Happy Purim!

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Since Purim begins this Saturday night, I thought I’d feature a Purim-themed excerpt. Chapter 3, “Happy Purim,” of the book formerly known as The Very Next, takes place on 4 March 1939 (also a Saturday). It’s interspersed with public domain photos of illuminated Megillot (scrolls of the Book of Esther) and a few vintage photographs. Sadly, it’s very hard to find vintage greeting cards for any Jewish holiday except Rosh Hashanah.

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That evening, Sparky reached into Cinni’s closet for her Purim costume, a Gypsy outfit she’d put together with Cinni’s help.  The dress was peacock-green, with long, flowing sleeves, a floor-length skirt, and a modest neckline.  To transform it from just an ordinary but fancy dress into a real costume, Sparky wrapped herself in a deep blue silk scarf, wrapped her hair in a dark orange velvet scarf, and exchanged her French hook ruby earrings for huge gold hoops she’d picked up at an indoor flea market last month.

“Now why are you perfectly okay with wearing a costume for this holiday, but you felt wrong for wearing a Halloween costume?” Cinni asked. “It’s exactly the same, just for a different holiday.”

“They’re completely different holidays,” Sparky said. “Purim is a Jewish holiday, and Halloween is a pagan holiday.  They’re celebrated for totally different reasons, and have completely different origins.  There are no Purim costumes with stuff like pumpkins, bats, spiders, and witches.  Even the treats we give out are different.”

“So you’re going trick-or-treating after you do your thing at synagogue?”

“We don’t trick-or-treat.  We exchange gift baskets with stuff like money and hamentaschen.  None of the gift baskets have stuff like chocolate bars, caramels, and whatever else you got on Halloween.”

“You get treats for doing nothing?”

“It ain’t nothing.  You wouldn’t get treats unless you were a member of the synagogue, or we knew you.  It ain’t a mitzvah to give Gentiles mishloach manot, but we’ll give you one ‘cause we love you so much.”

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Sparky finished changing into her costume and headed downstairs to join her family.  Cinni sat at the top of the stairs and watched them heading off to synagogue.  Mr. and Mrs. Small were dressed rather boringly, as an Army officer and flapper.  Cinni wondered where Mr. Small had found the vintage military uniform with all the medals and insignia.  He’d been too young to serve in the Great War, and since it was an American uniform, it obviously hadn’t belonged to any of his ancestors or older relatives.  Gary, just turned fifteen, was dressed just as boringly, as a sailor.

Of all their costumes, Cinni liked best Sparky’s Gypsy costume and Barry’s toreador costume.  It reminded her of Rudolph Valentino’s suit of lights in Blood and Sand, in one of the vintage movie advertisements of her namesake which she’d collected over the years.  If Barry were this beautiful from a distance, she could only imagine how much more dashing he’d look when he came back later tonight and she’d be able to see him up-close and from the front.

***

Cinni spent the next few hours listening to the radio and reading movie magazines, ignoring her small pile of homework.  She almost always saved homework for the very last moment, as many times as her mother begged her to do it immediately instead of the night or morning before.  Only the Nobodies liked homework and did it right away.

Cinni didn’t have particularly hard homework, nothing more than a few worksheets with math problems or vocabulary lists in English, French, Italian, and Portuguese.  This was nothing that needed lots of time to complete, like a twenty-page research paper or complicated trigonometry problems.  Life should be about having fun, particularly now that the wolf had been chased away from the door.  She’d had enough hard times in the first few years of the decade, hardships enough to last for the rest of her life.

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Near the time the Smalls were expected to come home, Cinni left her amusements and went downstairs to wait on the davenport.  Lucinda was on one of the other cushions, bent over the spring dresses she’d begun making for her nieces and daughter several weeks ago.  Every year, Lucinda made the girls special spring dresses from repurposed materials found around the house.  Last year, they’d been made from quilts, and this year, they were being fashioned from curtains.

