Tag Archives: forgotten comedians

Charley Chase

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Charley Chase promotional photo 1920’s

Charley Chase (born Charles Joseph Parrott, October 20, 1893 – June 20, 1940) was an American comedian, actor, screenwriter and film director, best known for his work in Hal Roach short film comedies. He was the older brother of comedian/director James Parrott.

Life and career

Born Charles Joseph Parrott in Baltimore, Maryland, Charley Chase began performing in vaudeville as a teenager and started his career in films by working at the Christie Film Company in 1912.[1]

He then moved to Keystone Studios, where he began appearing in bit parts in the Mack Sennett films, including those of Charlie Chaplin.

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Poster for His New Profession (Charles Chaplin, 1914) with Chaplin and Charley Chase

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His New Profession (Charles Chaplin, 1914) with Chaplin and Charley Chase

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His New Profession (Charles Chaplin, 1914) with Chaplin and Charley Chase

By 1915 he was playing juvenile leads in the Keystones, and directing some of the films as Charles Parrott. His Keystone credentials were good enough to get him steady work as a comedy director with other companies; he directed many of Chaplin imitator Billy West‘s comedies, which featured a young Oliver Hardy as villain.

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Charley Chase, Billy West and Oliver Hardy in The Hobbo (Arvid L Gillstrom, 1917)

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Charley Chase, Billy West and Oliver Hardy in Playmates (Charley Chase, 1918)

He worked at L-KO Kompany during its final months of existence. Then in 1920, Chase began working as a film director for Hal Roach Studios.

Among his notable early works for Roach was supervising the first entries in the Our Gang series, as well as directing several films starring Lloyd Hamilton; like many other silent comedians, Chase is reported to have regarded Hamilton’s work as a major influence on that of his own. Chase became director-general of the Hal Roach studio in late 1921, supervising the production of all the Roach series except the Harold Lloyd comedies.

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Charley Chase and Our Gang 1920s – Hal Roach Studios

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Moonshine (Charley Chase, 1920) Charley Chase with Lloyd Hamilton

Following Lloyd’s departure from the studio in 1923, Chase moved back in front of the camera with his own series of shorts, adopting the screen name Charley Chase.

Chase was a master of the comedy of embarrassment, and he played either hapless young businessmen or befuddled husbands in dozens of situation comedies. His screen persona was that of a pleasant young man with a dapper mustacheand ordinary street clothes; this set him apart from the clownish makeups and crazy costumes used by his contemporaries. His earliest Roach shorts cast him as a hard-luck fellow named “Jimmie Jump” in one-reel (10-minute) comedies.

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Charley Chase as Jimmy Jump in April Fool (Ralph Ceder, 1924)

The first Chase series was successful and expanded to two reels (20 minutes); this would become the standard length for Chase comedies, apart from a few three-reel featurettes later.

Direction of the Chase series was taken over by Leo McCarey, who in collaboration with Chase formed the comic style of the series—an emphasis on characterization and farce instead of knockabout slapstick. Some of Chase’s starring shorts of the 1920s, particularly Mighty Like a MooseCrazy Like a FoxFluttering Hearts, and Limousine Love, are often considered to be among the finest in silent comedy.

Chase remained the guiding hand behind the films, assisting anonymously with the directing, writing, and editing.

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Mighty Like A Moose (Leo McCarey, 1926) with Charley Chase, Vivien Oakland and Ann Howe

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Mighty Like A Moose (Leo McCarey, 1926) with Charley Chase, Vivien Oakland and Ann Howe

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Crazy Like A Fox (Leo McCarey, 1926) Charley Chase with Martha Sleeper and William V Mong

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Crazy Like A Fox (Leo McCarey, 1926) Charley Chase with Martha Sleeper and William V Mong

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Fluttering Hearts (James Parrot, 1927) Charley Chase with Oliver Hardy, Martha Sleeper and Eugene Paltette

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Fluttering Hearts (James Parrot, 1927) Charley Chase with Oliver Hardy, Martha Sleeper and Eugene Paltette

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Limousine Love (Fred Guiol, 1928) Charley Chase with Edna Marion, Edgar Kennedy and Viola Richard 

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Limousine Love (Fred Guiol, 1928) Charley Chase with Edna Marion, Edgar Kennedy and Viola Richard 

Chase moved with ease into sound films in 1929, and became one of the most popular film comedians of the period.[2]

