Feature Comedy | 1920 | Silent | B/W
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Part one of a silent two-reel comedy featuring Lloyd Hamilton and Otto Fries - a whimsical mix of slapstick humour, adventures at sea and romance occurring one April Fool's Day. [N.B. The full version is listed under #30770]
Intertitle:'April Fool.' 'Celebrating. Ham - Lloyd Hamilton.'
Close-up of a large stick of dynamite on a garden pavement, a pair of legs, a hand lighting it. Ham, in a beige jacket, bow tie and boater, finishes lighting it, hovers briefly and anxiously, turns and scurries away, looking back a few times frantically as wisps of smoke rise from the burning wick; he dashes to the wall at the end of the path, sticks his fingers in his ears.
A dark-haired lady dressed in a frilly skirt, white blouse with a bandana in her hair, watches from a balcony nearby, suddenly delighted to see Ham; she calls out to him. Ham, still at the wall, turns to face the dynamite, fingers in ears, still anticipating a blast. Close-up of Ham turning to look at the dynamite stick, perplexed at the lack of an explosion. He watches, back to the wall, as a feeble wisp of smoke bursts from the wick, clenches his fists in frustration; hands in his pocket he waddles dejectedly towards the dynamite, is stunned by another sputter of smoke from the item and jerks back. Close-up of Ham's bemused, suspicious face looking at the dynamite. Ham strolls up to the stick trying to look casual, stops directly in front of it, picks it up tentatively, shakes it at his ear, puts it back down; nothing happens; Ham tries again in vain, then chucks the stick aside in disgust.
A blinding blast. The smoke clears to reveal the outline of a human figure in a boater blasted into the wall at the end of the pavement; a pair of shoes standing neatly where the dynamite stick was. The lady on the balcony, horrified, dashes downstairs, sees the pair of shoes, gasps at the hole in the wall, picks up the shoes, frazzled and looking for Ham.
Ham runs down a tree-lined road, hand on hat and waving a flag, towards the camera. Ham at the end of the road, enthusiastically waving a small American flag and exclaiming as the lady runs up to him and grabs his arm in confusion.
'Hurrah for the 4th. July!'
Ham whips off his hat and brandishes his flag, still exclaiming triumphantly; lady shakes his wrist and tries to talk sense into him.
'You're mistaken Ham. This is April Fool's Day.'
Close-up of the lady laughing with an air of familiar exasperation. Close-up of Ham's slightly crestfallen face as he rolls his eyes, drops his arm and sticks the flag into his jacket pocket.
A ladies' meeting in a well-furnished sitting room: rugs, comfortable armchairs, cushions, a fireplace and mantlepiece: five ladies in hats sit and listen to another lady in a long dress with frilly sleeves, make an impassioned speech.
'Ladies, your money will send another brave missionary to the cannibals of the Cafetatria Islands.' The speaker, holding a black-and-white photograph, still speaking with a look of genuine conviction, gestures dramatically, hand over her heart.
Intertitle: 'The missionary, on the way to get something he doesn't expect.'
The speaker greets and ushers in the missionary, an elderly gentleman with a collar, dressed in black; he bows and she takes his hat; the lady from the opening scenes follows him in, looking around.
Intertitle: 'The missionary's daughter - Bee Monson.'
Bee sidles up to the speaker and asks 'Where's Ham?' discreetly. The speaker breaks into a knowing grin of complicity, points to the left and puts her finger on her lips as Bee slips off. The missionary, a comical figure with great floppy grey sideburns sticking out from under thick round spectacles, takes a pocket watch out, tells the speaker, standing next to him: 'I've just time to catch the boat.'
The missionary asks the speaker a question, probably about where his daughter is, the speaker points to the left and goes to fetch her as the missionary continues talking to the ladies. The speaker pops out of the door to the patio, Bee drags a reluctant Ham in. They enter the sitting room, right in the midst of the missionary and ladies, now gathered round. The speaker, with considerable pride, announces:
'Ladies, this is my baby.'
