In the years after the 1921 scandal that drove him from the screen and destroyed his reputation, Roscoe Arbuckle managed to earn a living as a director for hire. Working under an assumed name, he directed silent shorts with Lloyd Hamilton, Al St. John, Lupino Lane, etc., and feature films starring Marion Davies and Eddie Cantor. When talkies came in, Arbuckle quickly adapted to the new technology and kept on working. Unfortunately, the short he directed in this period that gets the most attention nowadays was far from his best: Windy Riley Goes Hollywood is remembered mainly because Louise Brooks appeared in it, but neither she nor the director are well represented by that half-hearted effort. Arbuckle made a number of other talkie shorts which hold up quite well, and demonstrate that he was a fast learner when it came to using sound imaginatively, without forgetting what he'd learned in the silent era about tempo, framing, and moving his camera to best advantage.
Idle Roomers is a funny short built around a pair of stage acrobats, brothers Frank & Alfred Molino. They were seasoned performers, but not actors as such, so the film employs a clever situation that exploits their athletic abilities without calling upon them to "emote." The guys play a pair of vaudeville acrobats (naturally enough) who live in a cheap boarding house. They need a job and are rehearsing a new act, but when their landlady and the other boarders overhear the roughhousing in their room, they assume the brothers are violent lunatics who should be locked up. The landlady calls the local asylum and arranges for two officials to come and examine them. Meanwhile, the guys have arranged for a pair of big-time vaudeville booking agents to come see them perform. When the asylum officials arrive, the brothers mistakenly assume that they're the agents, and immediately go into their new routine, flinging each other around, leaping on tables, diving through space, etc. (And by the way, they're really good!) Of course, they're assumed to be crazy, but everyone humors them. Further complications arise, and things get nuttier.
That's the basic situation, which builds to a neat surprise twist just before the fadeout. Arbuckle keeps things moving briskly, and there isn't a wasted moment. Idle Roomers is a pleasant little comedy that's still amusing today. I only wish it was as widely available as Windy Riley Goes Hollywood!
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