EDWARD EVERETT HORTON – A DVD Review by John Strange
When I receive new offerings from Undercrank Productions, I eagerly open the email and/or written information to see what wonder of the silent era of films has been resurrected and restored for my watching pleasure. The new release, Edward Everett Horton, is a collection of two-reel shorts made in 1927 and 1928. Starring Edward Everette Horton, these films were made by Harold Lloyd’s Hollywood Productions and distributed by Paramount.
Sadly, of the features made starring Mr. Horton, only three survive which makes these shorts that much more important to film history. They illustrate the talent that Edward had for comedy even without adding his distinctive voice to the mix.
Older folks (or lovers of older films) will remember Edward from his talking movie roles in such films as Top Hat (1935), Holiday (1938), and Arsenic and Old Lace (1943). Slightly younger film lovers will likely remember his excellent performance in It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963). In the late 50s and early 60s, Mr. Horton provided his voice to The Bullwinkle Show (1959-1963). He had a segment called Fractured Fairy Tales that put a very different slant to classic fairy tales. I watched these cartoons in my youth (both first run and reruns).
But to get on track, here are my thoughts on the eight shorts and the bonus featurette in this offering!
First up is No Publicity (August 1, 1927; 21 min.) with Edward working as a newspaper photographer who is ordered to get a photo of a young socialite. His editor has been told an explicit “NO!” but that makes no difference to him. Eddie has to get the shot!
The short is full of the typical zaniness of the times. It has one small section with some nitrate damage. Nice story. Fun to watch.
Find The King (November 5, 1927; 22 min.) takes Edward, playing a wealthy young man, out west to take over a family holding, a gambling hall. For a man who has spent his entire life perfecting a card trick using sleight of hand, this might turn out to be heaven. This is a good story with no blemishes, worth watching.
Dad’s Choice (January 7, 1928; 22 min.) is a typical comedy of its time. This particular comedy got on my nerves. It’s funny but, as with some styles of comedy from that era, it doesn’t always translate quite as well as it did back then.
Behind The Counter (March 3, 1928; 21 min.) is another nice comedy with Edward (or Eddie as his characters are generally named) working in a department store. Two small “blemishes” in this one.
Horse Shy (May 19, 1928; 21 min.) has Eddie riding a horse against his better wishes. The comedy is a fun watch full of horse gags that made me laugh! No “blemishes” were noticed.
Scrambled Weddings (June 30, 1928; 20 min.) has Edward wanting to marry a young lady whose mother is nixing the idea. Fun situations, good watch, but several small “blemishes” early and throughout the short.
Vacation Waves (September 15, 1928; 21 min.) is a nautical tale that was well made but didn’t make me laugh. It is a tale of a man wanting nothing more than to spend some time on a boat with his wife. Unfortunately, his bossy mother-in-law and his young brother-in-law push their way in. It is a cautionary tale of what disasters can happen under those conditions. Not totally without humor but the humor is very dark.
The final short, Call Again (October 20, 1928; 21 min.) is the most damaged of the group. It was discovered in the early 70s but had large amounts of nitrate decomposition that could not be corrected. It’s a nice story, worth watching, but the damage does take away from the pure pleasure of watching it.
Edward Everett Horton: Silent Clown? (2021; 9 min.) is a very nice tribute to this talented man and his career.
On a final note, all of these films proudly state that they were approved by the National Board of Review. From Wikipedia: “The board’s stated purpose was to endorse films of merit and champion the new “art of the people”, which was transforming America’s cultural life. Producers submitted their films to the board before making release prints; they agreed to cut any footage that the board found objectionable, up to and including destroying the entire film. Thousands of films carried the legend “Passed by the National Board of Review” in their main titles from 1916 into the 1950s, when the board began to lose financial support, partly due to the NBR being overpowered by the MPAA in regards to film censorship.”
- Edward Everett Horton, Ruth Dwyer, Josephine Crowell, Violet Bird, Jack Raymond, Richard R. Neill, Sharon Lynn, Otis Harlan, Dorothy Dwan, Oscar Smith, Nigel Barrie, Nita Cavalier, Bruce Covington, William Gillespie, Stanley Taylor, Duane Thompson, Aileen Manning
NO PUBLICITY (August 1, 1927) – 21 min.
Director: N. T. Barrows; Starring Edward Everett Horton, Ruth Dwyer, Josephine Crowell.
FIND THE KING (November 5, 1927) – 22 min.
Director: J. A. Howe; Starring E.E.H., Violet Bird, Jack Raymond, Richard R. Neill.
DAD’S CHOICE (January 7, 1928) – 22 min.
Director: J. A. Howe; Starring E.E.H., Sharon Lynn, Otis Harlan, Josephine Crowell.
BEHIND THE COUNTER (March 3, 1928) – 21 min.
Director: J. A. Howe; Starring E.E.H., Dorothy Dwan, Oscar Smith, Nigel Barrie.
HORSE SHY (May 19, 1928) – 21 min.
Director: Jay A. Howe; Starring E.E.H., Nita Cavalier, Bruce Covington, William Gillespie.
SCRAMBLED WEDDINGS (June 30, 1928) – 20 min.
Director: N. T. Barrows; Starring E.E.H., Stanley Taylor, Ruth Dwyer, Josephine Crowell.
VACATION WAVES (September 15, 1928) – 21 min.
Director. N. T. Barrows; Starring E.E.H., Duane Thompson, Aileen Manning.
CALL AGAIN (October 20, 1928) – 21 min.
Director: Jay A. Howe; Starring E.E.H., Duane Thompson, Aileen Manning.
EDWARD EVERETT HORTON: SILENT CLOWN? (2021) – 9 min.
Producer: Crystal Kui; Writer and Narrator: Steve Massa; Music: Ben Model.
- New musical scores composed and performed by Ben Model.
- Produced for DVD by Ben Model/Undercrank Productions in association with the Library of Congress.
- Films curated by Steve Massa and Ben Model. Digital restoration by Origins Archival. Associate Producer Crystal Kui.
- 169 Minutes
- 9 Minutes
- Undercrank Productions
- A/1 (U.S. and Canada only)
- 5 Stars
Bonus Features Rating:
- 5 Stars
Picture Quality Rating:
- 5 Stars
Audio Quality Rating:
- 5 Stars
Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars: Should add to your DVD collection at any cost
4 Stars: Worth owning, but try to catch it a sale
3 Stars: Plan to get it, but wait to buy it used
2 Stars: Worth taking a look at, but not owning
1 Star: Pick it up at a garage sale and use it for drinks
0 Stars: Makes a great Trap Shooting target