The World of Charley Chase

The World of Charley Chase

UPDATED OCTOBER 3, 2013


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Welcome to THE WORLD OF CHARLEY CHASE, the first and only Charley Chase website. Charley Chase was an incredibly prolific star comedian of the 1920s and 1930s who produced hundreds of short comedies in both the silent and the sound eras. His work behind the scenes as a writer/director of his own films and of countless others has cemented his reputation as one of the principal architects of early film comedy. Established in 1996, this website is intended to serve both early cinema aficionados as well as those less familiar with this comic pioneer.

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"Cut to the Chase: The Charley Chase Comedy Collection" (Milestone Films)

Review of the new two-disc set of Chase silents


Charley Chase in "What Women Did For Me"

Stan Taffel on a rare 1927 two-reeler


Katherine Grant: A Brief Biography

The life of leading lady Katherine Grant, courtesy of film researcher Bill Cappello


"Now That's News!"

Sony Releasing a Second Volume of Charley Chase Columbia Comedies

It has recently been announced that Sony is releasing a second volume of Charley Chase's Columbia comedy shorts after the success of the first disc earlier this year. Like its predecessor, this will be a manufactured on demand (MOD) DVD-R release, and will feature the rest of Chase's Columbia shorts: The Big Squirt (1937), Calling All Doctors (1937), From Bad to Worse (1937), The Grand Hooter (1937), His Bridal Fright (1940), Many Sappy Returns (1938), The Nightshirt Bandit (1938), Pie a la Maid (1938), The Sap Takes a Wrap (1939), Teacher's Pest (1939), Time Out for Trouble (1938), and The Wrong Miss Wright (1937). Pre-orders are currently being accepted at ClassicFlix.

New and Notable Books

This is proving to be a banner year for books on early film comedy, with the recent and forthcoming publication of a few long-awaited tomes:

Steve Massa's Lame Brains and Lunatics is a meticulously researched examination of "the good, the bad, and the forgotten of silent comedy" by one of the leading experts in the field, featuring profiles of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Mack Sennett, W. C. Fields, Marie Dressler, and lesser known performers such as comediennes Alice Howell and Gale Henry, as well as Marcel Perez, Billie Ritchie, George Rowe, and many others. A chapter that will be of great interest to Charley Chase fans is a detailed study of Chase's career as a director (under his real name, Charles Parrott), and another on Hal Roach colleague Max Davidson and his on-screen family.

Richard M. Roberts's Smileage Guaranteed: Past Humor Present Laughter, The Comedy Film Industry, 1910-1945, Volume One: Hal Roach is a history of the Hal Roach Studio with an emphasis on overlooked yet influential figures such as Chase, Davidson, and Snub Pollard, as well as those who had made the "Lot of Fun" their home only briefly, like Mabel Normand and Harry Langdon. Lavishly illustrated and boasting a thorough Hal Roach filmography, the book provides further insight into one of the premiere comedy studios of the golden age, with the promise of two more volumes to come on the comedy film industry during this period.

James L. Neibaur's The Charley Chase Talkies, 1929-1940, to be published in September, is a film-by-film analysis of the 79 sound-era short subjects that Chase turned out at Hal Roach and Columbia Studios. The first full-length book on the comedian's talkies - with many of these Roach shorts having aired on Turner Classic Movies in the past few years, and the Columbias released on DVD earlier in 2013 - this will be a must-have for Chase aficionados and enthusiasts of early sound comedy alike.

"Sons of the Desert", with Laurel & Hardy and Charley Chase, Selected for National Film Registry

The Library of Congress has announced the 25 films inducted into the 2012 National Film Registry, and among them is Sons of the Desert, the Laurel and Hardy feature film in which Charley Chase plays a 'darb' of a supporting role. The duo's 1933 comedy is often ranked as one of their best features, in part due to an iconic scene between Chase and his fellow Hal Roach Studio colleagues at a rowdy convention of their fraternal lodge. Each year, the Library of Congress selects twenty-five American films that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" for inclusion in the list. This film is the third Laurel and Hardy comedy included in the Registry, after their celebrated silent Big Business (1929) and their talkie masterpiece The Music Box (1932). Sons of the Desert is also the third film inducted into the National Film Registry featuring Charley Chase, the others being Mabel's Blunder (1914) - an early Keystone one-reeler starring Mabel Normand which features a young Charles Parrott in its supporting cast - as well as Chase's own silent classic Mighty Like a Moose (1926). For more on the National Film Registry and this year's inducted films, see the Library of Congress website.

Charley Chase Columbia Comedies Released on DVD

After many fans and early film comedy enthusiasts supported a petition urging for their release, some of Charley Chase's talkie shorts for Columbia Pictures have finally made it to DVD. Sony's "Charley Chase Shorts: Volume 1" includes Man Bites Lovebug, The Mind Needer, The Chump Takes a Bump, Rattling Romeo, Skinny the Moocher, The Awful Goof, South of the Boudoir, and the all-time classic The Heckler, as well as A Nag in the Bag, which Chase directed for comedy team Smith & Dale. On the heels of Milestone's recent "Cut to the Chase" set, Charley Chase's work is getting some well-deserved attention as of late; it is hoped that this release will lead to subsequent volumes of Chase's Columbia shorts, and also perhaps a critical reevaluation of the comedian's often neglected late-period work. Sony's disc of Charley Chase Columbias is available for purchase on Amazon.

