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The True King Of Comedy

by Leonard Maltin
September 3, 2012 1:00 AM
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The old version of Charlie Chaplin's 1914 comedy 'Recreation' (left) and CineMuseum's new reconstruction (right).

Not every Sennett short is a gem; some are primitive and even coarse. (Keystone comics routinely kicked their adversaries in the stomach, for instance.) Seen in chronological order, however, they illustrate the evolution of screen comedy. There is a spirit to those early, off-the-cuff comedies that’s hard to resist, and a polish to some of the 1920s sight-gag marathons that’s never been duplicated.

 If your appetite needs whetting, check out this clever promotional video from TCM:

I fell in love with these films after seeing Robert Youngson’s feature film compilation The Golden Age of Comedy when I was seven years old. It was a life-changing experience for me. Reading Sennett’s book was icing on the cake, as it evoked the rough-and-tumble world of early moviemaking—as well as the producer’s longtime love affair with Mabel Normand. (The fact that he made up a lot of those stories—as I later learned—doesn’t reduce their charm in my eyes.)

Now it’s time to rediscover the films of Mack Sennett. Here is a complete TCM program guide for the next four Thursday nights.

One of Sennett’s cutest Bathing Beauties, Phyllis Haver, in a typical publicity pose

Thursday, September 6
TCM Spotlight:  Mack Sennett

8:00 PM
The Curtain Pole (’09)
Comrades (’11)
The Manicure Lady (’11)
With a Kodak (’12)
Dashing Through The Clouds (’12)
9:00 PM
The Water Nymph (’12)
A Grocery Clerk’s Romance (’12)
On His Wedding Day (’12)
A Life in the Balance (’13)
The Bangville Police (’13)A Fishy Affair (’13)
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life (’13)
Mabel’s Dramatic Career (’13)
The Speed Kings (’13)
A Flirt’s Mistake (’14)
11:00 PM    
The Knockout (’14)
Mabel’s Married Life (’14)
The Great Toe Mystery (’14)
Recreation (’14)
The Rounders (’14)
Shot in the Excitement (’14)
Curses! They Remarked (’14)
12:45 AM
Tillie’s Punctured Romance (’14)
2:00 AM
The Noise of Bombs (’14)
Leading Lizzy Astray (’14)
Ambrose’s First Falsehood (’15)
Hash House Mashers (’15)
Fatty and Mabel at the San Diego Exposition (’15)
Fatty’s New Role (’15)

Sennett hams it up with two of his more illustrious alumni, W.C. Fields and Frank Capra, upon receiving an honorary Oscar in 1938.

Thursday, September 13
TCM Spotlight:  Mack Sennett

8:00 PM

A Bird’s a Bird! (’16)
Gussle’s Day of Rest (’16)
Do-Re-Mi-Boom! (’16)
Court House Crooks (’16)
9:30 PM
Dirty Work in a Laundry (’16)
A Lover’s Lost Control (’16)
A Submarine Pirate (’16)
11:00 PM
Dizzy Heights and Daring Hearts (’16)
Fatty and Mabel Adrift (’16)
He Did and He Didn’t (’16)
Wife and Auto Trouble (’16)
12:30 AM
His Bitter Pill (’16)
The Waiters’ Ball (’16)
The Surf Girl (’16)
Madcap Ambrose (’16)
2:00 AM
Teddy at the Throttle (’17)
Her Torpedoed Love (’17)
A Clever Dummy (’17)
Thirst (’17)
Vernon Dent, Carmelita Geraghty, Billy Bevan and a young Carole Lombard in 'His Unlucky Night' (1928).

Thursday, September 20
TCM Spotlight:  Mack Sennett

8:00 PM

Mickey (’18)
Hearts and Flowers (’19)
10:00 PM
Down on the Farm (’20)
Don’t Weaken (’20)
Bright Eyes (’22)
Gymnasium Jim (’22)
12:15 AM
The Extra Girl (’23)
The Dare-Devil (’23)
2:00 AM
Ten Dollars or Ten Days (’24)
Picking Peaches (’24)
The Half-Back of Notre Dame (’24)
Black Oxfords (’24)
3:45 AM
Lizzies of the Field (’24)
Galloping Bungalows (’24)
His Marriage Wow (’25)
Water Wagons (’25)
5:00 AM
Super-Hooper-Dyne-Lizzies (’25)
A Rainy Knight (’25)
Mack Sennett

Thursday, September 27
TCM Spotlight:  Mack Sennett

8:00 PM
Saturday Afternoon (’26)
A Sea Dog’s Tale (’26)
Hoboken to Hollywood (’26)
A Harem Knight (’26)
9:30 PM
Catalina, Here I Come (’27)
Broke in China (’27)
Pride of Pikeville (’27)
The Golf Nut (’27)
11:00 PM
Smith’s Pony (’27)
Fiddlesticks (’27)
Run, Girl Run (’28)
The Best Man (’28)
12:30 AM
His Unlucky Night (’28)
Taxi for Two (’28)
Matchmaking Mama (’28)
Match Play (’30)
2:00 AM
The Great Pie Mystery (’31)
The Loud Mouth (’32)
The Dentist (’32)
Don’t Play Bridge with Your Wife (’33)
The Fatal Glass of Beer (’33)

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    


  • Mac | October 3, 2013 9:18 AMReply

    Is there any further word on the Mack Sennett films coming out on DVD or BluRay? I had put it on my Christmas list for last year, but then they evidently were never released...

  • Jon Boorstin | September 7, 2012 6:18 PMReply

    Here's a peice in LARB about Mabel Normand and Chaplin in his first film as the Tramp, with video:

  • DBenson | September 6, 2012 3:16 PMReply

    Many many years ago, I saw "Dizzy Heights and Daring Hearts" at the Main Street Cinema at Disneyland. Stood there and waited to watch both reels through. Pretty sure that was my first whole Keystone.

  • Norm | September 4, 2012 4:10 AMReply

    He may be the King Of Comedy, but he doesn't appear to smile very much...

  • Walt Mitchell | September 4, 2012 1:01 AMReply

    When I was about 9 or 10, I saw Mack Sennett honored on "This Is Your Life." I think I had already seen a friend's 8mm print of "Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life." Aware that Mack was actually in the film, I at least had a fuzzy idea of who he was. Later, I became aware of his cameo in "Abbott & Costello Meet the Keystone Cops." It is delightful to learn of the TCM and DVD massive tributes to the brilliance of this man, whose prior performing had included dancing on Broadway in "Piff! Paff!! Poof!!!" in 1904! Thank you, Leonard, for spotlighting The King of Comedy! :-)!

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