Paramount, 1924. Directed by
James Cruze, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Camera: Karl Brown. With
"Fatty" Arbuckle, Lucien Littlefield, Mary Thurman, John McKinnon,
Clarence Geldert, Harriet Hammond, Allen Durnell, Gertrude Short, Winifred
Greenwood, Maude Wayne.
The story premise is not a lot different in
style from the setup to many of Arbuckle's one- and two-reel features,
just a little more complex. Arbuckle plays nephew to Lucien
Litttlefield's grouchy uncle, and Arbuckle's character is involved in
all kinds of romantic difficulties. He's unable to work things out
with the woman he really loves, and he's pursued by a number of others
whom he doesn't love. All of these entanglements are set up in a
light, fluffy way, which makes for pleasant comedy in itself.
In a shorter movie, the setup would most likely have been followed by a
lot of slapstick and then a quick resolution, and indeed Fatty and the
cast could have done this without difficulty, since he was an expert in
working with that kind of format. But here, the story takes it in
a more complicated and interesting direction, with the main character's
predicament getting more complicated all the time, even as he resorts to
various ruses. The last portion features a pleasantly manic
unraveling of the tangled web that has developed, and it includes some
witty ideas along with the slapstick.
This may not seem all that impressive now, because in the mid- to late
1920s the other silent comedy greats learned to master the full-length
format, leading to many movies that are still among the all-time best
comedies. Given the chance, Arbuckle could well have created his
own comic gems over time. "Leap Year" is only good—not
it would have been a solid first step.
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