He continued to be very prolific in the talkie era, often putting his fine singing voice on display and including his humorous, self-penned songs in his comedy shorts. The two-reeler The Pip from Pittsburg, released in 1931 and co-starring Thelma Todd, is one of the most celebrated Charley Chase comedies of the sound era.[3]

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The Pip From Pittsburg (James Parrott, 1931) Charley Chase with Thelma Todd and Dorothy Granger 

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The Pip From Pittsburg (James Parrott, 1931) Charley Chase with Thelma Todd and Dorothy Granger 

Throughout the decade, the Charley Chase shorts continued to stand alongside Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang as the core output of the Roach studio. Chase was featured in the Laurel and Hardy feature Sons of the Desert; Laurel and Hardy made cameo appearances as hitchhikers in Chase’s On the Wrong Trek.

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Sons of the Desert (William A Seiter, 1933) Charley Chase with Laurel and Hardy, Mae Busch and Dorothy Christie

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Sons of the Desert (William A Seiter, 1933) Charley Chase with Laurel and Hardy, Mae Busch and Dorothy Christie

On the Wrong Trek was supposed to be the final Charley Chase short subject; by 1936 producer Hal Roach was now concentrating on making ambitious feature films.

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On the Wrong Treck (Charley Chase and Harold Law, 1936) Charley Chase with Rosina Lawrence, Clarence Wilson and Laurel and Hardy

Chase played a character role in the Patsy Kelly feature Kelly the Second, and starred in a feature-length comedy called Bank Night, lampooning the popular Bank Night phenomenon of the 1930s.

Chase’s feature was plagued with a host of production problems and legalities, and the film was drastically edited down to two reels and finally released as one last Charley Chase short, Neighborhood House. Chase was then dismissed from the Roach studio.

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Kelly the Second (Gus Meins, 1936) Charley Chase with Patsy Kelly and Guin Williams

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Neighborhood House (Charley Chase and Harold Law 1936) Charley Chase with Rosina Lawrence and George Meeker

Later years and death

In 1937, Chase began working at Columbia Pictures, where he spent the rest of his career starring in his own series of two-reel comedies, as well as producing and directing other Columbia comedies, including those of The Three Stooges and Andy Clyde.

He directed the Stooges’ classic Violent Is the Word for Curly (1938); although he is often credited with writing the film’s song “Swinging the Alphabet“,[4] the tune actually originates with 19th-century songwriter Septimus Winner.

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Violent is the Word For Curly (Charley Chase, 1938) with Three Stooges

Recent research asserts that the Chase family’s maid introduced the song to Chase and taught it to his daughters.[5] Chase’s own shorts at Columbia favored broader sight gags and more slapstick than his earlier, subtler work, although he does sing in two of the Columbias, The Grand Hooter and The Big Squirt (both 1937).

Many of Chase’s Columbia short subjects were strong enough to be remade in the 1940s with other comedians; Chase’s The Heckler (1940) was remade with Shemp Howardas Mr. Noisy (1946) while The Nightshirt Bandit (1938) was remade with Andy Clyde as Go Chase Yourself (1948) and again in 1956 as Pardon My Nightshirt.

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Charley Chase promotional material 1920s

Chase reportedly suffered from depression and alcoholism for most of his professional career, and his tumultuous lifestyle began to take a serious toll on his health. His hair had turned prematurely gray, and he dyed it jet-black for his Columbia comedies.

His younger brother, comedy writer-director James Parrott, had personal problems resulting from a drug treatment, and died in 1939. Chase was devastated. He had refused to give his brother money to support his drug habit, and friends knew he felt responsible for Parrott’s death.

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James Parrott with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy

He coped with the loss by throwing himself into his work and by drinking more heavily than ever, despite doctors’ warnings. The stress ultimately caught up with him; just over a year after his brother’s death, Charley Chase died of a heart attack in Hollywood, California on June 20, 1940. He is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery near his wife Bebe Eltinge in Glendale, California.[6][7] Brother James Parrott is also interred at Forest Lawn.[8]

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Charley Chase received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6630 Hollywood Boulevard on February 8, 1960.[9][10]

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Renewed interest

Since the 1990s, there has been a revival of interest in the films of Charley Chase, due in large part to the increased availability of his comedies. An extensive website researching his life and work, The World of Charley Chase, was created in 1996, and a biography, Smile When the Raindrops Fall, was published in 1998.

