Thursday, April 17, 2014

Born April 17 - Silent Movie Great Fay Tincher

"Farce has never appealed to me. Comedy is at best transitory entertainment that seldom lingers in a person's mind after it is over. Drama is a different matter. Drama affects - for drama is life." Fay Tincher

Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog wishes a Happy Birthday to silent screen actress and comedienne par excellence Fay Tincher, born in Topeka, Kansas on April 17, 1884.

Although she retired from films in the late 1920's (and never looked back), in her World War I era heyday, Fay was arguably the top comedienne in movies other than the iconic Mabel Normand.

That said, she was also an extremely reluctant comedienne who had a background in musical theater. After all, comedy in the silent era was frequently regarded as undignified and unladylike, only acceptable as a stepping stone to prestigious dramatic roles in feature films.

Fay had a 15 year movie career that spanned stints with The American Eclair Company, Komic Komedies, Triangle, Christie, and Universal.

After beginning in movies as a vamp in D.W. Griffith's feature The Battle Of The Sexes, Fay's screen popularity took off in 1914 with her scene-stealing antics as Ethel, the outrageous stenographer in Komic Komedies' Bill The Office Boy series.

The few Fay Tincher starring vehicles that still exist are very, very funny.

Unfortunately, the only ones available on DVD are one Bill The Office Boy comedy, Ethel's Roof Party, from the Dizzy Damsels & Crazy Janes volume 1 set from Looser Than Loose Publishing and the following Christie Comedy, Rowdy Ann, which was part of Kino Video's Slapstick Encyclopedia set.

Fay was on record as finding the Christie Comedies a bit too slapstick-oriented for her taste. This may be due to various injuries suffered doing stunts as rugged, take-no-prisoners Rowdy Ann in the western comedies series, as well as an impression on Fay's part that she would get to star in 5-reel featurettes at Christie Comedies and pursue storylines more along the lines of the genteel and sophisticated farces exemplified by Mr. And Mrs. Sidney Drew. She made her last film for the Al Christie Studio in 1920.

Fay was cast as "Min Gump" in Universal's The Gumps series, based on the popular comic strip, in 1923; these, unfortunately, turned out to be her last films (one Gumps comedy, Andy's Stump Speech, has been posted on the National Film Preservation Foundation website).

Fay gives it her all onscreen, as usual, but wasn't given much to do in The Gumps films, which ran through 1928.

She also did not receive any opportunity to work behind the camera, writing stories/gags and directing as Fay had previously. Transitioning from triple threat actress-director-writer to supporting player for the last five years of her movie career may well have prompted her to get out of show business.

Today's tips of the esteemed Max Linder top hat go to Andrew Grossman's 21st century look back at Fay's rootin' tootin' cowgirl films (written for Senses Of Cinema), and the prolific Trav S.D for his splendid Stars Of Slapstick blog post on her stage and screen career. A double hat tip goes to Steve Massa's book Lame Brains And Lunatics: The Good, The Bad And The Forgotten Of Silent Comedy.

His comprehensive study of lesser known silent film headliners broke new ground and did much to put the careers of Fay Tincher and other comedy greats back on the map. It may be the first book since Clown Princes & Court Jesters by the late Kalton C. Lahue and (thankfully, still with us) Sam Gill to even make a passing reference to Fay's career in movies.

1 comment:

lmstans5 said...

Hopefully Steve's book is but the first of many to mention Fay! It's a pity so little of her work is available--but maybe that's because demand has been low since not many people have heard of her. We can change that. ;-) I'll add that Alice Howell and Louise Fazenda were other worthy contenders for top comedienne back then.

Lea S.