The materials in prior years had included pillowcases, lightweight blankets, bedsheets, silk shawls from London, scarves from Los Angeles, pillow shams, satin bonnets from Amsterdam, and cloth shower curtains.  Before the Stock Market Crash, the family’s spring wardrobe had come from expensive catalogues and upscale department stores.  It amazed Cinni how Lucinda could be frugal and ingenious in this way, but otherwise waste so much money on fancy house embellishments and overpriced clothes for herself.

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“You want a change of scenery from that boring little sewing room?” Cinni asked. “It musta been hard to lug that big old sewing machine here.”

Lucinda sighed. “How can I concentrate in there anymore, now that I have a roommate?  Samantha shows no signs of moving out, though I don’t know how she can bear to sleep on that little cot.  Your father told her she could share the attic with you and Sparky, but she likes my sewing room more.  Maybe she thinks she’s being some holy Christian martyr by depriving herself of a real bed.”

“Martyr, nothing!” Urma shouted from across the room. “My girl ain’t gonna share her sleeping quarters with some Yid!  Bad enough we have to share living quarters with five of ‘em indefinitely.  If she were younger, I’d insist she sleep in the bed Mortez and I got.  But a sewing room cot is still a bed, however pathetic.”

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“I’m going to need my sewing room back eventually.  I can handle a few days of being displaced, but I can’t keep sewing in other rooms, without any privacy.  Perhaps you and your daughter don’t understand that room is my castle, my special place all my own in this house.  I’ve always been happy to live with my dear sister’s family, but it’s nice to have a small room all my own, where I can go to be alone with my thoughts and not be bothered or distracted by anyone or anything else.”

“It’s true,” Cinni says. “Aunt Lucinda is constantly holed up in that precious sewing room of hers.  It’s her special place, and not very nice to intrude upon it.  I hope Sam ain’t gonna steal nothing from it, though it ain’t like Aunt Lucinda generally sews with fancy stuff like golden thread and silk cloth.”

“Stealing is against the Bible!” Urma thundered “My girl would never steal anything!  And why do you have such awful grammar?  I don’t want words like ‘ain’t’ and double negatives to rub off on my girl.  That’s not how proper, civilized people speak.”

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“It’s how my niece talks,” Lucinda said protectively, putting her arm around Cinni. “Most of the people in this neighborhood talk like that, even the rich people.  We live in a very strange neighborhood.  It’s hardly a crime to not speak the King’s English.  Cinni’s not hurting anyone by saying ‘ain’t’ or using double negatives most of the time.  She does use proper English sometimes, so it’s not like she’s ignorant of the existence of more refined grammar.  It’s the same way with how she speaks Russian with her father’s mother, and how my sister and I speak Polish with our parents.  You speak differently depending upon your audience.”

Urma screamed and made a hex sign. “You mean to say I’m not only sharing living space with five Yids, but also with sub-human Slavs?  I had no idea Mortez’s friend had a Pollack wife and was part Russian.”

“Yes, my sister and I are almost entirely of Polish blood, and damn proud of it.  Our maiden name is Radulski, and our birth names are Łucja and Katarzyna.  We’ve been in this country for a very long time, since the early days of Polish immigration.  H.G.’s mother is Russian, and he was born in St. Petersburg.  Since he came to America when he was only twelve, he doesn’t have a Russian accent anymore.”

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Urma was weeping. “I don’t want to live in this house anymore.  This is such a nightmare Mortez sprung on me.  I want to go back to D.C.  My sister Ursula would take us in, even if she’s got seven kids.  There’d only be eleven people in her home, as compared to seventeen here.”

“Well, it’s too late to move now,” Mortez spoke up softly. “I’m already looking for jobs here, and I’ve gotten attached to this city in the last few days.  It’s much less crowded and fast-paced than Washington.  Don’t make me move when I’ve barely started to get settled into a new place.  I’m happy here so far, and I wasn’t very happy in Washington.  This is one issue you can’t push me around regarding.  We’re staying in Atlantic City.”

Urma growled and stalked out of the room.

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“Why do you let your wife railroad over you so much?” Cinni asked after she was positive Urma was well out of earshot. “She’s even worse than the wives in Laurel and Hardy’s movies.  That’s just make-believe, and those wives ain’t really bullies or mean.  Your wife is a whole different type of henpecker.”

