Friday, April 27, 2018

Postscript to The Alice Howell DVD Project

Good news (for a change) - the Kickstarter noted here last Saturday, raising funds for The Alice Howell DVD project - 6 rare silent comedies not only made its initial goal in 8 hours but more than doubled it, passing the $10,000 benchmark and surpassing the stretch goals.

That said, the fundraiser by Ben Model and Steve Massa is on through Tuesday, May 8 and one can contribute to said Kickstarter here.

The more money raised, the more hilarious Alice Howell comedies will be available for viewing on DVD!

New stretch goal is 340 contributors.

Thanks to the enthusiastic response thus far, now there will be eleven rare films starring Alice Howell on a 2-DVD set instead of six on one DVD. The following titles have been added to The Alice Howell DVD project:

Shot In The Excitement (1914) Keystone Comedy, co-starring Alice with the equally wacky (and triple-jointed) Al St. John and gonzo circus clown Rube Miller, termed "a triple threat of the uninhibited" by writer Lea Stans in her review from the Silent-ology website which describes the film's utter mayhem: over-the-top performances, cartoony gags, slow-flying cannon balls, you name it.

Under New Management (1915) Henry Lehrman Productions a.k.a. L-Ko, co-starring Gene Rogers and Alice's fellow L-Ko Studio comedienne Gertrude Selby. Ms. Howell started at L-Ko (short for "Lehrman Knock-out") as a supporting player in the films of Billie Ritchie, formerly (like Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel) of the Fred Karno company, before headlining her own series.

Her Lucky Day (1920) Reelcraft, co-starring Dick Smith, Alice's husband and frequent collaborator (in front of and behind the cameras) in her films for Reelcraft and Universal. Smith also directed the Marx Brothers' first film, a 1921 silent, Humor Risk.

Father Was a Loafer (1915), L-Ko comedy, co-starring the lowdown, ever-misanthropic Billie Ritchie as "the loafer" and Gertrude Selby as the heiress the loafer is wooing.

Neptune's Naughty Daughter (1917) Century Comedy, directed by the prolific John G. Blystone, whose last film was Laurel & Hardy's 1938 feature Block-heads. Check out Alice's duck walk!

The producer of the DVD collection, Ben Model of Undercrank Productions, is targeting the end of November 2018 for completion of the project and a February 2019 release.

Logistics for the film transfers are lined up and ready to go with the Library of Congress. One additional short is being scanned for the project from 35mm nitrate by EYE Filmmusueum in the Netherlands.

Since none of her starring vehicles for L-KO, Century Comedies, Emerald Motion Picture Company and Bulls-Eye/Reelcraft were available when Robert Youngson produced his influential series of silent comedy compilation features - The Golden Age Of Comedy, When Comedy Was King, Days Of Thrills & Laughter, 30 Years Of Fun - in the 1950's and 1960's, recognition for The Queen Of Slapstick has been a long time coming.

As a direct result of the utter unavailability of her films, until the recent books She Could Be Chaplin: The Comedic Brilliance Of Alice Howell by Anthony Slide and Steve Massa's Slapstick Divas: The Women Of Silent Comedy, there hasn't been a heckuva lot written about the hard-working silent movie comedienne.

Mr. Massa, the aforementioned author and co-curator of The Alice Howell DVD Project, elaborates further on Ms. Howell and silent film comedians in this interview on the Vaudevisuals website.

For more info, there's the following: an excellent article by Trav S.D., author of Chain Of Fools: Silent Comedy And Its Legacies - From Nickelodeons To YouTube, the full chapter she receives in Lame Brains And Lunatics: The Good, The Bad And The Forgotten Of Silent Comedy by Steve Massa and a section in Eccentrics Of Comedy by Anthony Slide.

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