Milestone's "Cut to the Chase" Collection

Milestone Films has recently released Cut to the Chase: The Charley Chase Comedy Collection. The long delayed, much anticipated two-disc DVD set is comprised of sixteen restored Charley Chase silent comedies produced at the Hal Roach Studios during the comedian's heyday in the mid-1920s. Milestone's collection features classic two-reelers such as The Caretakers Daughter, What Price Goofy?, Mighty Like a Moose, and Dog Shy - as well as the rare Charley My Boy and The Uneasy Three, among others. Musical scores for these comedies are provided by some of the biggest names in the business: The Mont Alto Orchestra, David Drazin, Donald Sosin, Dave Knutsen, and Ben Model. All in all, Milestone's Charley Chase collection boasts over five hours of inspired comedy from Chase's golden period - its release is certainly terrific news for Chase fans and classic comedy enthusiasts. A complete contents list is available through Milestone Films. Read this website's review.

Behind the Scenes with Laurel & Hardy and Charley Chase

A recently uncovered home movie featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the Hal Roach Studios from March 1928 has recently gone viral among classic comedy aficionados. Produced by George Mann (of the popular dance act Barto and Mann), the film includes Laurel and Hardy clowning around while on location for their comedy Should Married Men Go Home? (1928). The home movie also includes moments with some of the co-stars of the film - such as the great Edgar Kennedy - as well as Chase leading ladies Edna Marion and Viola Richard. The latter had memorably appeared in Chase's Limousine Love (1928), filmed just the previous month; poignantly, it was around this time that both Marion and Richard were notified that this L&H two-reeler would be their last Hal Roach comedy. Later, we see George Mann cavorting around the Roach studio backlot - on a street set that is instantly recognizable, having been used in countless short comedies produced by the studio during this period. Mann also boards the "S.S. Mirimar," a fake ocean liner set that can be seen in such Chase films as Looking for Sally (1925) and Long Fliv the King (1926). Near the end, Charley Chase makes a welcome cameo, dancing with George Mann; this was likely shot not long after Chase wrapped filming on the now-lost The Fight Pest (1928). Any behind the scenes footage of Charley Chase, Laurel and Hardy, and the Roach studio backlot is incredibly rare - and the discovery of this home movie is certainly a cause for celebration. Here it is in its entirety:

The Multi-Talented Martha Sleeper

Bob Duncan has written a fascinating article on Martha Sleeper for the SilentHollywood.com website. The charming Ms. Sleeper had appeared alongside Charley Chase in his Too Many Mammas (1924), Bad Boy (1925), Crazy Like a Fox (1926), and Fluttering Hearts (1927), among others entries, as well as with Max Davidson in his classic Pass the Gravy (1928). As Mr. Duncan's article amply demonstrates, Sleeper's life after her years in Hollywood is just as interesting as her experience as a teenage ingenue in slapstick two-reelers of the 1920s. Be sure to check out this excellent piece on one of Charley Chase's finest leading ladies.

Petition to Release Charley Chase's Columbia Comedy Shorts on DVD

All twenty of Charley Chase's films for Columbia Pictures (1937-40) have been restored and preserved in 35mm prints by Sony Pictures Entertainment, which is currently considering releasing these classic comedies in an upcoming DVD set. An online petition has been created to show that there is interest in these culturally significant and very entertaining films.

Please take a quick moment to sign the online petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/charleychasecolumbiashorts so that these priceless comedies can finally be released on DVD.

All Day/VCI's Becoming Charley Chase DVD Set

The four-disc DVD collection Becoming Charley Chase was released in July 2009. The All Day Entertainment-produced set, distributed by VCI Entertainment, features Chase's early work at Mack Sennett's Keystone Studio, his directorial efforts of the 1910s and '20s, as well as the extant run of his one-reel Jimmy Jump shorts plus a few early two-reelers. Here is a full list of the DVD set's contents; all in all, the set boasts over forty short comedies, with all shorts supplemented by audio commentaries by various film scholars. The comedies included in this collection do not overlap with any previous Charley Chase DVD release. Click here to access All Day's online booklet for Becoming Charley Chase (opens in Adobe), which features liner notes, rare photographs, production credits, and essays. You can order Becoming Charley Chase directly from VCI.

This DVD set has received some good publicity thanks to positive write-ups in The New York Times, DVD Talk, The Los Angeles Times, Rogue Cinema, Examiner.com, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, and Filmcritic.com.


Feel free to browse the following pages on this site:

Biography of Charley Chase

The Charley Chase Filmography

and a Filmography of Extant Charley Chase Films

Articles and Essays / Articles on Selected Films / Book/DVD Reviews

The Charley Chase Picture Galleries

A Guide to Charley Chase on DVD

Charley Chase Miscellany

Links


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A big thanks to the following individuals, who have contributed greatly to the creation and content of this website:

Chris Seguin, Stan Taffel, Steve Mazoki, Robert Farr, Steven Lederman, John V. Brennan, and Cole Johnson.


Copyright (c) Yair Solan, 1996-2013. All Rights Reserved.

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