Innocent Husbands


1925

Brief Synopsis

In this silent short, an honest husband has to keep his suspicious wife from finding the woman who's passed out in his bedroom.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Short
Silent
Release Date
1925

Synopsis

In this silent short, an honest husband has to keep his suspicious wife from finding the woman who's passed out in his bedroom.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Short
Silent
Release Date
1925

Articles

Innocent Husbands


Before securing a place for himself as director of such beloved comedies as An Affair to Remember (1957) and Going My Way (1944), Leo McCarey earned his chops as a writer and director of slapstick shorts for the Hal Roach Studios. The pace of slapstick was notoriously fast, as was the pace of production. Filmmakers struggled to keep up with the market's demand for comedy, while experimenting with the art form to find the magic combination that could make one of their performers an icon of the genre, like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, or Harold Lloyd.

While at Roach, McCarey had a particularly fruitful collaboration with Charley Chase, and was instrumental in refining Chase's on-screen persona. A comic everyman who might best be described as a more mature, mustachioed Harold Lloyd, Chase alternated between playing eligible bachelors and hen-pecked husbands. One of these formative works was Innocent Husbands (1925) .

Innocent Husbands stars Chase as Melvin ("A young man born on the Fourth of July -- Life has been one big firecracker ever since."). Although faithful to his wife Mame (Katherine Grant), he cannot quell her suspicion that he is cheating on her. While Mame and a friend visit a spiritualist, Melvin tries to enjoy a quiet game of checkers with his friend, a fast-talking playboy (William Gillespie). This leads to Melvin being placed in a hilarious chain of compromising positions, including being in the arms of the man-hungry Mitzi (Kay de Lys). The film's high point is when Melvin crashes his wife's séance and transforms himself into a series of phantoms to try and change his spouse's opinion of him.

Born Charles Joseph Parrott in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1893, Chase began his show biz career as a vaudevillian, moving west in 1912. He first found work at Universal Studios but, as did so many entertainers of his ilk, he ended up at the Keystone Studios. There, producer/director Mack Sennett allowed him to begin developing a personal comic style. At the same time, he learned more about the filmmaking process by becoming a director (under his birth name, Charles Parrott). Chase spent about six years at Keystone before accepting a position at the Hal Roach Studios.

For slapstick aficionados, one of the most fascinating things to watch is an actor's quest for a comic persona. It was largely discovered through trial and error. By watching a performer's lesser-known films, one sees them undergo name changes, brief pairings with other actors, and sometimes radical shifts in comic identity.

When he first signed on with Hal Roach, Chase was primarily working as director, occasionally appearing in films, yet still unable to find his comedic niche. But sometimes it takes an outside opinion to clearly discern one's talents. When Harold Lloyd left the studio in 1923, Roach began grooming Chase to become his replacement. McCarey recognized Chase's strengths, and understood Lloyd's appeal, and began shaping Chase into a character that was similar to Lloyd yet not derivative. For a time, the new character was called Jimmy Jump. But once the persona was fully formed, Charley Chase was simply... Charley Chase.

Chase enjoyed a lengthy and prosperous career in comedy shorts, extending well into the 1930s. According to Leonard Maltin's book Selected Short Subjects, "McCarey and Chase worked together on each comedy in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and produced some of the best silent comedies ever made -- films like Bad Boy (1925), His Wooden Wedding (1925), Dog Shy (1926), Mighty Like a Moose (1926), etc. They established the Chase character: a dapper, basically intelligent but incredibly naive young man who inevitably found himself in some outlandish circumstances through no fault of his own."

