If the combination of “Edward Everett Horton” and “silent comedies” just made you do a double take like, well, Edward Everett Horton, I don’t blame you. A very familiar “fussy gentleman” type in ’30s and ’40s films, and also known for working in television, Horton isn’t someone we associate with “silent clown.” Yet a silent clown he was for a short series in the late 1920s, and it’s only recently that his two-reel comedies have been hauled out of archives and restored. And, all eight of them are available on Undercrank Productions‘ new DVD collection!
Undercrank has been doing incredible things with crowdfunding, which you’ll recognize from their fine DVD sets in the past. Originally preserved by the Library of Congress before being restored for the set, all the Horton shorts have turned out crisp and clear, are beautifully tinted, and are accompanied by Ben Model–they could hardly have looked (and sounded) better in 1927 and 1928. There’s also a handy mini-documentary about the backstory behind this series. If the two-reelers seem to have surprisingly high quality, it’s because no one less than Harold Lloyd himself produced the series ( released under the name Hollywood Productions), and enlisted several of his writers and directors to bring it to life.
He’s slimmer, more heavily-made up and far more active than we’re used to, but he’s very much the same Edward Everett Horton, with flustered reactions and all. Most of his shorts feature “upper crust” settings like mansions and fox hunts, which even at this time seemed to fit Horton’s persona the most. In the words of Undercrank Productions, his best shorts are “right up there with Pass the Gravy, Limousine Love and Big Business as examples of the final peak of silent comedy.” Even the lesser ones (such as Vacation Waves with its overfamiliar “bickering family goes on a trip” storyline) are livened up by Horton’s performances. He was surprisingly game to do slapstick, whether it involved being chased by an angry horse or appearing in drag.
Of the eight shorts–No Publicity (1927), Find the King (1927), Dad’s Choice (1928), Behind the Counter (1928), Horse Shy (1928), Scrambled Weddings (1928), Vacation Waves (1928) and Call Again (1928)–I probably liked No Publicity and Scrambled Weddings the most for their urgent plots and high society settings. (Of course, others will probably float up the list as I rewatch the set!) I also enjoyed how all the top-notch prints treated us to more of those nice, clear shots of the Los Angeles area, including the exteriors of several beautiful mansions that still stand today. If you enjoyed seeing peaks of 1920s L.A. in Harold Lloyd’s own films, you’ll enjoy seeing even more in Horton’s comedies.
If you’re interesting in seeing Horton like we’ve never quite seen him before, this new DVD set is available at on Amazon.com for a reasonable price. I’m always excited to grow my collection of Undercrank releases, and I hope you are as well!