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The Dare-Devil (1923)

Not Rated | | Short, Comedy | 25 November 1923 (USA)
The movie makers are filming the next installment of the western serial, "Get Your Man". The movie's leading man wants his stunt double to do the next dangerous stunt. Purely by accident, a... See full summary »

Director:

Del Lord

Writers:

Mack Sennett, Rob Wagner (story)
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Cast

Credited cast:
Ben Turpin ... Joe Magee - the Dare-Devil
Harry Gribbon ... The Movie Director
John J. Richardson ... The Leading Man (as Jack Richardson)
Kewpie Morgan ... The Leading Man's Chief Support
Madeline Hurlock ... The Leading Lady
Irene Irene ... The Second Heroine (as Irene Lentz)
Gordon Lewis Gordon Lewis ... The Assistant Director
Art Rowlands Art Rowlands ... The Assistant Cameraman (as Arthur Rowlands)
Andy Clyde ... The Scenery Mover
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Robert H. Wagner Robert H. Wagner ... The Cameraman
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Storyline

The movie makers are filming the next installment of the western serial, "Get Your Man". The movie's leading man wants his stunt double to do the next dangerous stunt. Purely by accident, a hapless, cross-eyed aspiring actor named Joe Magee ends up doing the stunt perfectly. He ends up doing dangerous stunt after stunt, all by accident, that fit the movie so perfectly that the movie's leading lady wants him in the picture. The exasperated director finds that getting Joe to do the stunts on command is an entirely different story. Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Short | Comedy

Certificate:

Not Rated
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 November 1923 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Andoche fait du ciné See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Mack Sennett Comedies See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Connections

Featured in Film Breaks: The Silent Comics (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Ben Turpin : An Appreciation, sort of
5 May 2007 | by wmorrow59See all my reviews

When Life magazine ran James Agee's comprehensive essay on silent film comedy in 1949, the piece almost single-handedly revived interest in the era's comedians. This was especially the case with the four men Agee placed at the top of the Silent Comedy Pantheon: Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd and Langdon. The article was the issue's cover story, and yet when it was time for the editors to choose a cover photo they selected a portrait of a second-tier comic Agee mentioned only in passing, a low-comedy buffoon who, even in his heyday, was never mistaken for an artiste: Ben Turpin. An enormous (and rather scary) close-up of the cross-eyed Mr. Turpin decorated newsstands and parlor tables for a week in September of '49, nine years after his death and some twenty years after his last starring appearance in a silent comedy. Maybe he wasn't one of the giants, but apparently the editors felt that Ben's face represented the spirit of the era better than any of his more gifted contemporaries. Indeed, almost from the moment talkies came in, Ben had been regarded as a kind of instant nostalgia figure, frequently popping up in cameos where he was required to do little more than display his unmistakable mug and supply a touch of that Old Time Comedy mojo.

As a lifelong Chaplin fan I developed something of a grudge against Ben Turpin at an early age, when I first learned about their relationship. When Chaplin arrived at Essanay in 1915 he teamed up with Turpin in a couple of short comedies, but the two men didn't get along. Apparently Ben couldn't deal with Chaplin's perfectionism, and didn't understand why he demanded take after take of every scene. I considered this proof that Turpin was a hack comic who didn't care about results, and when I watched his films occasionally I never found him especially funny; he was just an odd little geezer who would get thrust into unlikely situations, sometimes dressed up as Valentino or Erich Von Stroheim. Wit seemed to be in short supply in Turpin's movies, and as a performer he was usually the butt of the jokes, rarely the source of comedy himself.

Recently however, when I read Simon Louvish's biography of Mack Sennett, I wondered if I'd misjudged Ben Turpin. Louvish paints him sympathetically, as a good-hearted guy deeply concerned with the care of his invalid wife. He emphasized that Turpin was hugely popular with audiences of the early '20s, and that his films served as the Sennett Studio's bread-and-butter product during a difficult time. For what it's worth, Turpin was also smarter than he looked, and was one of the few Sennett alumni to invest his money wisely; he left a healthy estate, unlike most of his colleagues -- including Mack Sennett himself. When I sat down to watch a Turpin short recently I did so with an attempt at a fresh perspective.

As it happens, The Daredevil is an amusing, enjoyable satire that offers a special bonus for silent film buffs: this is a movie entirely concerned with movie-making, and as such it provides a lot of cute inside jokes and interesting shots of the Sennett Studio back-lot. Ben plays a fellow named Joe Magee who is signed to a movie contract by crazed director Harry Gribbon, who is impressed by Joe's public demonstration of bronco busting. What Harry doesn't know is that Joe clung to his saddle so well because -- due to a series of unlikely circumstances -- he was stuck to it with hot tar. But no matter, Joe Magee is in the movies now! He's quickly assigned to a Yukon picture where he must sport an absurd, furry hat, while the leading lady in this supposedly rough setting wears a silk dress more suitable to a Manhattan night club. (That's as subtle as the satire gets.) True to form, our hero clashes with his co-stars, ruins takes, and gets chased around the studio. In the most well-known sequence, one that's been excerpted in at least two silent comedy compilations, Turpin is tied to a post while water steadily fills the room where he's held captive; at this point, however, word arrives that a building downtown is on fire, so the director and his entire crew hoist the cameras and race to the scene to capture the real-life action (something the Sennett crew would actually do, on occasion) leaving Ben forgotten, tied in place to drown. Eventually, Ben makes his way to the burning building where he performs a feat of genuine if inadvertent heroism, rescues the leading lady, and manages to get even with the director --again, accidentally.

This is a fun comedy, but it didn't radically alter my opinion of Ben Turpin as a comedian. As usual, he is more bystander than hero (witness the near-drowning bit), funny because of his appearance and the situation he's in rather than any inherent skill he possessed as a performer. The guy could take a fall, that's for sure, but we never get a hint of the specialized physical comedy we get from Chaplin, Keaton, or Langdon, those idiosyncratic moves only they could make, nor do we ever discern any Harold Lloyd-style, basic likability. Ben Turpin was a funny-looking guy who was put in funny situations, period. When the material is engaging, as it generally is in The Daredevil, Turpin is amusing, but even here he's little more than that familiar, odd little geezer with the crossed eyes. Unsung Sennett stalwart Harry Gribbon, who plays Ben's director, is the real star of this film: his manic energy drives the action more than Turpin's strange passivity. In his wild-eyed determination to capture scene after ridiculous scene on celluloid, Gribbon serves as a stand-in for Mack Sennett and gives us a more vivid symbol of silent comedy's spirit than the film's nominal star. Maybe it's Harry Gribbon who should have been on the cover of Life!


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