From 1931 to 1948, beloved character veteran Edgar Kennedy starred in over 100 two-reel comedies for RKO, as part of a franchise originally titled “Mr. Average Man.” Kennedy was hands down one of the finest second bananas in the history of the movies, brightening even the dullest film by merely being in it. He worked for Mack Sennett’s fun factory at the start of his movie career (he often played a Keystone Kop, and worked on a few occasions with Charlie Chaplin), and later freelanced in the 1920s before joining Hal Roach’s “Lot of Fun” toward the end of the decade as a supporting player in the classic comedies headlined by Our Gang, Laurel & Hardy, Charley Chase, and so many more. Edgar even got an opportunity to demonstrate his talents behind the camera, directing such Stan and Ollie romps as From Soup to Nuts (1928) and You’re Darn Tootin’ (1928).
|Harry Harvey, Florence Lake & Edgar in Contest Crazy (1948)|
Volumes One and Two came out in 2010, with Volume Three following three years later and Volume Quatro released this past April. Brian Krey was kind enough to shoot me a screener for Volume 4, which contains ten of Edgar’s two-reel efforts from 1934 to 1946. Some of these are the very textbook definition of “doozy.”
The DVD kicks off with In-Laws are Out (1934), a sidesplitting outing that has Edgar returning home from a business trip to learn from his neighbors that wife Florence (Florence Lake) is kicking him out of the house. The reason? It’s Ed’s hair-trigger temper, which is always activated by his interactions with his sponging mother-in-law (Dot Farley) and brother-in-law (Billy Eugene). Florence makes her husband promise that he’ll keep his anger managed…otherwise he’s out the door. His in-laws scheme to make him blow his top, so between those two and a mantle clock he’s purchased that refuses to chime properly, Kennedy’s disposition is continually challenged. One of the best gags in this comedy (directed by Jules White’s brother Sam and co-written by Arthur Ripley) has Edgar trudging up the stairs in his house with a priceless vase and some blankets blocking his view of what’s ahead of him…and Eugene placing a stepladder at the top of the staircase, resulting in Edgar’s continued climb. The first time Kennedy makes the trip he’s stopped by Florence before he falls off the ladder…but on the second go-round, he falls right through the floor and emerges (somehow with the vase intact) from a room below the staircase landing.
|Florence & Jack Rice scheme behind Edgar's back|
|Florence, Paul Maxey, Dot Farley, Jack, Harry Strang & Edgar|
in Brother Knows Best (1948)
|Edgar & Florence in Poisoned Ivory (1934)|
|Edgar Hamlet (1935)|
|Edgar & Vivien Oakland|
|An interesting trade ad for A Clean Sweep (1938): Edgar doesn't have a mustache in this short, and the other male character (Eddie Dunn) never interacts with Vivien's Mrs. K.|
|Vivien looks over the mess the Kennedy clan made in her kitchen in Home Canning (1948), the penultimate short in the Edgar Kennedy "Average Man" series.|