“She is who she is.  I can’t change that.  Sometimes we fall in love with a person with a really bad character flaw, and we have to ignore it because we love the person so much otherwise.”

“That’s more than just a character flaw like always being late or being a bad cook.  She’s outright mean, and a religious fanatic.”

“I agree, but I can’t do anything about it.  She wasn’t a fanatic when we were growing up.  That only happened after Samantha was born.  An intolerant fanatic wouldn’t have had a child out of wedlock, let alone gotten in the family way at just fifteen.”

“You can say ‘pregnant’ around me, Mr. Smart.  I ain’t some little glass flower who’s never heard that word before.  No matter what my mom thinks, I don’t consider words like ‘pregnant’ and ‘uterus’ dirty.  There are some words I refuse to say or write, but I don’t mind the milder, more basic words for adult things.”

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Mortez stared at her. “Aren’t you a young spitfire.  You remind me a bit of what Urma was like before that damned Minister Hodges corrupted her mind against reality and normalcy.  By the way, you don’t have to call me Mr. Smart.  My wife and I prefer to be called by our first names, even if it’s not considered proper etiquette.  It just feels so strange to go by titles when we’re not even thirty yet.  My father is Mr. Smart, but I’m just Mortez.”

“So, can I ask where your first name came from?  I’ve never heard that name before.  It sounds a little Spanish, but you can’t be Spanish with a last name like Smart.”

“My parents are of German descent, but not completely knowledgeable about the language.  They wanted to call me Moritz, but misremembered the name.  It was too late by the time they realized they’d made an embarrassing mistake.”

“That’s kinda like my name.  I know my name isn’t spelt properly, but I’m so used to the way my mom spelt it, the so-called real spelling looks odd to me.  The pronunciation is a lot more obvious with my so-called misspelling.  I’m glad my daddy’s mom didn’t get her way and name me Alexa, ‘cause that’d be too confusing in my circle of friends.  We already have an Alexandria Kate, and we couldn’t both have the same nicknames.” Cinni leapt up at the sound of the doorbell.

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To Cinni’s great delight, Barry was the first person behind the door.  He looked just as beautiful in the suit of lights as she suspected he would.  Best of all, he had a big smile for her, and what she almost thought were a special look in his eyes.

“This is yours,” Barry said, extending a large basket. “I’ve never given mishloach manot to Gentiles before, but everyone in your family deserves one for being so good to us.  Without your father, we’d still be in Europe, with God knows what kind of future.”

Cinni returned the smile and eagerly took the basket.  She headed back to the davenport with it, and delightedly discovered oranges, hamentaschen, saltwater taffy, gumdrops, chocolate-covered peanuts, a bottle of grape pop, and five silver dollars.

“I packed that one just for you,” Barry said, smiling at her again. “I know what a sweet tooth you have.  You’d never be happy with the mishloach manot we made for your parents and siblings.”

“Thank you very much.  You’re really swell to be so nice to someone your kid sister’s age.  I still can’t believe you let me be a guest of honor at your bar mitzvah.”

“I don’t care how young you are.  You’re a nice girl, and that’s all that matters.”

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Cinni looked through the contents of the basket over and over again, daydreaming about being old enough for a boyfriend in a few years and doing boy-girl things with Barry.  Forget about her fantasy crush on John.  Almost every girl in town had a crush on John, and at eighteen, he was far too old for her.  Even if Cinni were eighteen herself, she’d still think the age difference were too large, never mind that her belovèd father had been twenty-five to her mother’s eighteen at their wedding.  That was different and special, and had happened in another generation besides.  But Barry wasn’t that much older than she was.  Their age difference was large enough to be exciting, but not so large it would be inappropriate once their ages leveled out a bit more.  Only time could tell if her dream would come true someday.

“Happy Purim, Barry,” she said with a smile.

WeWriWa—New Year’s Eve 1939

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes from the final chapter of the book formerly known as The Very Next, the chronological second of my Atlantic City books. Though it’s an episodic story with an ensemble cast, the main focus is on Cinnimin Filliard.