Although slapstick fell out of fashion once the talkies took over Hollywood, Chase was among the few veterans of the genre to continue to work -- with consistent success -- through the 1930s, due in part to his pleasant singing voice. Yet Chase never was welcomed into the pantheon of slapstick greats. Actor Billy Gilbert, who was a close friend and occasional co-star with Chase, remembered, "He was a sweet, sad man who felt among other things that his talent was not fully appreciated. He wasn't bitter about it, he just wondered why people didn't rank him with Laurel and Hardy, Keaton, Chaplin, and Lloyd. He knew his style of comedy was more sophisticated than theirs, but he felt that there was an audience for him, too. I think he was ahead of his time."

Contemplating why a comedian of Chase's talent should not be better remembered, Maltin points out that Chase never made a strong effort at features, only shorts. Maltin paraphrases Stan Laurel, who worked with Chase at Roach: "[Chase] never aimed for higher things, he was a king of his domain -- the two-reel comedy."

Chase became increasingly dependent on alcohol in his later years. Gilbert recalled, "He told me that if he couldn't drink, he didn't want to live." Chase died as a result of a heart attack on June 20, 1940.

Unlike Chase, McCarey did not limit himself to one area of expertise. Even within the realm of comedy, he transitioned from silent slapstick to the madcap talkies of the Marx Brothers (Duck Soup [1933]), the feel-good comedy (The Bells of St. Mary's [1945], starring Bing Crosby), and romantic comedy (Love Affair [1939]). The lessons learned working with Chase and other members of the Roach lot provided McCarey with the foundation upon which all varieties of comedy could be constructed.

McCarey only seemed to falter when he abandoned laughs for the sake of social commentary, as he did with two anti-Communist dramas, My Son John (1952) and Satan Never Sleeps (1962). But this was not always the case. McCarey's 1937 drama Make Way for Tomorrow is a deeply unsettling look at the plight of the elderly in modern society, and proves that the director possessed a command over the medium that extended well beyond the boundaries of comedy.

Director: Leo McCarey
Producer: Hal Roach
Screenplay: H.M. Walker
Cinematography: Len Powers
Music by Donald Sosin (2005)
Cast: Charley Chase (Melvin), Katherine Grant (Mame), Lucien Littlefield (The House Detective), Jane Sherman (Mame's Friend), Jimmie Finlayson (The Desk Clerk), William Gillespie (The Bachelor), Kay de Lys (Mitzi).
BW-21m.