Ham stands rigid with mortification, gazes round, crumples into tears, dashes off with his arms round his face like a toddler, as the ladies watch in amusement; Bee and his mother look upset. Ham settles into a chair, takes a book from the cabinet next to him, flicks through it, still distraught. The party bid the missionary and his daughter farewell and leave too. Ham, reclining with an open book over his face, sits up. The speaker calls him to her sternly. Outside, a man in a peaked hat and dark jacket peeks in through the window. Ham stands, downcast, next to his mother while she ponders something; she comes up with a brilliant idea:
'Now hurry, take this money to the boat, and don't tarry.' The man outside sees this and looks mildly peeved, he hurries off. Ham, as his mother flaps around him, obediently and sullenly puts the purse in his inner pocket; he leaves the room with hands over the spot where the money is.
Intertitle: 'Nasty Harold, affectionately known by his crew as 'The Sea Lion' - Otto Fries.'
Nasty Harold at the shipyard, yelling orders to his men below. Ladders, chains, piles of timber being hoisted as Harold yells further instructions.
Intertitle: 'The old purse trick.'
Three men, including the one outside Ham's house, press themselves against the wall of a long wooden godown?, holding a piece of string to which a purse, lying on the boardwalk, is attached. Ham walks past, sees the purse, hesitates. He finally strolls towards it trying to look nonchalant, tries to pick it up but finds it disappears under his nose; he starts to bolt off. He hears/sees his friends behind the wall.
'April Fool!' Ham greets them goodnaturedly.
Another man in a cowboy hat comes down the boardwalk. The friends are frantic: 'This trick won't work with the same purse. What shall we do? Ham offers them the purse in his jacket, which they tie up and throw onto the walkway. The man sees the purse, turns and sees Ham holding the string and grinning as if it's the most natural thing in the world, then takes a pocket knife from his shirt pocket and throws it down. Close-up of the blade stuck straight into the plank, the string severed beneath. He picks up the purse, still with the rest of the string attached, and walks away. Ham, face to the wall and unsuspecting, reels in the string: no purse.
After a moment of confusion, Ham gives chase. They play hide-and-seek round a fence of planks. The man in the cowboy hat sticks the purse in his pocket and makes his escape, gesturing at Ham. Close-up of the purse sliding down and out of his trouser leg, onto the walkway. Ham walks over dejectedly, spies the purse. He picks it up, ties the string round it to his belt strap, and puts the purse in his pocket. Close-up of a hole in Ham's pocket: the purse slips right out and onto the walkway. Ham walks round the planked fence, not realising this. Close-up of the string unravelling around the purse, which gets pulled along. In a variation on the dog chasing its own tail scenario, Ham pursues his purse round the fence, trying unsuccessfully to lunge at and sneak up on it. Finally, he ties part of the string to the gate of the fence and walks round the other way to reach it: his trousers, also with string fastened to their belt strap, are torn off in the process, revealing candy cane striped underpants below; Ham kisses his purse , unaware of this, and walks off.
The missionary and his daughter walk towards the ship. Nasty Harold greets them at the gangway and asks for payment; the missionary happily obliges. Close-up of his frantic face as he pats his jacket with gloved hands and realises he has not got his purse.
Ham comes dashing to the rescue past ships, crates and sacks, looking for the missionary. It seems the purse is the missionary's: the relieved man takes it and hurries off to pay Nasty Harold, leaving Bee and Ham alone among the crates. The two say their parting words. Close-ups of their downcast faces; Ham wipes a tear from his eye. Ham moves towards Bee to try and kiss her, but pulls back at the last minute.
The missionary and Nasty Harold confer' realising the boat is leaving, the former calls to Bee. He drags her off by the arm, as she and Ham wave goodbye. Bee stops at the gangway, stretches her arms out for a hug. Ham emerges willingly, arms outstretched, from behind the crates, in full trouser-less glory; Bee drops her arms and dashes into the boat. The missionary looks up, sees Ham in his underwear, jabs his finger with righteous indignation at his lower body; Ham looks down, realises, and runs off in horror and embarrassment; the missionary throws up his hands in despair and gets on the boat.