At the beginning of March, Cinni’s father gave Urma, Mortez, and Samantha Smart a temporary place to stay, and this situation has been nothing but trouble for everyone. Urma and her daughter Sam are fire and brimstone fanatics who think everything but breathing and reading the Bible their way is a sin.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit ten sentences.

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“Celebrating New Year’s is the work of the Devil,” Urma pontificated. “Don’t ask me to drink any of your demonic libations at the stroke of midnight.”

“I’d never waste my good champagne on you,” Mrs. Filliard said. “My alcohol is only for my family and friends, and you’ll never be my friend.”

“I’ll have some champagne,” Mortez said.

Urma gave him the evil eye as Mrs. Filliard filled an especially large champagne flute.  She covered her eyes when Mr. Filliard mixed a cocktail of strawberry syrup, lemonade, and champagne for all the underage members of the household, using a shaker in the shape of a penguin left over from Prohibition.

“How can you be anti-alcohol when Christ’s first miracle was changing water into wine?” Mr. Valli asked.

“He changed wine into water, that’s all you know.  I’d be glad to lend you one of my copies of Minister Hodges’s true version of the Bible, if I trusted I’d get it back in one piece and undefaced.”

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Mortez has never had any part of his wife and daughter’s extreme religious conversion, though they usually railroad over him and shut down any attempted protests or lectures. He’s always loved Urma much more than she’s ever loved him, though he can’t forgive her for the slanderous story she told her parents after they conceived Samantha as unmarried teenagers.

A tragic, misunderstood monster

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As it turns out, I could’ve done Frankenstein as my final vintage horror film of October, since what I thought were two 1921 horror films turned out to be horribly mistitled. But since I never immediately take down the Monster template and love Halloween so much, why not save the final film for early November?

Released 21 November 1931, this was the fourth film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s famous novel. (It was like nails on a chalkboard to see her seriously credited as “Mrs. Percy B. Shelley” in the opening credits! She published under her own name, not her husband’s name with the title Mrs. in front!) However, the film was more based on a 1927 play by Peggy Webling.

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James Whale directed, and Carl Laemmle, Jr. produced. The film stars Colin Clive as Henry (not Victor) Frankenstein; Mae Clarke (who took the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy) as his fiancée Elizabeth Lavenza; Dwight Frye as hunchbacked assistant Fritz; Edward van Sloan as Dr. Waldman; John Boles as friend Victor Moritz; and, last but not least, Boris Karloff (né William Henry Pratt) as the Monster. I like how there’s a question mark for the Monster’s actor in the opening cast list.

Universal Pictures had lost $2.2 million in revenues in 1930, but was rescued by the runaway hit Dracula in February 1931. Hence, Carl Laemmle, Jr., announced plans for more horror films. He knew a cash cow when he saw one.

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There were five sequels:

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) (with Lon Chaney, Jr., as the Monster)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) (with Béla Lugosi as the Monster)
House of Frankenstein (1944) (with Glenn Strange as the Monster and Karloff as a mad scientist)

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Henry Frankenstein, a young scientist obsessed with the idea of creating life, has holed himself away in his lab in an abandoned watchtower with his assistant Fritz. Towards this most lofty goal, they dig up dead bodies and abscond with various body parts. One of these body parts is a brain Fritz grabs from the lecture hall of Henry’s old medical professor, Dr. Waldman.

Alas, he drops the healthy brain, and unrealizingly takes a criminal’s so-called “abnormal” brain in its place. As a modern viewer, and given the attitudes of the era, I have to wonder just why a criminal’s brain was automatically portrayed as “abnormal.” Was the deceased mentally ill, gay, left-handed, an anarchist? And what exactly was his crime?

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Henry’s fiancée Elizabeth is extremely concerned about what’s going on, and goes to his friend Victor for help. They in turn get Dr. Waldman to come with them to confront Henry about his bizarre behavior and hermitism. The three of them set off, and arrive during a terrible storm. Henry refuses to admit them at first, but finally relents.

