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Mack Sennett - TCM Spotlight
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Remind Me

Saturday Afternoon

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.

Sennett's last great comic star, Harry Langdon, is at his best in the 1926 three-reeler Saturday Afternoon. He stars as a henpecked husband who sneaks out for a wild night with best friend Vernon Dent. As they get mixed up with crooks, toughs and streetwalkers, the evening spirals into confusion, with Langdon's baby-faced character at a loss to figure out exactly what is going on, even when he's suspended between two speeding cars.

Langdon was a stage success before coming to the movies. After a series of shorts for the cash-strapped Principal Pictures, he landed with Sennett in 1923, making his debut there in Smile Please (1923). Working with director Harry Edwards and writers Frank Capra and Arthur Ripley, he honed his characterization of the perplexed man-child to a fine point, taking time to react in the middle of the Sennett Corporation's usual madcap, fast-paced situations. The same year he appeared in Saturday Afternoon, Langdon would break from Sennett to produce his own feature-length comedies, enjoying a huge hit with the first, Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1926).

Producer: Mack Sennett
Director: Harry Edwards
Screenplay: Arthur Ripley, Frank Capra, Al Giebler
Cinematography: William Williams
Cast: Harry Langdon (Harry Higgins), Alice Ward (Mrs. Harry Higgins), Vernon Dent (Steve Smith), Ruth Hiatt (Pearl), Peggy Montgomery (Ruby), Leo Willis (Rival Boyfriend).
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by Frank Miller VIEW TCMDb ENTRY

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