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Smile When The Raindrops Fall was the theme song of Whispering Whoopee, a two-reeler from 1930, starring Charley Chase

Chase’s sound comedies for Hal Roach were briefly televised in the late 1990s on the short-lived American cable network the Odyssey Channel. Retrospectives of Chase’s work organized by The Silent Clowns Film Series were held in 1999, 2001, 2006, and 2008 in New York City.

A marathon of selected Charley Chase shorts from the silent era was broadcast in 2005 on the American cable television network Turner Classic Movies. In late 2006, Turner Classic Movies began to air Charley Chase’s sound-era comedies. In January 2011, several of his sound shorts were featured during Turner Classic Movies’ tribute to Hal Roach Studios.

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In 2007, Mighty Like a Moose (1926) was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, solidifying its reputation as one of the most celebrated comedies of the silent era and cementing Chase’s status as a pioneer of early film comedy.[11]

Kino International released two Charley Chase DVD volumes in 2004 and 2005 for their Slapstick Symposium series. The films came from archives and collectors around the world. In July 2009, VCI Entertainment released Becoming Charley Chase, a DVD boxed set of Charley Chase’s early silent films.

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Kino Lorber Charley Chase Collection on DVD

Columbia Pictures has prepared digital restorations of its twenty Charley Chase shorts, in the same manner as its Buster Keaton DVD restorations. On January 1, 2013 Sony Home Entertainment released Charley Chase Shorts Volume 1, part of its “Columbia Choice Collection” MOD DVD-R library. The 1-disc release contains eight of Chase’s starring shorts, and one Smith & Dale short which he directed, A Nag in the Bag (1938). On November 5, 2013 Sony Home Entertainment released Charley Chase Shorts Volume 2, another in their MOD DVD-R series, which contained the remaining twelve Chase shorts.

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Charley Chase MGM promotional photo

Selected filmography

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Release poster for Why Men Work (Leo McCarey, 1924)

See also


  1. Jump up^ Anthony, Brian and Edmonds, Andy (1998). Smile When the Raindrops Fall: The Story of Charley Chase. The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 23. ISBN 0-8108-3377-8
  2. Jump up^ Lahue, Kalton C. and Gill, Samuel (1970). Clown Princes and Court Jesters. A.S. Barnes and Company, 94.
  3. Jump up^ Solan, Yair. “Many Big Squawks.” The World of Charley Chase. “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2010-01-26. Retrieved 2009-07-12.
  4. Jump up^ Okuda, Ted and Watz, Edward (1986). The Columbia Comedy Shorts: Two-Reel Hollywood Film Comedies, 1933–1958. McFarland & Company, Inc., 27. ISBN 0-7864-0577-5.
  5. Jump up^ Finegan, Richard. “Swingin’ the Alphabet Composer Finally Identified.” The Three Stooges Journal (Winter 2005): 4.
  6. Jump up^ “Charley Chase (1893–1940) – Find A Grave Memorial”http://www.findagrave.com. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  7. Jump up^ “BeBe Chase (1888–1948) – Find A Grave Memorial”http://www.findagrave.com. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  8. Jump up^ “James Parrott (1897–1939) – Find A Grave Memorial”http://www.findagrave.com. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  9. Jump up^ “Charley Chase | Hollywood Walk of Fame”http://www.walkoffame.com. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  10. Jump up^ “Charley Chase”latimes.com. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  11. Jump up^ “National Film Registry 2007.” https://www.loc.gov/film/nfr2007.html
  12. Jump up^ ARABIAN TIGHTS(1933)“, Turner Classic Movies

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Charley Chase


Hook, Line And Sinker (1930)

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Pre Code Hollywood Season: FD Cinematheque

Hook, Line And Sinker (1930)

HOOK, LINE AND SINKER, Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey [Wheeler and Woolsey], 1930

Director: Edward F Cline

Cast: Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Dorothy Lee, Ralph Harolde, Jobyna Howland, Natalie Moorhead, Hugh Herbert, George F Marion

75 min

Hook, Line and Sinker is a 1930 American Pre-Code slapstick comedy directed by Edward F. Cline from a screenplay by Ralph Spence and Tim Whelan. It was the third starring vehicle for the comedy team of Wheeler & Woolsey (Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey), and also featured Dorothy Lee. It would be one of the largest financial successes for RKO Pictures in 1930.

