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Charley Chase
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Spotlight on Charley Chase

Actor/director/screenwriter Charley Chase (1893-1940) is often considered an unsung hero in the field of movie comedy. Baltimore-born Chase achieved his greatest popularity as a comic in a series of two-reel comedies of the mid-1920s in which he most often played a dapper but shy man-about-town or a mild-mannered, henpecked husband. Before that, Chase had paid his dues in vaudeville and as a supporting actor in Mack Sennett comedies, including several starring Charlie Chaplin. In 1915 Chase began directing some of his own comedies as well of those of Fatty Arbuckle and Ford Sterling. Under his real name, Charles Parrott, he directed some of the most inventive comedies from the Hal Roach Studios with such featured comics as Snub Pollard.

Working in collaboration with director Leo McCarey in the mid-1920s, Chase created what are considered some of the cleverest two-reel comedies of their day: The Fraidy Cat (1924) marked the movie debut of the Little Rascals, and has them tormenting Charley until he fights back. In Bad Boy (1925), he's a shy guy who ends up performing a parody of an Isadora Duncan dance. Chase, who mentored both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, plays Hardy's brother-in-law in Isn't Life Terrible? (1925), where their misadventures include a voyage on an ocean liner headed for the scrapyard. In Mighty Like a Moose (1926), Chase and Vivien Oakland play Mr. and Mrs. Moose, who each improve their appearance so much they don't recognize each other and arrange for what they believe will be an illicit rendezvous. In Long Fliv the King (1926), Martha Sleeper plays a princess who can't become queen until she is married -- and chooses Charley because he is soon to be executed. Hardy returns in the small role of an assistant to the prime minister of Uvocado, who is alarmed when Charley is pardoned and takes his place as the princess's husband.

Chase, who had a pleasant voice in both speech and song, made the transition to talkies, playing supporting roles in features while continuing to act in and direct comedy shorts. He died prematurely at age 46 of a heart attack; alcoholism was said to be a contributing factor.

The films in TCM's salute to Charley Chase are The Fraidy Cat (1924), Bad Boy (1925), Isn't Life Terrible? (1925), The Caretaker's Daughter (1925), The Uneasy Three (1925), What Price Goofy (1925), Innocent Husbands (1925), Long Fliv the King (1926), Mighty Like a Moose (1926), Bromo and Juliet (1926), Be Your Age (1926), Mama Behave (1926), Mum's the Word (1926) and Dog Shy (1926).

by Roger Fristoe

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