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,Down on the Farm

Down on the Farm

A review of the day called the Mack Sennett silent feature Down on the Farm (1920) "a rousing travesty of the b'gosh melodrama." The characters' names as listed in the credits tell all you need to know about the plot: The Farmer (Bert Roach), The Farmer's Daughter (Louise Fazenda), The Rustic Sweetheart (Harry Gribbon), the Sportive Banker With the Mortgage (James Finlayson), The Faithful Wife (Marie Prevost), The Faithful Wife's Husband (Ben Turpin) and The Baby (John Henry, Jr.). There are even credits for Teddy the Dog and Pepper the Cat Comedian.

When the banker comes to collect on the mortgage, he proposes that he take the daughter as payment, but she foils his plot by forging a letter saying she has been compromised by a "Man of Mystery" (Billy Armstrong). When the banker schemes to use the letter to disrupt the daughter's wedding to her sweetheart, he inadvertently lets slip the information that she has inherited $100,000. This allows for a happy ending as the lovers marry and the bride uses her inheritance to pay off the mortgage.

In 1917 Sennett had given up his Keystone trademark and organized his own company, Mack Sennett Comedies Corporation, which produced Down on the Farm. He co-wrote the film along with Ray Gray and Ray Griffith. Gray is credited as director along with Richard Jones and Erle Kenton.

Louise Fazenda had been making her mark in comedy at Sennett's Keystone Studios for several years and was sometimes used by Sennett as a threat to his leading lady and sometimes lover Mabel Normand. Although actually quite attractive, Fazenda's specialty in silent films was playing homely and humorously countrified girls in calico with pigtails and spit curls. She later branched out into drama and would continue acting into the sound era for Warner Bros., Paramount and MGM.

Another prominent Sennett player, cross-eyed Ben Turpin, had formerly been a sidekick to Charlie Chaplin but found Sennett's broad slapstick style more suited to his form of comedy. Marie Prevost had been one of Sennett's bathing beauties and at the time of Down on the Farm was on the brink of the stardom she would enjoy at Universal and Warner Bros.

Producer: Mack Sennett
Director: Ray Gray, Richard Jones, Erle Kenton
Screenplay: Ray Gray, Ray Griffith, Mack Sennett
Cinematography: Perry Evans, Fred Jackman
Cast: Louise Fazenda (Louise - the Farmer's Daughter), Harry Gribbon (The Rustic Sweetheart), Bert Roach (Roach - the Farmer), James Finlayson (The Sportive Banker with the Mortgage), Billy Armstrong (The Man of Mystery), John Henry, Jr. (The Baby), Marie Prevost (The Faithful Wife), Ben Turpin (The Faithful Wife's Husband), Dave Anderson (Grocery Man), Joseph Belmont (The Minister).

by Roger Fristoe



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