A teenage boy sitting on the railing by the sea, wearing a 'Life Guard' vest, sees Ham and starts laughing at him. Ham, peeved, wanders over to a shop selling bathing suits, grabs a pair of mannequin legs, throws them into the sea so that the feet stick out of the water. Ham hails the life guard. The life guard follows him to the edge of the walkway, takes off his dungarees and dives straight in. Ham grabs the clothing and runs off.
Bee paces the deck of the boat, hands clenched together, looking out. Ham charges toward the gangway, now in trousers, waving his hat and yelling; Nasty Harold intercepts him and pushes him back onto land; Ham runs off in another direction, waving his hat. Bee waves after him from the deck. Ham, in despair, seats himself on a crate attached to a pulley system. Bee waves, the missionary arrives and tries to stop her, bundling her indoors. Ham puts a handkerchief over his face, waves forlornly. Nasty Harold on deck shouts to a worker and gestures upward. A man working the pulley system pulls some levers. A glorious shot of Ham, his face still buried in his hanky and waving, seated on the crate, which is lifted off the ground, swings across the water, past the mast and rigging, and is lowered into the cargo hold. The burner? in the chimney, emitting steam rapidly.
Ham still seated in the crate, now in the cargo hold, surrounded by boxes and barrels. He looks up, starts, realises where he is. Panicking, he scurries back and forth in the swaying confined space. Bee appears, delighted and open-armed. As the couple move towards each other, Nasty Harold also enters and threatens Ham, who turns and clambers up a ladder, with Harold in pursuit. The missionary joins the group at this frantic juncture.
Ham makes it up to the mast deck, panting and relieved; he leans over the railing. Nasty Harold, Bee, her father and the crew flood the deck, Harold clouts Ham on the back of the head; Ham turns to look at Harold, a sneer of indignation on his face. Harold holds a bundle of clothes out: 'Put those clothes on, and get to work.' Ham straightens his hat, attempts calmly to stand up to Harold and gets a brusque slap. Ham, face on cheek, takes the clothes and dashes inside as the missionary and Bee look on, aghast. Harold now turns to the two of them; with a threatening wave he sends father scrambling up the ladder to safety. He handles Bee somewhat lustily but she resists.
Ham paces below deck in the sleeping quarters: a gramophone on the table, several lifebuoys on the walls, pictures torn from magazines?, the bundle of clothes on the table.
Nasty Harold sitting in his quarters/the kitchen: a map of South America on the wall, various items of cutlery/crockery, a parrot in a cage, more lifebuoys and a cabinet of alcohol?; three men enter.
'We want a rise, or there'll be trouble.'
Harold leaps up, proceeds to beat the men; furniture topples as the cabin sways.
Ham below, leaning against a wall, hears the fracas, leaves the room to investigate. He throws open the door. Shot of the fight inside, Harold still giving the men a trashing. Close-up of Ham still outside, he blinks, closes the door again, whistles and slinks off with nervous composure. He re-enters the sleeping quarters, picks up the bundle of clothes.
The three men scamper up the ladder to escape, Harold chasing after them. The mast deck: the three hurtle up a ladder, and vault over the railings. The three men hit the sea with big splashes. Harold watches, then turns and walks back to his room, pausing to gaze threateningly at two more petrified crew members who tip their caps as he passes and collapse on deck when he turns around one more time.
Ham emerges from the room in a white sailor's outfit, a crew member hands him a block of ice in tongs and gives him order. Ham, struggling under the weight of the ice, puts it in the wooden storage space next to him through a hatch at the top; it immediately slides out through a door in the side. This happens a few times before Ham finally succeeds. Nasty Harold, in his room, stretches and yawns, pushes the birdcage aside and reclines on the table. Ham walks off, the ice slips out again.
END OF PART ONE.
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