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Sunday, April 06, 2014

A First World Beloved Star?


Portly John Bunny's Honeymoon (1913)

Vitagraph Announces Bunny's Honeymoon For 4/7/13 Release
John Bunny made a career out of being jolly. Just the sight of him filled nickelodeons with joy. Maybe death in 1915 was a savior; could he have sustained a longer stay? Bunny was best photographed face-on, coat open with an expansive vest, pouring a drink or being served one. At a time when expressions were limited for lack of close-ups and compromised images, his would glow forth like a sunburst. Bunny always was flushed and you didn't need color film to see corpuscles at a bursting point. He would die of Bright's disease like talking counterpart Sydney Greenstreet (does overweight bring that on?). When Bunny left, it was losing a world's biggest star, maybe because he was the first truly major name to depart. Astute observers might have seen this as prelude to grief that would accompany later celebrity deaths; certainly news gatherers got valued experience on how to handle (and exploit) such events. In Bunny's Honeymoon, the stout star tries to end a friend's drink habit by donning a nightgown, with bonnet, and crawling into bed with him. Such was storytelling in wacky Vitagraph day. The scene goes quick enough to avert discomfort, Bunny an undoubted good sport to have played it at all. "Comedy" was genteel before Keystone took white gloves off. A single amusing situation was thought adequate to see a reel through, but Mack Sennett knew that physical action, and lots of it, would be needed to light up an audience, and spent a next couple of decades proving his theory right.

3 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson gives Bunny co-star Flora Finch a nod. She kept working for years after his death, and was in 1937's "Way Out West," among others:


A quick google reveals that Flora Finch, Bunny's costar, lived until 1940. She descended into minor parts in talkies, another silent star who dropped just enough to have something of a career other than famous has-been.

5:50 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Flora Finch tried to parlay her fame with Bunny into something bigger: she established her own production company, and then launched a movie magazine. So although her star lost some of its luster after Bunny's death, at least she kept busy in the industry.

9:44 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

I've often read that at the time of his death, John Bunny was world's most famous man. By the time Chaplin took that title -- a year later? -- Bunny was probably completely forgotten.

5:06 PM  

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