Henry tells them to watch as he brings his creation to life. The moment is creeping ever closer, as soon as the strongest lightning strikes. Henry’s creation is moved from an operating table towards an opening near the roof, and when the booming thunder rings out, his ambition is finally realized.

The Monster is a simple, obedient, easy-going creature, until Fritz scares him with a lit torch. Henry and Dr. Waldman mistake his innocent fright for a dangerous attempted attack, and have him chained up. They abandon the Monster to his chains and Fritz’s sadistic torture with the torch.

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The Monster snaps under Fritz’s torture, and lashes out. After he attacks Fritz, he goes after Henry and Dr. Waldman, but they escape, and make plans to have him put down. First, Henry mixes a drug to be injected into the monster as soon as he’s released and tries to attack again. Once the Monster is unconscious, Henry departs for his wedding and leaves Dr. Waldman in charge of the euthanasia.

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The Monster awakes as Dr. Waldman is preparing to dissect him, and isn’t exactly happy. After attacking Dr. Waldman, he goes in search of his creator. Along the way, he has an encounter with a little girl named Maria, a farmer’s daughter. He’s so innocent and gentle, taking a childlike delight in throwing flowers into the water. In fact, he’s a bit too innocent, and doesn’t realize not all things float.

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His next stop is Henry’s house, where he goes after Elizabeth. Victor also brings the news that the Monster has attacked Dr. Waldman and escaped. By the time Elizabeth is found, the Monster has escaped again, and a mob of vigilantes set out on a search party, split three ways.

Henry becomes separated from the others during the search, leading to one final confrontation with the Monster.

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I really enjoyed this film, though at only 71 minutes, it felt a bit rushed and underdeveloped in spots. I wanted to see the Monster wreaking more havoc, and to get more of a window into his psychological and emotional state (i.e., truer to the book than the play). But judged for what it is and not what it’s not, I’d rate it 4.5 stars.

Dracula disappointed me

Bela Lugosi, DRACULA, 1931.

I was really looking forward to watching the 1931 version of Dracula, always having had the impression it’s one of the all-time greats and classics of horror cinema. Instead, I found myself yet again disappointed by something surrounded by years of massive hype.

For all the issues I have with Nosferatu (to be discussed more in-depth next October), at least that film succeeds brilliantly at creating a creepy, spooky, foreboding mood, with tension in the air. It’s all thrown away with a whimper instead of a bang, but at least it’s there.

Béla Lugosi cuts an awesome figure as Count Dracula, though he seems to do about as much active vamping as Max Schreck, which is to say, not nearly enough. It does start out promisingly, but once it moves to London, the stiltedness begins.

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Stripped of all the hype and classic status, this is just another creaky, stilted early talkie. So many early talkies feel like filmed stage plays, since the first sound cameras couldn’t move very far and still pick up noise well. Dracula was indeed based on a stage play, but I really don’t feel like that best-suits any kind of horror story.

The horror is more talked about after the fact, instead of shown as it’s actually happening. How is that supposed to create a frightening mood? Silent horror films work so well because they’re not bogged down in a bunch of dialogue. We see horrific events, and experience the building of a creepy mood. Even in a sound horror film, do you really need a lot of dialogue to understand what’s happening?

Forget horror; ANY film, of any genre, becomes boring and stilted when there’s more dialogue than action. Books also suffer when they’re little more than talking heads.

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We never once see Dracula biting anyone, rising up out of his coffin, transmogrifying from bat to human, or even just showing his fangs. Beyond that, we don’t even see bite marks on anyone’s neck! Come on, those are basic elements of any Dracula story, no matter which version it’s based on!

Horror movies don’t necessarily have to be a nonstop parade of horrific images and frightening events. Sometimes the horror is more about a foreboding mood, a creepy mystery, or dark human emotions, not paranormal creatures, psychotic murderers, or blood and guts. However, I didn’t get a palpable sense of any type of horror here.

A slow pace also doesn’t work with most horror films.

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The film was directed by the legendary Tod Browning, though he was a last-minute choice. This wasn’t his project from the jump, which seems to suggest, sadly, that it’s just an urban legend that Lon Chaney, Sr., would’ve played Dracula had he still been alive. Still, I can’t help but imagine how awesome Lon would’ve been as Dracula, even with the same script and stilted feeling.

