Maids And Muslin  
 
Non-Hal Roach film with Babe Hardy
01 March 1920
Vitagraph Company of America
silent short
2-reels

 

Director: Noel M. Smith Cinematography: ?
Producer: Albert E. Smith Editor: ?
Writer: Anthony E. Coldeway

NOT AVAILABLE ON DVD

The film opens with cashier Catherine (Unidentified) looking at her distorted face in a mirror.  As she peers into it with reflective intrigue, a group of women enter her store.  The manager (Babe Hardy) intercepts a written love note via way of a crate which is attached to an overhead series of rails.  Thinking the message was intended for him, he writes a reply before sending it over to the girl, who reads it, frowns, then sends it back to its intended destination, the clerk Mr. Bolts (Jimmy Aubrey) on the other side of the store.  Mr. Bolts excitedly reads it and pulls himself over to her after climbing inside the crate.
An elderly customer asks for some red cloth to be cut for him, but the distracted clerk cuts more than asked for and slices off half of the customer's jacket.  When a gaping hole is exposed in the gentleman's pants it attracts a lot of attention from a group of women who follow him out of the store and beat him up.  They return shortly afterwards to give the manager (Babe) a good beating just for good measure as well!  The enraged manager leaps over the counter to fight with the clerk, only to emerge a few moments later sporting a black eye.  The fight resumes as the manager chases the clerk up the stairs, but in a clever gag where the clerk pulls a lever to turn the stairs into a slide, the manager comes crashing back down to the bottom again (see favourite bit).
The chase spills out into the street, where after a brief scuffle the clerk disguises himself in clothing outside a tailors (well, it's actually a loans business).  The clerk plays statues but the manager is on to him and quickly susses out the ruse.  The clerk uses one of the display models and hides underneath it to make his getaway, but he is spotted by the owner of the store, who pursues him.  The clerk dumps the mannequin and leaves it for the owner to wrestle with as the clerk runs off.
He reaches the street corner where he meets up with his rival, the manager, who siezes the opportunity to hit him but only manages to hit the wall instead when the clerk ducks.  The chase picks up again as the two rush back inside their own store, pushing past (and knocking down) unsuspecting customers.  The manager gives the clerk a pretty good beating in front of the shocked onlookers but when his actions are frowned upon, the manager makes things right by kissing the clerk's forehead as a sign of peace... before blindsiding him with a couple of sucker punches straight afterwards.  In a bar area next to the store a woman customer orders some sort of milkshake, which the clerk obliges her with before realising he has just poured petrol into her!
Back in the store, a young lady places an order whilst an elderly lady places a baby in the message carrier which is then whisked away by the clerk.  When the manager sees the baby in the cage he acts brokenhearted and walks away crying.  The baby is returned via the carriage on the above rails where the clerk finally sees the error.  Then the flirting begins between the girl and the clerk.
A shady-looking guy comes into the store and hands the manager a bag containing money.  However, the bag is accidentally switched with an identical one of a customer, who walks off with the original bag.  The manager is then seen emptying the safe in the store and summons over the clerk before handing him some papers.
The clerk opens the safe and pulls out a wad of money from inside it.  The manager tries to complete his evil plan and telephones the police to inform them the clerk has stolen money from the safe.  The clerk and the cashier empty the contents of the safe and run off (the jump he makes from the ground floor to the first floor is hilarious!)  The police bust in and attempt (and fail) to apprehend the clerk.  The final couple of minutes is mayhem and slapstick with the store being totally trashed by the cops.  The film ends abruptly with a tacked-on explanation on the manager's fate having been arrested.

Favourite bit
I have to admit the best bit is the stairs being converted into a slide gag!  Imagine that in your house - stairs to walk up and when you want to come back down you just pull a lever and it turns into a slide!  Looks like great fun.  I bet they used that a bit during filming!

Facts
Copyrighted February 16, 1920.
An almost-complete print of the film was located and restored by an Italian company in 2015.

Filming dates
Late 1919.

Trivia
There are fifteen steps in the stairway inside the store that lead to the upper level.
Babe stands in the corner of the store where a sign hangs behind him saying "Check your babies".  This explains why later in the film a woman is seen in the store with her baby.
An honest, yet clumsy mistake from the clerk in cutting a hole in the customer's pants leads a group of women to beat the customer up.  Armed with weapons, crutches and handbags they kick the sh*t out of him.  Seriously, what is their beef?  If it had been a woman with her underwear on show, do you think a bunch of men would have done the same to her?
In close-up shots of Jimmy Aubrey, it would appear he hasn't any eyeballs.  This would have been due to the heavy make-up process used on his face.  Apparently, blue eyes didn't photograph so well back in the day.  He looks like a zombie in most of his shots!
Isadore Fitzpatrick Loans is the name of the store on the corner of the street.
When Babe hits Aubrey in the street with the punch to the face, in the next shot Babe's moustache has briefly turned grey?
On the street corner, Babe clenches his fist to punch Aubrey but when Aubrey ducks down, Babe hits the wall with an open hand.  This proves that the outcome was pre-meditated and therefore not believable.
In the scene where Babe hands Aubrey the paperwork from the safe late on in the film there are two mannerisms displayed by Hardy which would later be synonymous with his on-screen character: the gentle poke to the ribs of his friend, and the huff of acceptance before leaving the room.
According to a calendar on the office wall, the date is the 19th.
"Yards & Bolts" is written on the safe.
Jimmy Aubrey's moustache is silly.  How does a man expect to eat his food without getting that thing soiled?
When the police are chasing Aubrey in the store at the end there is a scene where he slides UP the stairs.  This was shot in reverse with him sliding down and then played backwards.  Pretty funny stuff.

Jimmy Aubrey
Mr. Bolts, clerk
Oliver Hardy
Mr. Yards, manager
Dick Smith
Crook
Monty Banks
Store onlooker
Noel Smith
Assistant cashier
   
UNIDENTIFIED CAST
 Catherine, the cashier


PUBLICITY

Thanks to: Irela Nuñez del Pozo / Centro Sperimentale Di Cinematografia
Steve Massa (identification of Dick Smith and Monty Banks)
The identification of the cashier was thought to be Bartine Burkett, but Steve Massa has confirmed this isn't her.

This page was last updated on: 02 January 2018