Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Early Film: First Prize for Cello

[post 036]

First Prize for Cello
produced by Pathé in 1907
Length: 2:43
from Europa Film Treasures

I find comic films from the earliest days of cinema — the pre-Arbuckle, pre-Keaton, pre-Chaplin era — to be fascinating but not necessarily funny. First Prize for Cello, on the other hand, really made me laugh. I love the escalating absurdity, I love the assembly line inside the apartment (the dresser up the stairs!), and I especially love the ending. There's no directorial credit on this, but someone knew what they were doing.


That ending reminds me of the George Burns story, which he used in the title of his memoir, Living it Up: or, They Still Love Me in Altoona! If I'm remembering it correctly, Burns tells of a dismal (pre-Gracie) career in vaudeville, where he was going nowhere fast. However, one night he played Altoona (Pennsylvania) and everything clicked, the audience absolutely loved him. He thought he had finally figured it all out, but in the next town and all the towns after that he continued to bomb. Still he persevered, strengthened by the knowledge that they still loved him in Altoona. And then there's our cellist, undeterred to the end and ultimately triumphant, a testament to the performer's eternal optimism.

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