There’s also an old rumor that Carl Laemmle, Sr., of Universal Studios, wanted the awesome Conrad Veidt to play Dracula. Though he had to go back to Germany with the advent of sound, due to his thick accent and poor English, Lugosi also had a heavy accent, and his troubles with learning English are well-known. It could’ve worked with Veidt.

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Just because I most love old films doesn’t mean I automatically love all of them. It’s such a myth that lovers of classic cinema think it’s immune from criticism, only watch it because it’s old, refuse to watch anything modern, or heap praises on films just because they’re old. There were just as many bad apples then as now, even if I’d much rather watch a bad or mediocre old film than something current.

I’d give this a 2 out of 5. It wasn’t terrible, but there was nothing special or innovative about it. Even Lugosi’s character didn’t do much to elevate the overall experience.

Roscoe Arbuckle Week, Part IV (Filmography)

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Between 1909–33, Roscoe appeared in over 150 films, with his most prolific years being 1913–21. He also directed over 130 films (billed as William B. Goodrich from 1924–32) and wrote over 35 films. Sadly, his films were ordered destroyed in the wake of the scandal, and many of them are now considered lost. Others exist only in archives.

Lost films are starred, as per the latest information available at SilentEra.com.

Selig Polyscope Company:

Ben’s Kid (1909)*
Mrs. Jones’ Birthday
(1909)*
Making It Pleasant for Him
(1909)*
The Sanitarium
(1910)*
Alas! Poor Yorick!
(1913)*

Keystone:

The Gangsters (1913)
Passions, He Had Three (1913)*
Help! Help! Hydrophobia! (1913)*
The Waiters’ Picnic (1913)*
A Bandit (1913)
Peeping Pete (1913)
For the Love of Mabel (1913)*
The Telltale Light (1913)*
A Noise from the Deep (1913)*
Love and Courage (1913)*
Professor Bean’s Removal (1913)*
The Riot (1913)*
Mabel’s New Hero (a.k.a. Fatty and the Bathing Beauties) (1913)
Fatty’s Day Off (1913)*

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Mabel’s Dramatic Career (1913)
The Gypsy Queen (1913)*
The Fatal Taxicab (1913)*
When Dreams Come True (1913)*
Mother’s Boy (1913)*
Two Old Tars (1913)*
A Quiet Little Wedding (1913)*
The Speed Kings—Earl Cooper and Teddy Tetzlaft (1913)

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Fatty at San Diego (1913)*
Wine (1913)*
A Muddy Romance (1913)
Fatty Joins the Force (1913)
The Woman Haters (1913)*
Ride for a Bride (1913)*
Fatty’s Flirtation (1913)*
His Sister’s Kids (1913)
He Would a Hunting Go (1913)*

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A Misplaced Foot (1914)*
The Under Sheriff (1914)*
A Flirt’s Mistake (1914)
In the Clutches of the Gang (1914)*
Rebecca’s Wedding Day (1914)*
A Robust Romeo (1914)*
‘Twixt Love and Fire (1914)*
A Film Johnnie (1914)
Tango Tangles (1914)
His Favorite Pastime (1914)

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A Rural Demon (1914)*
Barnyard Flirtations (1914) (Roscoe’s directing début)*
The Chicken Chaser (1914)*
A Bath House Beauty (1914)*
Where Hazel Met the Villain (1914)*
A Suspended Ordeal (1914)*
The Water Dog (1914)*
A Fatal Flirtation (1914)*
The Alarm (1914)*

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The Knockout (a.k.a. Counted Out) (1914)
Fatty and the Heiress (1914)*
Fatty’s Finish (1914)*
Love and Bullets (1914)
A Rowboat Romance (1914)*
The Sky Pirate (1914)*
Those Happy Days (1914)*
That Minstrel Man (1914)*
Those Country Kids (1914)
Fatty’s Gift (1914)*
The Masquerader (1914)
His New Profession (1914)
A Brand New Hero (1914)*
The Rounders (1914)
Lover’s Luck (1914)*
Fatty’s Debut (1914)*

