Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

August 30, 2020

two episodes of COMEDY CAPERS

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:39 am
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comedy capers

Silent films are timeless. They are NOT sound films without sound. They are a different medium, perfectly complete within themselves. When I was working with young composers in their 20’s with the KSE label, I met a number of people in the experimental music community who were scoring silent films, people who viewed the medium as new and exciting terrain for them.

As for people in my age group (I was born in 1958), many of us got into silent films in two ways: 1) via packages of re-edited and re-contextualized silent comedies shown as filler on local TV stations and aimed at children (and children at heart….and people who remembered silent films), with new soundtracks and over-stated sound effects, with lots of slide whistles and cymbal crashes; and 2) via public TV showings of “classic” silent features in the 1960’s and 1970’s, focusing on the major stars of the era such as Valentino and Fairbanks and Pickford and Chaplin and Bow, but also on the great film classics of the silent era, such as INTOLERANCE or SPARROWS or THE BIG PARADE.

One well-known example of the former is the early 60’s series COMEDY CAPERS, an off-shoot of an earlier and similar series called MISCHIEF MAKERS, which contained footage from silent OUR GANG comedies, re-edited and with new sound effects. COMEDY CAPERS was another series from the same producing company, National Telepix. CC contained shorts from the libraries of Hal Roach and Mack Sennett and featured a wide variety of quality material, including Billy Bevan, Harry Langdon, Ben Turpin, The Keystone Kops, Charley Chase, Billy West, Mabel Normand, etc.

There were, of course, many other similar series, some of the local produced at the station level, showing cheap public-domain silent material from 16mm and using canned music. COMEDY CAPERS was in reruns for a number of years after its initial early 60’s run, continuing into the 70’s in some markets and into the 80’s overseas. It seems to have been a big hit in Brazil, as a number of the excerpts on You Tube have Portuguese subtitles. Also, any silent film fan knows that there is a devoted following for silent films today in Latin America as a whole, and many obscure silent films from the world over can be found online with Spanish and Portuguese inter-titles. Silent films truly are the universal film language–all you need is titles translated and there are no language barriers.

I’ve included links to two episodes of COMEDY CAPERS for your enjoyment, both chock-full of silent comedy gems. Yes, the music and sound effects are a bit over the top, but only a purist could object to that, and it certainly made these films more approachable to the 6 year olds and 9 year olds out there in TV land circa 1964 (or if in Brazil, 1980!).

Maybe they can still work as an entryway for silent films today!   Enjoy!

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