by Bret Wood
Innocent Husbands

Innocent Husbands

Before securing a place for himself as director of such beloved comedies as An Affair to Remember (1957) and Going My Way (1944), Leo McCarey earned his chops as a writer and director of slapstick shorts for the Hal Roach Studios. The pace of slapstick was notoriously fast, as was the pace of production. Filmmakers struggled to keep up with the market's demand for comedy, while experimenting with the art form to find the magic combination that could make one of their performers an icon of the genre, like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, or Harold Lloyd. While at Roach, McCarey had a particularly fruitful collaboration with Charley Chase, and was instrumental in refining Chase's on-screen persona. A comic everyman who might best be described as a more mature, mustachioed Harold Lloyd, Chase alternated between playing eligible bachelors and hen-pecked husbands. One of these formative works was Innocent Husbands (1925) . Innocent Husbands stars Chase as Melvin ("A young man born on the Fourth of July -- Life has been one big firecracker ever since."). Although faithful to his wife Mame (Katherine Grant), he cannot quell her suspicion that he is cheating on her. While Mame and a friend visit a spiritualist, Melvin tries to enjoy a quiet game of checkers with his friend, a fast-talking playboy (William Gillespie). This leads to Melvin being placed in a hilarious chain of compromising positions, including being in the arms of the man-hungry Mitzi (Kay de Lys). The film's high point is when Melvin crashes his wife's séance and transforms himself into a series of phantoms to try and change his spouse's opinion of him. Born Charles Joseph Parrott in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1893, Chase began his show biz career as a vaudevillian, moving west in 1912. He first found work at Universal Studios but, as did so many entertainers of his ilk, he ended up at the Keystone Studios. There, producer/director Mack Sennett allowed him to begin developing a personal comic style. At the same time, he learned more about the filmmaking process by becoming a director (under his birth name, Charles Parrott). Chase spent about six years at Keystone before accepting a position at the Hal Roach Studios. For slapstick aficionados, one of the most fascinating things to watch is an actor's quest for a comic persona. It was largely discovered through trial and error. By watching a performer's lesser-known films, one sees them undergo name changes, brief pairings with other actors, and sometimes radical shifts in comic identity. When he first signed on with Hal Roach, Chase was primarily working as director, occasionally appearing in films, yet still unable to find his comedic niche. But sometimes it takes an outside opinion to clearly discern one's talents. When Harold Lloyd left the studio in 1923, Roach began grooming Chase to become his replacement. McCarey recognized Chase's strengths, and understood Lloyd's appeal, and began shaping Chase into a character that was similar to Lloyd yet not derivative. For a time, the new character was called Jimmy Jump. But once the persona was fully formed, Charley Chase was simply... Charley Chase. Chase enjoyed a lengthy and prosperous career in comedy shorts, extending well into the 1930s. According to Leonard Maltin's book Selected Short Subjects, "McCarey and Chase worked together on each comedy in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and produced some of the best silent comedies ever made -- films like Bad Boy (1925), His Wooden Wedding (1925), Dog Shy (1926), Mighty Like a Moose (1926), etc. They established the Chase character: a dapper, basically intelligent but incredibly naive young man who inevitably found himself in some outlandish circumstances through no fault of his own." Although slapstick fell out of fashion once the talkies took over Hollywood, Chase was among the few veterans of the genre to continue to work -- with consistent success -- through the 1930s, due in part to his pleasant singing voice. Yet Chase never was welcomed into the pantheon of slapstick greats. Actor Billy Gilbert, who was a close friend and occasional co-star with Chase, remembered, "He was a sweet, sad man who felt among other things that his talent was not fully appreciated. He wasn't bitter about it, he just wondered why people didn't rank him with Laurel and Hardy, Keaton, Chaplin, and Lloyd. He knew his style of comedy was more sophisticated than theirs, but he felt that there was an audience for him, too. I think he was ahead of his time." Contemplating why a comedian of Chase's talent should not be better remembered, Maltin points out that Chase never made a strong effort at features, only shorts. Maltin paraphrases Stan Laurel, who worked with Chase at Roach: "[Chase] never aimed for higher things, he was a king of his domain -- the two-reel comedy." Chase became increasingly dependent on alcohol in his later years. Gilbert recalled, "He told me that if he couldn't drink, he didn't want to live." Chase died as a result of a heart attack on June 20, 1940. Unlike Chase, McCarey did not limit himself to one area of expertise. Even within the realm of comedy, he transitioned from silent slapstick to the madcap talkies of the Marx Brothers (Duck Soup [1933]), the feel-good comedy (The Bells of St. Mary's [1945], starring Bing Crosby), and romantic comedy (Love Affair [1939]). The lessons learned working with Chase and other members of the Roach lot provided McCarey with the foundation upon which all varieties of comedy could be constructed. McCarey only seemed to falter when he abandoned laughs for the sake of social commentary, as he did with two anti-Communist dramas, My Son John (1952) and Satan Never Sleeps (1962). But this was not always the case. McCarey's 1937 drama Make Way for Tomorrow is a deeply unsettling look at the plight of the elderly in modern society, and proves that the director possessed a command over the medium that extended well beyond the boundaries of comedy. Director: Leo McCarey Producer: Hal Roach Screenplay: H.M. Walker Cinematography: Len Powers Music by Donald Sosin (2005) Cast: Charley Chase (Melvin), Katherine Grant (Mame), Lucien Littlefield (The House Detective), Jane Sherman (Mame's Friend), Jimmie Finlayson (The Desk Clerk), William Gillespie (The Bachelor), Kay de Lys (Mitzi). BW-21m. by Bret Wood

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