the Barber gags from THE BELLBOY (1918) and elsewhere. He even did the "shaving the bearded guy into Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln" bit, but stopped before doing Kaiser Wilhelm, I guess he might have changed it to Hitler, but that would have been equally anachronistic for a western too.

We've been going through a number of good B Westerns of late, and it's marvelous to see both St. John in the PRC's and Andy Clyde in the Hopalong Cassidys keeping the Silent Comedy Traditions alive in the Saddle.

RICHARD M ROBERTS

Annichen Skaren
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Re: Arbuckle Gags in B Westerns

Postby Annichen Skaren » Sat Oct 06, 2012 10:31 pm

Al often pull out his silent day gags in the westerns.
In Outlaw Country (1949) he did both headspin and 360 frontflip.
He could still do many of those really crazy falls well into his 50s as well as his bicycle stunts/tricks, but that being said, he hated doing all of it.
He had not much of a choice, nobody would hire him for anything but his stunts and gags.
For the viewer it is a treat though, Al lost a bit of his wonderful hayseed/nut character in the mid/late 20s, but it came back in full bloom in the westerns.
Also, something I found very interesting, sometimes in his westerns he might do a gag that make me think that I could be watching a recycled gag from one of the lost films.
There have been a couple of gags that seemed very "silent comedy", but I have not seen those gags in any of his silents, so, either it could be from one of the lost Arbuckle films or one of Al's own lost ones..or perhaps he just borrowed from someone else, still, made me curious.

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

Re: Arbuckle Gags in B Westerns

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sun Oct 07, 2012 1:02 am

Annichen Skaren wrote:Al often pull out his silent day gags in the westerns.
In Outlaw Country (1949) he did both headspin and 360 frontflip.
He could still do many of those really crazy falls well into his 50s as well as his bicycle stunts/tricks, but that being said, he hated doing all of it.
He had not much of a choice, nobody would hire him for anything but his stunts and gags.
For the viewer it is a treat though, Al lost a bit of his wonderful hayseed/nut character in the mid/late 20s, but it came back in full bloom in the westerns.
Also, something I found very interesting, sometimes in his westerns he might do a gag that make me think that I could be watching a recycled gag from one of the lost films.
There have been a couple of gags that seemed very "silent comedy", but I have not seen those gags in any of his silents, so, either it could be from one of the lost Arbuckle films or one of Al's own lost ones..or perhaps he just borrowed from someone else, still, made me curious.



What do you have info-wise that indicated that AL hated doing B Westerns? I spoke to Buster Crabbe extensively and though Crabbe never thought himself much of making those Westerns for PRC, he had nothing but praise for St. John and said Al loved doing the Western sidekick stuff. Sam Gill told me that when he spoke to Andy Clyde, Clyde was also grateful for getting the California Carlson role at a period in his career when other comedy roles were beginning to dry up.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

Annichen Skaren
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Re: Arbuckle Gags in B Westerns

Postby Annichen Skaren » Sun Oct 07, 2012 4:45 am

Richard M Roberts wrote:

What do you have info-wise that indicated that AL hated doing B Westerns? I spoke to Buster Crabbe extensively and though Crabbe never thought himself much of making those Westerns for PRC, he had nothing but praise for St. John and said Al loved doing the Western sidekick stuff. Sam Gill told me that when he spoke to Andy Clyde, Clyde was also grateful for getting the California Carlson role at a period in his career when other comedy roles were beginning to dry up.


RICHARD M ROBERTS



Slight misunderstanding here, Al did not hate the westerns, he hated performing all the stunts and the painful bike tricks.
He had been having trouble with pain from stunts for many years.
First time I saw him expressing having problems coping with the pain from stunts, was already back in 1919.
But I believe he must have had problems for quite some time before that.
In the late 20s he asked his manager if he could try to get him some comedy, or other film work, without stunts, but nobody wanted him for his acting skills or just to do non-physical comedy.
That was the main reason why he ended up doing bit parts for all those talkies..also the money was not bad.
But, back to westerns, no, Al loved working, he was a busy body, it seems like he was very happy to go back to being a comedian in the westerns after all the talkies, thing is, he also often talked in quite a negative way about being an actor and the movie business.
I will go into detail about all this in the book I am currently writing about Al, a exciting project , the research is going very well and I have already good material on most parts of his life.
But obviously my writing skills is in need of quite a bit of fine tuning.

Richard M Roberts
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Posts: 2364
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 6:30 pm

Re: Arbuckle Gags in B Westerns

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sun Oct 07, 2012 8:46 am

Annichen Skaren wrote:
Slight misunderstanding here, Al did not hate the westerns, he hated performing all the stunts and the painful bike tricks.
He had been having trouble with pain from stunts for many years.
First time I saw him expressing having problems coping with the pain from stunts, was already back in 1919.
But I believe he must have had problems for quite some time before that.
In the late 20s he asked his manager if he could try to get him some comedy, or other film work, without stunts, but nobody wanted him for his acting skills or just to do non-physical comedy.
That was the main reason why he ended up doing bit parts for all those talkies..also the money was not bad.
But, back to westerns, no, Al loved working, he was a busy body, it seems like he was very happy to go back to being a comedian in the westerns after all the talkies, thing is, he also often talked in quite a negative way about being an actor and the movie business.


I think all professionals in the Movie Business feel that way, and they're right, it is and was a very hard, cruel, and nerve-wracking business to be in. And there is nobody ever more messed-up physically than old Comedians and old Dancers. My friend Geoff Hoyle, who is a living comic practitioner, former Founder of the Pickle Family Circus and partner of Bill Irwin, is now in his 60's, can still do amazing comic turns and feats of physical madcap on stage, and moves around like a very sore 60 year old offstage. Lupino Lane could still do the falls and flips when he was appearing live in ME AND MY GIRL at the Victoria Palace in 1952, but he walked with a cane offstage. Physical Comics will do that kind of stuff until their planted, but they feel it, and pay a serious price.

The money was indeed good for a busy bit player during the Depression Era and onward. Thats how many old comics like Jimmy Aubrey, George Davis, Chester Conklin, Hank Mann,Snub Pollard, many others, continued to live comfortably for decades. And the B Westerns and Serials kept many other former comics still quite busy. Charles King, one of the busiest villains in Westerns, had started as a comic at Universal, Arrow, Roach, and elsewhere in the 20's. Ernie Adams started in the Fox Sunshine Comedies in the early 20's, and logged in over 300 credits playing many a weasel and henchman in both Westerns and Serials. And many Western heavies also did double-duty in comedies as well, Charles MIddleton, Leo Willis, Bob Kortman or Rychard Cramer might menace Laurel and Hardy one week, Hoot Gibson the next. Far more people remembered both Al St. John and Andy Clyde for their work in Westerns than they do for their work in short comedies.



RICHARD M ROBERTS


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