The Bakery  
20 June 1921
Vitagraph Company of America
silent short


Directors/Producers: Larry Semon, Norman Taurog  Writers: Larry Semon, Albert E. Smith


A clumsy employee at a bakery shop infuriates his short-tempered foreman with a series of incidents.  The film opens with Semon trying to carry one too many bags of flour, stacked up in such a huge pile that he cannot see over the top of them.  When the boss emerges through a trap door in the flooring, guess who ends up going through the hole!  This leads to a series of stunts of him being knocked back down through the hole as the trapdoor is slammed shut on his head.
When eventually he is able to keep himself on the level a dispute breaks out between himself and a fellow emploee over a food display unit mounted on a rotating carousel with overhanging signs on either side, which are used to effect by knocking each other over as they spin it around.
The foreman (Hardy, sporting an unbelievably false-yet frightening set of eyebrows and equally outrageous moustache) intervenes when tempers flare and he gets embroiled in the argument himself, but not before being given the run-around by Semon, who, as they chase one another around in circles, jumps onto it and goes for a spin.
The owner (the fat Frank Alexander) arrives with his daughter in chauffeured style amid some really corny intertitle cards, as the group witnesses a monkey performing tricks on the sidewalk (random!)
Back inside the shop, a woman customer (Eva Thatcher) has asked to be served an item only obtainable from the top of a ladder.  Grabbing the opportunity for making an impression, up goes Semon in search of the obviously next planned stunt.  Lurking among the bread is a small (and very agile) white mouse, and a black cat.  Cue chase.  The mouse crawls down the open sleeve of the employee, causing him to lose balance before the creature drops onto the bare back of the waiting customer.
The sudden realization of being interfered with brings about some wonderful comic expressions.  Semon entices the mouse from its hiding place inside the womans clothing by getting her to crouch forward and then placing a slice of cheese on the back of her head.  Out comes the mouse to have a sniff as the thoughtful worker grabs a heavy bag of flour and in a "will-he, won't-he?" moment... smashes it right over her head!  Outrageous stuff!!  Unhappy with being violently assaulted by the staff (a reasonable excuse to be upset, I suppose) the woman berates foreman Hardy, who also finds himself on the receiving end of the employee's absent-mindedness when a stack of crates are toppled over his head from a moving cart.
The foreman angrily retaliates with a firm push of the cart in the direction from whence it came, sending a fellow worker out through an open window and into a conveniently-placed barrel of water outside.  The convenience of stategically-placed items doesn't end there.  The enraged (and soaked) worker then climbs back through the window and pushes the cart back in the direction of his rival, who manages to duck down underneath it, and watches it slam into the woman - sending her head-first into a stacked mountain of flour sacks.  Plot gives way to visual violence at this point.
Of course by this time she has had enough, and hurls a pie through the air, missing its intended target but strangely enough maintaining altitude in a horizontal velocity to reach the owner who is standing outside admiring his business with his guests.  This leads to an altercation between the boss, the foreman and the employee.  Outside the shop, the previously-seen monkey is causing mischief with a woman who is knitting, whilst inside an employee takes a swig of home brewed liquor when nobody is looking.  The monkey pulls the string from the knitting, and falls backwards into a barrel of yeast, which is witnessed by the intoxicated worker, who freaks out.
Semon, now covered in cake himself is then lured out into the street by Hardy brandishing a towel, leading him to stop in the path of an oncoming tram, which narrowly avoids him.  He then walks into a bathroom where a young lady is behind a curtain taking a shower.  Her screams alert her father, who chases him out of the building, gun in hand.  Back at the shop, the boss is alerted to a discrepancy in the books, and it is revealed that the foreman (Hardy) is responsible.  Seizing the opportunity to rob him further, he grabs a fellow worker and holds the boss and his daughter at gunpoint.  Upon seeing this, Semon takes charge of the situation and chases the gunman out onto a ladder which pivots on top of a fence with them on either end, in what is probably the most visually original gag of the film.  After a brief rooftop chase, Semon captures the criminal, saves the stolen money and wins the boss's daughter.

Unfortunately, the whole film is relatively unfunny and mostly predictable.  Can you imagine in today's strict world of health & safety in the workplace how long this bakery would last, what with its open trapdoors and cats running around a food environment?!

Favourite bit
In the closing stages of the film there is a wonderful visual gag with Larry Semon and an over-sized ladder, which he uses to pivot on top of a fence with a rival.

•Filmed circa April 1921.
Did you notice?

Larry Semon
Larry, a bakery clerk
Oliver Hardy
Frank Alexander
Bakery owner
Norma Nichols
Bakery owner's daughter
Eva Thatcher
Grover Ligon
Husband of woman taking shower
  William Hauber
Rival worker
  Pete Gordon
Bakery worker
  Jack Duffy
(unidentified character)
  Al Thompson
(unidentified character)



Laurel OR Hardy by Rob Stone (book)

This page was last updated on: 02 January 2018