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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Domestic Comedy Of A Century Ago


Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew in How John Came Home (1915)

"John" is Sidney Drew, who "wins a tidy sum on a long shot" and quits his job, that being ruinous misjudgment in a day when steady course was best maintained by all. Office jobs seemed always a drudge then; was it ever a man's world in this sea of stiff collars, cramped space, and never enough money? W.C. Fields would make better hay of the workplace, but Drew was Bill's forerunner for trapped circumstance on both office front and at home, where "Mrs. Sidney Drew" ties an apron on hubby as he comes through the door. Drew seizes advantage of his apparent drowning death to further gamble away the fortune he's won, then must stage a resurrection from the sea when he inherits another pile. All this is played for civilized comedy and par for the Drew's course; no slapstick-ing occurs. The couple was popular in the teens and might have prospered on but for Sid's 1919 death. The Mrs. was number two for him, a first (and stage partner) having passed a few years earlier. The latter wife was in mid-twenties when this short (only six minutes) was made, but looks older. Drew pics, what ones survive, reflect comedy aborning and are worth a check-out when they turn up, as did How John Came Home in a Looser Than Loose DVD titled Teams --- Volume One, which features this and seven more of pre-talker vintage.

1 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson recalls a Sidney Drew sighting at Disneyland:


Back in the early 60s I saw and remembered that film. It was showing in the Main Street Cinema at Disneyland, an attractive approximation of a nickelodeon with no seats but screens circling the room, each showing a different silent reel (One screen was reserved for old slides: "Don't spit on the floor -- Remember the Johnstown Flood").


Sidney Drew is also responsible for the very peculiar "A Florida Enchantment" (1914; on the "Origins of Film" DVD set). It begins with Drew introduced as the "handsome young doctor" at a Florida resort (wondering if that was vanity or a gag); then it shifts focus to a young woman and her black(face) maid who partake of a charm that slowly and definitely turns them into men. We see her/him advance from being increasingly enthused about kissing other ladies to carefully building a new male identity and a relationship with a woman.


Near the end Drew abruptly returns to center stage, partaking of the charm himself and instantly turning into a manic Charley's Aunt. And then a safe, just-kidding ending. It's as if after what must have been a very unsettling fantasy for 1914 audiences, director and nominal star Drew felt it necessary to send them home with a burst of reliable slapstick and a reassuring status quo.


If memory serves the filmmaking throughout was conservative and unremarkable. How did Drew end up doing such a bizarre story (which, incidentally, kept him offscreen much of the time)?


6:35 PM  

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