The roads that lead to George Pal, Ray Harryhausen, Jiri Trnka, Joop Geesink, Karel Zeman, Art Clokey and other stop-motion masters lead inevitably back to the still unsurpassed silent era geniuses Charley Bowers, Wladislaw Starewicz and Willis "King Kong" O'Brien.
Bowers in particular intrigues and delights Your Blogmeister no end for his unique blend of silent era comedy and imaginative stop-motion animation.
A fascinating 2-DVD retrospective of his work, The Rediscovery Of An American Comic Genius, originally released a few years back by Image Entertainment, is now, unfortunately, out-of-print, but well worth scouting around for a used copy on DVD (on anyplace but EBay or Amazon, where prices are now ridiculously, insanely high).
Before developing his stop-motion animation techniques and starring in his own series for Educational and FBO Pictures, the legendary Charley Bowers produced Mutt and Jeff cartoons for Bud Fisher Film Corporation and Pathe-Freres.
He also created the illustrations for The Bowers Mother Goose Movie Book in 1923.
Bowers became a comedy star in 1926, headlining 2-reelers that successfully blended silent film "sight gag" humor with way-out stop motion animation.
The 18 "Whirlwind Comedies" produced for FBO and Educational release in 1926-1928 by Bowers and collaborator Harold Muller were - with the exception of an intriguing article that veteran animator Dick Huemer wrote for Mike Barrier's Funnyworld magazine - largely forgotten until almost 40 years after Bowers' passing in 1946.
Louise Beaudet of the Cinemateque Francaise brought a devastatingly wonderful Charley Bowers retrospective to the United States, which was screened at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive, among other venues, in 1984.
Excellent news for animation buffs: there will, in 2014, be a new release of Charley Bowers: The Rediscovery Of An American Comic Genius on Blu-ray.
Fortunately, until the upcoming
For more info, check out author Imogen Sara Smith's excellent and scholarly article on Charley Bowers in Bright Lights Film Journal.