Here’s some thrillingly good news for fans of vintage comedies. VCI Home Entertainment has announced that they will be distributing the latest project from All Day Entertainment entitled Becoming Charley Chase. Now, in case you’re confused and wondering if we are talking about the porn actress by the same name, I feel compelled to tell you that we are not… so, please, get your mind out of the gutter for a moment (if I can do it, you can do it).
Long before Tex Avery came along with the now legendary inventions that are so prominently featured in his animated shorts, a vaudevillian comedian by the name of Charley Chase (born as Charles Parrott) had already started perfecting the technique. While still in his teens, Chase began receiving bit parts in many Keystone Studios shorts, including the works of Mack Sennett. By the time Charley was in his early twenties, he had started directing motion pictures starring the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Billy West (whom many refer to as the poor man’s Chaplin), and Oliver Norvell Hardy — who was still a good decade away from achieving everlasting fame from his work with Stan Laurel (Chase would later work alongside with Laurel & Hardy, and appeared as Ollie’s wacky brother-in-law in the classic Sons Of The Desert).
After leaving Keystone, Chase began to write, direct, and later star in shorts for Hal Roach Studios – bringing his amazing sense of comedic timing and inspired intellect for creativity with him – resulting in some of the most popular Our Gang, Laurel & Hardy and solo Charley Chase shorts ever made. Eventually, Chase would move on to Columbia Pictures, where he worked with comic legends such as Andy Clyde and The Three Stooges.
Despite having worked with (and in some cases, immortalized) some of comedy’s greatest legends, the work of the iconic Charley Chase mostly went by without proper recognition until the last decade or so. Thankfully, All Day Entertainment has sought to rectify this horrible wrongdoing of ignorance with Becoming Charley Chase, a four-disc set containing over 40 rarely seen shorts from Chase’s early career that feature all-new music scores by Snark Ensemble, Ben Model, the Redwine Jazz Band, and the West End Jazz Band.
Additional content will include audio commentaries on select shorts by noted film historians (who wants to place a bet that Leonard Maltin will be one of them?); a 45-minute retrospective documentary on Chase; a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the new music; an archival interview with Chase’s daughter June; and a collectible booklet – all for under $40.
The set is due out July 28, 2009 (it was originally set to release in January but was postponed) and, as a fan of classic comedy and an even bigger fan of Charley Chase himself, this is some very exciting news!