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Fatty Again (1914)*
Their Ups and Downs (1914)*
Zip, the Dodger (1914)*
Lovers’ Post Office (1914)*
An Incompetent Hero (1914)*
Fatty’s Jonah Day (1914)*
Fatty’s Wine Party (1914)*
The Sea Nymphs (1914)*
Leading Lizzie Astray (1914)

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Shotguns That Kick (1914)*
Fatty’s Magic Pants (1914)
Fatty and Minnie He-Haw (1914)
Mabel and Fatty’s Wash Day (1915)
Fatty and Mabel’s Simple Life (1915)
Fatty and Mabel at the San Diego Exposition (1915)
Mabel, Fatty and the Law (1915) (a title so in need of the Oxford comma!)
Fatty’s New Role (1915)
Mabel and Fatty’s Married Life (1915)
Hogan’s Romance Upset (1915)

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Fatty’s Reckless Fling (1915)
Fatty’s Chance Acquaintance (1915)
Love in Armor (1915)
That Little Band of Gold (1915)
Fatty’s Faithful Fido (1915)
When Love Took Wings (1915)
Wished on Mabel (1915)
Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World’s Fair at San Francisco, Cal. (1915)
Mabel’s Wilful Way (1915)
Miss Fatty’s Seaside Lovers (1915)
The Little Teacher (1915)
Fatty’s Plucky Pup (1915)
Fatty’s Tintype Tangle (1915)

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Keystone–Triangle:

Fickle Fatty’s Fall (1915)*
The Village Scandal (1915)*
Fatty and the Broadway Stars (1915)
Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916)
He Did and He Didn’t (1916)

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Bright Lights (1916)*
His Wife’s Mistake (1916)
The Other Man (1916)*
The Moonshiners (1916)*
The Waiters’ Ball (1916)
A Reckless Romeo (1916)
A Creampuff Romance (1916)*

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Comique:

The Butcher Boy (1917) (Buster Keaton’s film début)
The Rough House (1917)
His Wedding Night (1917)
Oh, Doctor! (1917)
Coney Island (1917) (watch for a pre-stoneface Buster smiling!)

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A Country Hero (1917)
Out West (1918) (contains a brief but difficult to watch moment of racially-based violence)
The Bell Boy (1918)
Moonshine (1918)
Good Night, Nurse! (1918)
The Cook (1918)
The Sheriff (1918)*

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Camping Out (1919)
The Pullman Porter (1919)*
Love (1919)
The Bank Clerk (1919)*
A Desert Hero (1919)*
Back Stage (1919)
The Hayseed (1919)
The Garage (1920)

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Paramount:

The Round Up (1920)
The Life of the Party (1920)
Brewster’s Millions (1921)*
The Dollar a Year Man (1921)*
The Traveling Salesman (1921)*
Gasoline Gus (1921)
Crazy to Marry (1921)
Leap Year (1921)
Freight Prepaid (a.k.a. The Fast Freight) (1921)*
Hollywood (1923)*

Educational Pictures:

The Back Page (1931)

Warner Brothers:

Hey, Pop! (1933)
Buzzin’ Around (1933)
How’ve You Bean? (1933)
Close Relations (1933)
In the Dough (1933)
Tomalio (1933)

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Though many of Roscoe’s films are lost or only available in archives, there are some wonderful DVDs featuring his work:

The Best Arbuckle/Keaton Collection, a two-disc set spanning 1917–20. This was before Buster adopted his famous stoneface, so you get to see him smiling in some of the films. Roscoe’s nephew Al St. John also co-stars, typically playing the villain. Last but not least, there’s Luke the Dog.

The Cook and Other Treasures, featuring two long-lost shorts plus the Harold Lloyd short Number, Please?

The Vitaphone Comedy Collection Volume One – Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle/Shemp Howard (1932-1934), featuring Roscoe’s six sound films with Warner Brothers.

The Forgotten Films of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, an incredible four-disc set spanning 1913–21. There are also a few later films he directed.

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