Series: Charley Chase

Director: Charles Parrott Chase, Eddie Dunn
Producer: Hal Roach
Photography: Francis Corby
Editor: William H. Terhune
Sound: Harry Baker

Stars: Charley Chase, Betty Mack, Florence Roberts
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 17 March 1934
Length: 2 reels
Production No.: C-21
Filming dates: circa December - January 1934
Rating: 6/10

Four Parts

Available on DVD:

Ma (FLORENCE ROBERTS) sets the breakfast table before calling her four grown-up sons downstairs to eat. They are Charley, Hal, Henry and Eddie - each of them is CHARLEY CHASE, all of them wearing different uniforms. Mother hands Charley a letter that has arrived for him and upon reading it Charley breaks out into song ("Aunt Emma's Got Ants In The Pantry"). All four Charley Chase's sit around the table and are seen in the same shot (genius filmmaking) [although I have a suspicion the guy with his back to the camera may actually be Ham Kinsey?] After the song Charley is out and about and sees a penny on the sidewalk but as he goes to pick it up he bumps into Betty, who has the same idea.
They sit there on the ground arguing over who has the right to claim ownership of it whilst a whole bunch of nosey do-gooder passers-by stand around observing them because they have nothing better to do. After a while a young boy (STYMIE) comes along to reveal that the penny is in fact his and that he had lost it. He gets his money back whilst Charley and Betty continue to row momentarily. They eventually calm down and Charley offers her his card so that she may contact him later on. They say goodbye and Betty boards a streetcar, where Charley's twin brother happens to be the conductor. Betty is confused but gives the conductor a wave but he dismisses her. After getting off the streetcar, Betty then sees another Charley as a cop directing traffic in the street as she tries to cross the road. Growing increasingly more and more confused, Betty then gets into the back of a taxi and, yep you guessed it, meets another of Charley's twins as the driver. When he asks her where she wants to go she tells him to take her to the nearest doctor!
Betty arrives at the doctor's surgery and tells the receptionist/nurse that she is seeing "4 of them". The nurse immediately straps Betty down in the chair as the doctor (actually dentist) (you guessed it, Charley again) comes in and recognises her as the woman he had meet previously on the street. He explains that the other men she saw were his twin brothers and invites her to come around to his house later that evening so that she can meet them all. When Betty arrives she is greeted by one of the brothers who naturally doesn't recognise her and slams the door in her face. After the same thing happens again with a second brother, Charley finally answers the door when she rings the bell for a third time. Charley invites her in and introduces her to his mother. And then it gets even more bizarre... another knock on the door brings another guest - Charlotte (also Chase, this time in drag!)
The four brothers sing a song together as mother, Betty and um, Charlotte watch on with Betty trying to catch Charley's eye but not knowing which one of the four men he actually is (he's the one playing the keyboards). After the song, we move forward a bit with Betty and Charley pushing a pram along the top of a cliff where they stop to reflect on their four babies (I think one of them may have been fathered by Stan Laurel judging by his head-scratching). They all look identical (note that all of them are Charley and without his moustache). Charley and Betty smile and walk off into the sunset. Well, sort of.

Favourite bit
4 Charley's in the same frame is a technically visual joy to see.

Copyrighted February 21, 1934.
Songs featured: Aunt Emma's Got Ants In The Pantry, and When The Band Around Your Hat Plays 'Home Sweet Home'.
Charley Chase plays nine roles in this short, and shaved off his trademark mustache in order to play five of those parts.
In the scene where Charley and Betty see the penny on the sidewalk, about a dozen pedestrians stop by to just watch them. What the hell has any of it got to do with any of them? Look at them all just standing there. The very same people are seen in the subsequent shots walking past in the background, including a short guy at 6:40 who deliberately turns his head to not show his face as he walks from right to left across the screen. One young man, wearing a dark suit has the cheek to walk past TWICE!
The streetcar that Betty gets on has a newspaper advert on the side which says "Rabbi Magnin Answers Hitler". This refers to Edward Magnin (1890-1984), the sprititual leader of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, a Jewish congregation in Los Angeles, California.
The guy who tells Betty to be careful not to cross the road because of the traffic.... um, what traffic?
The taxi driver charges Betty 15 cents for her fare.
When Betty goes to see the doctor, the taxi driver tells her he is in Room 411. When she arrives, the words "CHAS CHASE DDS" is seen (backwards) on the glass door of the office.
There are multiple references to the Laurel & Hardy film, Sons Of The Desert in the film. The first being the "Honolulu Steamship Co." building that Charley is parked outside of when he collects Betty in his cab. Secondly, Charley and his brothers play (badly) the theme of "Honolulu Baby" in the apartment. And let's not forget, Charley Chase also had a big role in the film as well.
Mother is seen reading an edition of a Cosmopolitan magazine.
My opinion
An unusual film with some very good experimental camera tricks. Charley is working his socks off in this one and although there are some good scenes, the film feels a bit flat because not much effort is put into distinguishing each of his characters. Nice little cameo from Stymie as the boy who lost his penny and there is that really annoying scene with the crowd of statuesque onlookers as well but I'd have to give this an average/slightly above average rating.

Charley Chase
Charlotte/4 babies
Betty Mack
Florence Roberts
Matthew Beard
Boy looking for lost penny
Virginia Karns
Bob Minford
Nosey passer-by
Ruth Adams
Nosey passer-by/Streetcar passenger
L.J. O'Connor
Pedestrian who warns Betty
Evelyn Burns
Pedestrian crossing road/
Streetcar passenger
Cy Slocum
Nosey passer-by
Cap Somers
Pedestrian with cigar crossing street
Don Sandstrom
Driver in stationary car
Ham Kinsey
Stand-in for Charley Chase
Nosey passer-by #1
Nosey passer-by #2
Nosey passer-by #3
Streetcar passenger
Pedestrian crossing road

CREDITS (click image to enlarge)

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Smile When The Raindrops Fall by Brian Anthony & Andy Edmonds (book)
The Charley Chase Talkies 1929-1940 by James L. Neibaur (book)
Jesse Brisson (identification of Ruth Adams, Bob Minford, LJ O'Connor, Evelyn Burns, Cy Slocum, Cap Somers, Don Sandstrom)

This page was last updated on: 13 June 2024