Fans of Charley Chase owe a debt of thanks to the folks at Kino Video, who have recently released two discs of short comedies featuring this great and too often overlooked comic talent. (Thus we also owe thanks to the Paris-based company Lobster Video, whose personnel located and restored many of the prints and provided them to Kino in the first place.) The second volume of the Chase collection features a bonus rarity, a short starring Charley's brother James Parrott -- Parrott was the family name -- who appeared in numerous silent comedies under the name Paul Parrott. As we watch him in Shine 'Em Up! we can see the family resemblance, but we can also tell why Charley ultimately became the star of the family. Paul looks like a shorter version of his brother and he's certainly agile, but he doesn't connect with the viewer the way Charley does. Like all the best silent film performers Charley Chase had highly expressive eyes, eyes that seemed to look through the camera lens right at us; Paul Parrott, on the other hand, seems too distracted performing his comic business to give the lens (or the viewer) much thought. He's certainly capable of being funny, but while doing so he practically shields his eyes from us, so it's hard to read his face or to develop much of a connection with him as a performer.
Shine 'Em Up! is a routine affair as comedy shorts of the period go, but there are some clever bits along the way. (Unfortunately, there's also an unpleasant racial gag early on, which was just business as usual at the time.) The opening sequence is highlighted by an amusing routine in which Paul, who runs his own shoeshine stand, must wait on a man with black shoes and one with white shoes simultaneously. The inevitable mix-up occurs, but Paul's solution to the problem is one of those cartoon-y inspirations that only silent clowns could get away with. Later, after Paul is mistaken for an escaped convict, there are a couple of cute gags involving striped suits, then a brisk courtship scene with Jobyna Ralston, best remembered as Harold Lloyd's frequent leading lady. It all builds to the inevitable frantic chase and a mild wrap-up gag.
Perhaps this wasn't one of Paul Parrott's more inspired outings, but based on the evidence at hand it's probably just as well that he resumed the use of his real name and moved behind the camera. As James Parrott he directed several of the best Laurel & Hardy shorts from their heyday, 1928-33, including Two Tars, Brats, and their only Oscar-winning film, The Music Box. Stan & Ollie's fans will be especially interested in looking at this short comedy to see Parrott in his early days as an apprentice comedy craftsman.
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