Thursday, August 17, 2006

Requiem for a Professional Patsy

Reader Greg G. has brought to my attention this incredible new Lloyd Hamilton DVD set from Looser Than Loose. "Ham" Hamilton will be familar to anyone who has read Walter Kerr's indespensible critical history of silent comedy, The Silent Clowns. In it, Kerr deftly analyzes Hamilton's Move Along (1926), presenting it as an example of the strengths of quirks of silent comedy as a whole. Lloyd Hamilton's best known character, the vaguely prissy, precise, and put-upon sap of his 1920s shorts, was plainly the inspiration for Jackie Gleason's "Poor Soul" right down to the flat cap. Despite his strong popularity and respect within the industry for his talents (Keaton once referred to Ham as "one of the funniest men in silent pictures."), attempts to move into features met with very limited success, leaving Hamilton largely confined to Educational shorts until his untimely death in 1935 from complications following stomach surgery. As Glenn Mitchell writes in A-Z of Silent Film Comedy, Hamilton also had the severe misfortune of having worked for studios "with the worst survival rate." The vast bulk of what must have been Ham's finest work, his 1920s Educational series for director Jack White, went up in flames in the devestating 1937 Fox vault fire, leaving little more than tantalizing fragments of the career of the silent era's most unsung comic talent. The Looser Than Loose set appears to pull together most of what remains, from the early "Ham and Bud" Kalem shorts co-starring the diminutive Bud Duncan (much, much later to appear at Monogram as Snuffy Smith), to the two-reel abridgment of Ham's first feature, His Darker Self (1924), and tosses in a disc of mouth-watering extras besides (drool). Now where'd I put that spare $65...
Disc 1: Ham and Bud, Beyond Redemption and deodorant
"Ham" in a Harem (Kalem, 3/30/15)
"Ham" and the Sausage Factory (Kalem, 2/12/15)
The Spook Raisers (Kalem, 7/29/15)
The Great Detective (Kalem, 7/18/16)
The Love Magnet (Kalem, 10/10/16)
The Deadly Doughnut (Kalem, 4/14/17)
The Bathtub Bandit (Kalem, 10/31/17)
- with Ethel Teare

Disc 2: The Misadventures of a Poor Soul, Part One
Jonah Jones (Educational, 9/21/24)
- with Babe London, Dick Sutherland
Careful Please (Educational, 2/7/26)
- with Louise Carver, Stanley Blystone, Eddie Boland, Glen Cavender
Nobody's Business (Educational, 3/29/26)
- with Dick Sutherland, Stanley Blystone, Eddie Boland
Bonus Features:
Nothing Matters (Educational, 1926)
- with Stanley Blystone, Eddie Boland, Anita Garvin. Reel one only
A Flyer in Flapjacks (Kalem, 2/20/17)
- Ham and Bud with Ethel Teare

Disc 3: The Misadventures of a Poor Soul, Part Two
His Darker Self (G&H, 3/16/24)
Crushed (Educational, 11/23/24)
- with Blanche Payson
Move Along (Educational, 7/25/26)
- with Glen Cavender
Bonus Features:
Hooked (Educational, 2/8/25)
- 16mm fragment: approx. 5 minutes
Good Evening Judge (Kalem, 8/8/16)
- Ham and Bud

Disc 4: Ham Speaks!
Good Morning Sheriff (Educational, 5/18/30)
- with Eddie Baker, Lige Conley
Toot Sweet (Educational, 11/10/29)
- with Will Hays
Don't Be Nervous (Educational, 7/7/29)
- with Heinie Conklin, Dick Sutherland, Glen Cavender, Leo White
Bonus Features:
Hollywood on Parade (6/5/32) - Lloyd Hamilton and a galaxy of stars
The Model Janitor (Kalem, 2/13/17) - Ham and Bud with Ethel Teare

Disc 5: Extras
Bonus Ham and Bud Short: Raskey's Road Show (Kalem, 6/15/15)
April Fool (Educational, 11/21/20)
- directed by Charles Parrott (9.5mm fragment)
Jonah Jones press sheet
Unidentified Ham and Bud
- possibly Rival Fakers (11/21/16)
Oh No! What Happened to Bud Duncan?
Casper's Weekend (F.B.O., 1928)
- with Thelma Hill, Kit Guard
Glass Slide Show
Photo Gallery
Bonus Ham and Bud Short 2: The Phoney Cannibal (Kalem, 4/27/15)
Unidentified Fox Sunshine Clip
- probably from His Musical Sneeze (2/23/19)
Ben Model's Lloyd Hamilton Theme

Liner Notes by Steve Massa
Music tracks digitally restored from vintage recordings by
Looser Than Loose
Original piano theme composed and played by Ben Model

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