The Rough House

Saw Arbuckle's short The Rough House, and it's unsettling to see how he relished flirting with women, knowing how his career will end. Surprising to see that this is probably the first time the forks-in-dinner rolls dance made its appearance on the big screen (Chaplin was to immortalize it in his The Gold Rush); most surpising of all is to catch Keaton laughing it up a few times (this must be before the Great Stone Face has actually set).

Arbuckle's filmmaking chops may not be up to par with Keaton's but he's an incredible physical comedian, simply amazing at juggling things, and so is Al St. John, he of the wide mouth and at times jawdropping slapstick routines.

Finall, there's this startling sequence, of Arbuckle carrying a linen bundle into the dining room, untying and laying it out, and showing us a complete, set, and perfectly polished dining service. The solution's simple, too: Arbuckle walks backwards, picking up the tablecloth along the way; then the film is developed and projected in reverse. Nowadays, they'd get a computer to work the same miracle, spending a few million dollars along the way, with maybe half the sense of magic.

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