Monday, May 12, 2014
The Mirror Bit
The news that Max Linder's Seven Years Bad Luck will get the big screen treatment at the 2014 San Francisco Silent Film Festival has prompted your correspondent to ponder THE MIRROR GAG.
Unquestionably, historian Anthony Balducci, both in his book The Funny Parts and in blog posts The Mirror Prank (covering over 100 years of the mirror bit's variations in movies and TV) and 14 Versions Of The Mirror Routine, has written the last word on the topic.
While the earliest known version was in a 1912 film by cinema innovator Alice Guy Blaché, the most famous versions of the mirror bit were made after the advent of talkies. Catapulting the routine into the popular zeitgeist: Duck Soup, starring the Marx Brothers.
Even more so, the famous episode of I Love Lucy co-starring Lucille Ball and Harpo Marx.
The great scene in Duck Soup wasn't the first time director Leo McCarey filmed this bit. Here, in Sitting Pretty, a 1924 Charley Chase comedy written and directed by McCarey and Chase, the mirror routine is performed by Charley and, as his double, his brother (and director of numerous Laurel & Hardy short subjects in the early 1930's) James Parrott, A.K.A. Paul Parrott.
Granted, while it's a good bet that two Athenian comics made Socrates laugh himself silly with a 409 B.C. version of the mirror bit, these are some distinguished and funny examples by our celluloid heroes.