>> Saturday, June 22, 2013
USA/Silent/B&W-18m./Dir: Scott Pembroke & Joe Rock/Wr: Tay Garnett (titles)/Cast: Stan Laurel (Stanley), Glen Cavendar (Jack Tinney, nightclub manager), Thelma Hill (Girl in club)
Stan Laurel first journeyed to America in 1910 as part of the Fred Karno comedy troupe, the same British theatrical company that featured Charlie Chaplin. Laurel was both Chaplin’s roommate and understudy, and he continued in the shadow of his former roommate when Chaplin left Karno for motion pictures. Stan continued on the stage (mostly vaudeville) for four years, performing as a Chaplin impersonator, until making his own leap to the movies in late 1917.
While Chaplin found his enduring Tramp character and rose to fame with his second cinematic short subject, Laurel spent nine years churning out mediocre short comedies before latching onto the comic persona and partnership that would endear him to mass audiences. During those nine years, Stan experimented with different characters and styles of comedy, flip-flopping between manic oafs and slow-witted boobs, often borrowing from Chaplin, the most popular comedian of the silent era.
Pie-Eyedwas Laurel’s attempt at making the type of soused slapstick two-reeler that propelled Chaplin to success. In the short Stanley plays a drunken reveler at a night spot known as the Firewater Club. After guzzling wine, Laurel passes out at his table. Later he awakes to try his hand at directing the band, as well as dancing with the showgirl wife of the owner, and getting into scuffles with various employees and patrons. The nightclub manager, an ex-boxing champion, tires quickly of Stanley’s antics. He roughs up the nuisance and kicks him out of the establishment, after giving Stan his business card, should he ever want boxing lessons.
Staggering along the street in the early morning hours, Stanley attracts the attention of a beat cop; and the remainder of the short consists of the policeman’s attempts to drag the drunk off the street and into what he believes to be Stanley’s apartment. In reality, the cop plants Stanley in the domicile of the nightclub manager, having read the address off the business card.
Pie-Eyed plays like a mash-up of Chaplin’s drunken shorts. The nightclub scenes are reminiscent of The Rounders (1914) and A Night Out (1915), while the street gags (especially those involving Stanley’s overcoat) in the second half of the picture are lifted from Pay Day (1922). Unfortunately, none of the gags in Pie-Eyed are as fresh or funny as those in the earlier Chaplin shorts. What’s more, the character of a drunken lout is an ill fit for Stan Laurel. The most interesting aspect of the short is that it occasionally utilizes animation. Hand-drawn lines and stars appear on screen whenever Stan experiences a shock or blow (much like one would see in a comic strip).
As a glimpse into Stan Laurel’s development as a comedian, Pie-Eyed has historic value. However, without Stan’s later achievements, there wouldn’t be much reason to revisit this unexceptional slapstick short.
Drinks Consumed--Wine (possibly Champagne)
Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, stumbling, hiccups, seeing things, harmonizing, passing out, public disturbance, bickering, brawling, and bar tossed
Potent Quotables--STANLEY (after being punched by the nightclub manager): Have you anything that strong with alcohol?
Video Availability--This particular short is available in several video compilations, including The Stan Laurel Collection 2 (Slapstick Symposium) (2 disc)and Slapstick Encyclopedia (Image).
Similarly Sauced Cinema--For Grade-A, booze-fueled comedy from Stanley, check out the classic Laurel and Hardy short, Them Thar Hills (1934).