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Plot summary

Two fast-talking insurance salesmen — Wilbur Boswell and J. Addington Ganzy — help penniless socialite Mary Marsh to turn a dilapidated hotel, which was willed to her, into a thriving success. They soon run into trouble, however, in the form of two sets of rival gangsters who want to break into the hotel safe; also, Mary’s mother, Rebecca Marsh, wants her to marry wealthy lawyer John Blackwell, although Mary has fallen in love with Wilbur.

And while she takes an instant dislike to Wilbur, Rebecca falls for Ganzy. Adding to the complications is the fact that Blackwell is actually in league with the gangsters. The finale involves nighttime runarounds and a shoot-out in the hotel. During the pitched battle between the rival gangs and the police, Boswell and Ganzy save the jewels, after which Ganzy marries Rebecca, and then gives away Mary at her marriage to Wilbur.

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(Cast list as per AFI database)[2]

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The film made a profit of $225,000,[4] and would be one of the top two money earners for RKO Radio Pictures in 1930.[4]


In 1958, the film entered the public domain in the USA due to the copyright claimants failure to renew the copyright registration in the 28th year after publication.[5]

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  1. Jump up^ Hook, Line and Sinker: Technical Details”. theiapolis.com. Retrieved August 6, 2014.[permanent dead link]
  2. Jump up to:a b c d Hook, Line and Sinker: Detail View”. American Film Institute. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  3. Jump up^ Richard Jewel, ‘RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951’, Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994, p. 55
  4. Jump up to:a b c Jewell, Richard B.; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New York: Arlington House. p. 24. ISBN 0-517-546566.
  5. Jump up^ Pierce, David (June 2007). “Forgotten Faces: Why Some of Our Cinema Heritage Is Part of the Public Domain”. Film History: An International Journal19 (2): 125–43. doi:10.2979/FIL.2007.19.2.125ISSN 0892-2160JSTOR 25165419OCLC 15122313. See note #60, pg. 143.

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Film Collectors Corner

Watch Hook, Line And Sinker Now – Amazon Instant Video

Blu Ray

Not released on Blu Ray


Night Work (1930)

Pre Code Logo 1

Pre Code Hollywood Season: FD Cinematheque

Night Work (1930)

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Director: Russel Mack

Cast: Eddie Quillan, Sally Starr, Frances Upton, John T Murray, Tom Keene, Ben Bard, Robert McVade, Douglas Scott, Addie McPhaill, Kit Guard, Georgia Caine, Georgie Billings, Charles Clary

93 min

Night Work is a Pre Code comedy directed by Russel Mack, released in 1930 and starring Eddie Quillan, Sally Starr and Frances Upton.


Willie Musher, assistant window-trimmer and jack-of-all-trades at Tracy’s Department Store, consistently shoulders the blame for patrons who deem themselves aggrieved and one day is awarded a $10 bill.

On his way to the bank, he stops to examine a car that is campaigning for funds for an orphans’ home; he holds his bank book in such a way that Mary, a nurse, takes the bill and leaves him a receipt. Later, he is alarmed to learn he has obligated himself to support a baby, but taking an interest in Mary and little Oscar, he gets a job as waiter in a nightclub to support the child. To Willie’s chagrin, he learns that Vanderman, Sr., wants to adopt Oscar, apparently the offspring of his son, Harvey.

Willie dreams of hair-raising stunts to kidnap Oscar; finding that he has been promoted, he proves that Oscar is not Vanderman’s grandson, adopts the boy, and asks Mary to marry him.

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Eddie Quillan Eddie Quillan
Sally Starr Sally Starr
Frances Upton Frances Upton
John T. Murray John T. Murray
Tom Keene Tom Keene
Harvey Vanderman (as George Duryea)
Ben Bard Ben Bard
Robert McWade Robert McWade
Phil Reisman
Douglas Scott Douglas Scott
Oscar, the Orphan
Addie McPhail Addie McPhail
Kit Guard Kit Guard
Georgia Caine Georgia Caine
Mrs. Ten Eyck
Georgie Billings Georgie Billings
Buster (as George Billings)
Charles Clary Charles Clary
Mr. Vanderman
Tom Dugan Tom Dugan
Johnny Harris
Arthur Hoyt Arthur Hoyt
George Twining


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Film Collectors Corner

Watch Night Work Now – You Tube Instant Video


Blu Ray

Not released on Blu Ray



Not released on DVD