Cut to the Chase, a two-disc collection released by Milestone back in November of 2011 containing sixteen one- and two-reel comedies from the comedian whose life Robert Youngson so succinctly described as “one long embarrassing moment.” The Milestone release has been a long time coming—it was announced as far back as 2005…but all things come to those who wait.
Several of the shorts in this collection have been released in other sets by other companies, notably VCI’s excellent Becoming Charley Chase (which I reviewed here) and the Kino-Lorber Charley Chase collections, Volumes 1 and 2. Truth be told, there was really only two shorts on this set that I had not previously seen…one of them that I conveniently swiped for the title of this post, a 1926 short supplied courtesy from the John Hampton Collection of the Stanford Theater Foundation.
In Charley My Boy!, Mr. Chase is a newly-hired clerk whose boss (Walter James) wants his daughter (Katherine Grant) to marry an old coot (William Courtright) also named “Charley.” A mix-up occurs when Chase receives a dinner invite meant for Coot Charley…and to make things more interesting, a co-worker (Sidney D’Albrook) has slipped our hero several sleeping pills into his glass of milk. It’s a very funny entry in Charley’s silent oeuvre, directed by Leo McCarey with gags by Stan Laurel—my favorite bit has Charley trying to hide from a nosy cop (Fred Kelsey) the fact that Grant’s car is parked near a fire hydrant; Kelsey turns up in quite a few of Chase’s silent comedies (Dog Shy, Crazy Like a Fox) and also worked alongside him in shorts produced at both Hal Roach and Columbia as well.
Charley Chase – Retour de Flamme.
Charley Chase Shorts, Volume 1. (They must be mad that Milestone came up with the more creative title first). This collection contains nine shorts originally produced at
between 1937 and 1940 (Chase passed away in this last year, acute alcoholism
taking its toll at the age of 46), eight of which feature Charley and one that
he directed (though he does have a voice cameo). The set contains several shorts considered by
his fans to be classics, including Rattling
Romeo (1939) and The Heckler
(1940), and some that aren’t necessarily as warmly embraced, like Man Bites Lovebug (1937) and The Mind Needer (1938). (I think these two shorts are among the
weakest in Charley’s Columbia
catalog; Ed Watz, co-author of the invaluable reference work The Columbia Comedy Shorts, respectably
on the Shemp Howard shorts that were released by Sony last year that oftentimes watching a superior print of these comedies can change one’s opinion of them—and I definitely feel this is the case with this Charley Chase collection; I’m starting to see why so many people are fond of Rattling Romeo even though my previous reaction was kind of mixed. I’m sad to report that I’ve heard conflicting stories on whether or not the studio plans to release any more of these comedies (the best argument I’ve heard “for” is that it doesn’t make sense to title something “Volume 1” if “Volume 2” is planned afterward) so my advice to you is if you’re a Charley Chase fan, you definitely don’t want this to get away. (Well, actually…both of them.)