Arts & Culture » Comedy Critic's Choice

"The Return of Charley Chase" and "Highlighting Max Davidson"

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Charley Chase and Max Davidson, who starred in silent comedies produced by Hal Roach, lack the formal precision of Buster Keaton or the humanism of Charlie Chaplin, but they'll remind you of what's exciting about American silent comedy. Though the films' loose plots are often little more than a framework on which to hang sight gags, a powerful rhythm propels the action from one situation to another with an inevitability that narrative logic hardly justifies. The dramatic sense of movement in these early moving pictures entrances the viewer into accepting, even enjoying, whatever happens--an important characteristic of most subsequent Hollywood filmmaking. In one of the films being shown, A Treat for the Boys, Charley Chase escapes the paws of an angry lion by pulling out a painful splinter, for which the lion gently pats him on the head; soon after we see Chase suspended in the air by a hook that holds him just above a galloping horse. The landscape spins rapidly behind him, everything in the image subsumed by speed. "The Return of Charley Chase" at 1:30 and "Highlighting Max Davidson" at 3:45 will both be introduced by film historian William K. Everson and accompanied by pianist David Drazin. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, February 12, 443-3737.

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