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Catalina, Here I Come

Catalina, Here I Come(1927)

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teaser Catalina, Here I Come (1927)

Silent comedy pioneer Mack Sennett had been creating stars since founding Keystone Studios in 1912. There he promoted the careers of such legends as Charles Chaplin, Gloria Swanson and Fatty Arbuckle. He moved the company to Triangle Film Corporation in 1915, but by 1917 had decided to strike out on his own, leaving Keystone with Triangle and creating his own Mack Sennett Comedies Corporation. That company released films through Paramount and First National before moving to Pathe in 1923.

The move had seemed like a good idea, as Pathe's distribution arm had a wide reach, but the company's management problems would come back to haunt him. Nor did it help that by 1923, Sennett's major stars had left him. He would retain only one of his top discoveries, Harry Langdon, during his six years there. The loss of Langdon in 1926 coupled with Pathe's problems led to sinking fortunes for Sennett. Complicating matters was the fact that, unlike rival comedy shorts producer Hal Roach, who also released through Pathe at the time, Sennett had not maintained ownership of his own films. When the two finally left the distributor, Roach's library was still popular enough to earn him a berth at MGM, while Sennett ended his career in bankruptcy.

Even in decline, however, Sennett's comic imagination was fertile. Once considered "lesser" stars, Sennett's leads at the time, particularly Billy Bevan, Andy Clyde and Madeline Hurlock, are ripe for rediscover. In addition, his later films feature then-newcomer Carole Lombard, learning the comic techniques that would make her one of the '30s' top stars. All of their work had a grace and energy that keep his films fresh and entertaining, even almost 90 years after their initial releases.

With Harry Langdon's departure from his studio, Sennett was left with some scenarios that had been developed for the man-child comic. To take his place, he cast Eddie Quillan, a rising young actor later known for supporting roles in such classics as Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and The Grapes of Wrath (1940). In the charming 1927 two-reeler Catalina, Here I Come, Quillan stars as a soda jerk hopelessly smitten with ambitious waitress Madeline Hurlock. When she enters the Catalina Channel Swim against a gold digger who's caught boss Andy Clyde's eye, Quillan and Clyde vie to get their sweeties the title.

The swimming race gave Sennett an excuse to trot out his famous Bathing Beauties, while also including footage of the actual race. Director Earle Rodney had started his career as an actor, appearing opposite Gloria Swanson in Sennett's The Nick of Time Baby (1916) and Whose Baby? (1917) before moving behind the camera in 1925. He works here with Hurlock, formerly one of Langdon's leading ladies, who would retire from the screen with the coming of sound. She would become a leading member of New York's literary community as the wife of two noted playwrights, first Marc Connelly, then Robert Sherwood.

Producer: Mack Sennett
Director: Earle Rodney
Screenplay: Lige Conley, Al Giebler, Harry McCoy, Jefferson Moffitt, Jimmy Starr, Phil Whitman
Cinematography: William Williams
Cast: Madeline Hurlock (Wanda), Eddie Quillan (Eddie), Andy Clyde (Mr. Hamhocks), Alma Bennett (Pearl Minnow), Valery Schramm, Billy Gilbert.

by Frank Miller

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