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Posts Tagged ‘silent film’

from the DVD label

from the DVD label

Roller Chairs and Tram

Roller Chairs and Tram

This 15 minute silent film is so lightweight it almost floated out of the DVD player before I could push the tray in.

Chimpanzee duo Napoleon and Sally starred in eight films from 1916 to 1920, of which this was apparently their last. In Perils of the Beach, the Lucy and Ricky of the animal kingdom, dressed like humans, are a boardwalk attraction, showing off a wonderful range of tricks.

Then there are two young women, one piquantly lovely and the other, you kind of get the feeling she maybe got the part by being related to the producer. They change into their bathing suits and frolic like naiads, and the chimps gambol like chimps.

The naughty monkeys steal the girls’ clothes and take them into a changing room, swapping them for the clothes they clothes they find there. This leads to a man running around in women’s clothes, always a sure-fire laff riot. It also leads to one of the oldest clichés in the book. Too proper to run around the boardwalk in their bathing suits, the girls wear barrels. Seems like a bottomless barrel would be a fairly useless commodity. Why were so many of them lying conveniently around, back in the old days, to be found by people in need of modesty shields?

It’s interesting to peek inside the “private bathhouse.” Sure, it’s a studio set, but probably looks pretty much like the real changing rooms. And it’s so great to see the buildings of Venice as they were when the town still had the stamp of Abbot Kinney all over it.

On the sand, two men in suits sleep under a big umbrella. Dressing up to go to the beach was the norm in those days. It’s strange, how people used to wear so many clothes in recreational settings. On the other hand, it’s not that remarkable, because Muslim women still go everywhere all bundled up, even in the hottest weather.

A bit of personal nostalgia here: I’ve slept at Venice Beach. There were times when I worked night shift and got my day’s sleep, what there was of it, out on the sand. It’s a matter of waking up once in a while to turn over and put on more sunscreen.

Anyway, the men. One lies on his back, and the other sleeps snuggled up next to him, with his head pillowed on the first guy’s leg. What’s that about? Is it just so they can both fit into the shade? These two don’t seem to have any useful function in the plot, such as it is. Although they do meet up with a policeman, who is a head taller than anyone else in the cast. How symbolic.

Venice Beach in the old days offered an astonishing array of rides, including camels and a miniature railway. The top photo includes one of the vehicles in the movie. The plot calls for plenty of riding around in these things, which appear to be large baskets or particularly dense wicker porch furniture.

Next is an old photo showing roller chairs, with the same look as the ones in the movie, of being constructed by the weaving of vegetation. But they were powered by people on foot, pushing from the back. The third picture is of a tram, which the vehicles in the movie also resemble, not visually, but in being powered by electricity.

Perils of the Beach was issued by the Las Vegas Photo Emporium, though it’s not mentioned on their website. I got in on eBay, but can’t find it there now, not even under the title it was sold by, Venice Beach 1921. Not even in Completed Listings.

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