Series: Charley Chase

Director: Leo McCarey
Producer: Hal Roach
Photography: Fred Jackman, Len Powers

Stars: Charley Chase, Katherine Grant, Oliver Hardy, Lon Poff
Company: Pathé Exchange
Released: 05 July 1925
Length: 2 reels
Production No.: E-17
Filming dates: April 6-16, 1925
Rating: 5/10

Isn't Life Terrible?


Charley is in his yard doing some gardening when he sees a cockrel. He throws it over the fence but it soon comes back over into his yard. When he chucks it back, the cockrel, along with about thirty of its friends come flying over his fence again. Charley joins his wife and daughter on the doorstep where he wishes he could go on a trip. His daughter gives him a badge which says, All Things Come To He Who Waits. With them is the lazy brother-in-law Remington (Oliver Hardy) who is quite frankly, useless. Charley's neighbour (Leo Willis) calls him over to help assist with lifting a trunk up onto his car but Hardy pretends to be suffering so Charley tries to help but he ends up breaking the trunk and gets a black eye for his troubles.
The family go to a store to buy a bed when Charley's wife reads an advert for a free ocean voyage for anybody who can sell the most number of fountain pens within a three month period. Charley takes up the task of trying to be that "anybody" and ventures up into the Hill View district to try his luck. His first (well, actually second if we're being honest) customer is Fay Wray but things go bad for Charley right from the beginning when his pen explodes in his face, covering him in ink and he leaves without making the sale. Later, it is revealed that Charley has won the ocean trip prize and the family are at the docks, waiting to board the ship. First, their trunk is dropped into the sea by the ship's crane and then Charley is refused boarding because he doesn't have his tickets. Remington, who somehow has managed to get on board puts them in a satchel and lowers them down to Charley but as he pulls it back up the rope snaps and the satchel joins the trunk in the sea.
Charley and his wife board the ship, grabbing a small black girl in the process thinking she is their daughter. After drawing stares from fellow passengers and then seeing his daughter on the dock Charley realises that the child he has with him isn't her (well, she's black for one thing!) and quickly tries to ditch the kid. They enter their cabin to find the ship's carpenter Mr. Jolly (Lon Poff) fixing holes in the water-damaged floor. He covers a leaking hole in the floor with the leg of a chair and leaves. Charley spots a sign on the wall notifying them of their lifeboat number in the event that it is needed. He goes out onto the deck to check it out and ends up putting his leg stright through the bottom of the boat. Charley goes to complain to the captain, who tells him they are trying to avoid running into a discarded torpedo in the sea. A passenger puts out his cigarette on a balloon and the shock sends Charley through the wooden railings and almost overboard before he is 'saved' by the little girl.
Charley becomes increasingly jumpy with every sound he hears until the sound of a bell sends him and his family heading back out onto deck and into the lifeboat as all the other passengers scuttle around. Charley heroically jumps overboard but lands on the lower deck instead. He has mistaken the bell as a sign that the ship is sinking, when in fact it is the dinner bell. The captain refuses to let the family into the dining room whilst they are all wearing their lifebelts so Charley throws them into the sea, where they immediately sink. Charley and the others head back to their cabin suffering from a sudden bout of sea-sickness where they end up pushing a cabinet through the wall and into the sea. Eventually the ship docks and they are met by a medical officer who checks to see they have all been vaccinated. When it turns out that Remington isn't he is told he must go back home. Charley is happy but his wife isn't. Just then their daughter is returned to them by a pilot with a sea plane but she instead decides not to board. Charley does have one final piece of good news: the ship's carpenter has just shot Remington after he broke his leg!

Favourite bit
Charley being scared of the small dog.

Copyrighted May 29, 1925.
Premiered June 17, 1925.
Some sources incorrectly list Mary Kornman as the daughter.
This was Oliver Hardy's second film for Hal Roach (the first was Wild Papa, a Spat Family film released two months previously). As this film is currently considered 'lost', this makes Isn't Life Terrible? the oldest known surviving Hardy/Roach film.
I believe this is the first time we see Ham Kinsey in a Roach film. He appears briefly as a passenger on deck as Charley and his wife walk along with the black girl.
Charley is given the Hill View district to sell his fountain pens.
The first house Charley visits to sell his pens is 7328, before he goes next door - to number 7330.
The name of the ship is the S.S. Davy Jones. It can be seen on the side of lifeboat #10 when Charley gets into it. See here.

What the experts say
"A film of two halves. The first part seems to be a collection of short scenes which just don't make for great continuity. The scenes on the ship just don't seem to be very realistic, and it feels like the whole film was very basic. Definitely not one of Charley Chase's better films." ~ Lord Heath.

Charley Chase
Katherine Grant
Charley's wife
Nancy McKee
Oliver Hardy
Remington, the brother-in-law
Lon Poff
Mr. Jolly
Fay Wray
Potential customer
Leo Willis
Neighbor with trunk
Dorothy Morrison
Little black girl
Jules Mendel
Bed salesman
Sammy Brooks
Short passenger
Ham Kinsey
Charlie Hall
William Gillespie
Medical officer
Ed Porter


(click any image to enlarge)

(click image to enlarge)


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Acknowledgements & sources:
Ed Watz, Richard Finegan (lobby cards)
Peter Mikkelsen (poster and still)

This page was last updated on: 14 May 2021