Charley Chase and Charley Chase

The word “hooter” used to mean “nose.” Somehow its position in anatomy slipped.

Pay no attention to the “ie” at the end of Charley Chase’s name in the lobby card above. His name, at the time he made “The Grand Hooter” was then, is now, and forever shall be Charley, C-h-a-r-l-e-y, as in “Charley, My Boy.” Yes, even Columbia Pictures occasionally misspelled his name.

And it’s Charley’s good name I’m here to talk about.

Lets take a step back.

What’s your reaction when some despicable crime, committed by some unknown individual, galvanizes the nation?

Depending on the nature of the crime, you’ll register sympathy, empathy, anger, despair, and/or incredulity. You’ll ask what this country’s coming to, and if it’s really come to this, when something like what happened can happen. If there’s a minority, religion, political party, geographic area or identifiable group you despise, you’ll be tempted to assign blame (“This is how Pilates and soy milk are destroying the fabric of America.”)

Personally, I skip all that stuff and focus on one thing only in a “major new crime” situation: Will the criminal, once discovered, share my name or any part of it? Because I’d surely have to change names immediately were that the case.

What do you imagine all the Lee Oswalds of the world were doing on Monday morning, November 25, 1963? Thinking up new names as they pushed people aside in their fervent effort to reach city hall.

Ironically, fear of this possibility has been nameless. Sigmund Freud had a name for it, though: nominidemophobia, from the Latin for “same name fear.” The name has not been widely adopted, perhaps because this was the Sigmund Freud who played utility infield Triple A ball for the Portland Beavers in the late 1980’s. Others have suggested that the inherent unpronounceability of nominidemophobia may be to blame.

Nonetheless, many of us suffer from nominidemphobia, which is the primary reason media coverage of assassins has always included the middle name. It is for the sake of all the Bruno Hauptmans with middle names other than Richard and the sake of all John Booths who are not Wilkses that middle names are a must.

You doubt that? has 146 people named John Booth, including the Jons, the Johnnies, the Jonathans and the Jacks.

Not one of them – not one – has “W” as their middle initial.

While it’s true that there is a general paucity of “W” middle names due to the letter’s close association with our soon to be ex-president, most nominologists maintain that nearly all the “W” aversion seen in the current crop of John Booths remains powered exclusively by a single 1865 event.

It may be true that, as Stan says to Ollie in Tit For Tat (a possible future Charley Chase film title; see below), “He who filters your good name steals trash.”

Shakespeare’s Falstaff is the source of the original quote, “He who steals my good name, steals all that I have.” (Falstaff’s name was later stolen by a beer.)

And now, trash has stolen Charley Chase’s good name, and you need a filter - specifically, Google’s SafeSearch filter – when you perform a search on his name.

Below is a rare photo of Charley Chase without clothes, from the 1932 two-reel Hal Roach comedy In Walked Charley. This is not the reason you need SafeSearch.

Below is a rare photo of Charley Chase with clothes, publicity from or for an unknown production. This is not the reason you need SafeSearch.

It’s all the other pictures of the Charley Chase seen immediately above, 99% of which are NSFW.

Were the latest Charley Chase an actress, she’d have to join The Screen Actor’s Guild, which frowns upon name-cloning:

It is the Guild’s objective that no member use a professional name which is the same as, or resembles so closely as to tend to be confused with,the name of any other member. The Guild urges all applicants and members to minimize any personal or individual risk of liability by avoiding a name that may cause confusion. (Guild Rule 15).

It reads like a guideline, but it works like a rule:

  • Michael J. Fox added the “J” because there was already a Michael Fox who was a member of SAG.
  • Michael Caine (Maurice Micklewhite) originally chose the name “Michael Scott” for himself, but had to give it up because there already was an actor named Michael Scott.
  • Actress Emma Stansfield was born Emma Thomson. Since there was an Emma Thompson, she had to change her name.
  • Ditto Michael Douglas, whose name had already been registered by the other Michael Douglas, so Michael Douglas became Michael Keaton.
  • Diane Hall’s name had been previously registered, so she became Diane Keaton, thus making Keaton the go-to name for people facing this problem.

Civilians who want to slipstream behind a famous name are rarely stopped from doing so: Jesus Christ lives in Washington Heights and Santa Claus calls Utah home. Andy Griffith ran for Sheriff and was sued by Andy Griffith. (Andy Griffith won, that sure tells you nothing!)

And I, for one, am proud to live in a country where Paul Simon becomes a U.S. Senator, Jerry Lewis is elected to congress, and Albert Einstein does stand-up comedy (as Albert Brooks).

Let’s cut to the Chases.

In an effort to stem future confusion, allow me to point out that despite evidence to the contrary, the films listed below are actual comedies featuring Charley Chase rather than “adult entertainment” featuring Charley Chase:

  • Position Wanted (1924)
  • Bungalow Boobs (1924)
  • All Wet (1924)
  • The Way Of All Pants (1927)
  • Limousine Love (1928)
  • Looser Than Loose (1930)
  • The Grand Hooter (1937)
  • The Big Squirt (1937)

As you may or may not know, this blog got its name from a silent Charley Chase comedy which, once again, seems appropriate:

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The Pledge Paved With Good Intentions

Interesting ad. Optimistic ad.

You can click on the picture above to read this trade ad for The Hal Roach Studio for yourself, but it’s the first line that’s important: “It is our pledge that during the season 1936-1937 we shall continue to expend every effort to produce the best comedy screen entertainment possible and that we will not stint on time nor money to accomplish this result.”

You have to feel bad for Hal Roach during this period. He tried to live up to his pledge. He succeeded in spots (Topper was a ‘37 release) but in many places he just couldn’t attain his vision for ‘36-’37.

Laurel and Hardy made made no short subjects after 1935, which is a shame. In ‘36 they released Our Relations, and in ‘37, Way Out West. You’d have to say that – even without the shorts – Roach made good on his pledge here.

Patsy Kelly made four short subjects with two different co-stars in ‘36 following the death of Thelma Todd; but the series was kaput. Patsy also co-starred with Charley Chase in a feature, Kelly The Second, but time- and money-stinting is in evidence. Roach couldn’t live up to the pledge here.

Charley Chase’s own first starring feature, Neighborhood House, was judged unsuccessful and was cut down and released as a mere two-reeler in 1936. It turned out to be Charley’s last film for Roach. He did make 6 two-reelers in ‘37… but for Columbia. Pledge not honored.

Jack Haley appeared in two features for Roach, Mr. Cinderella in ‘36 and Pick A Star in ‘37. He wasn’t around long enough to become a Roach regular. He returned to 20th Century Fox in ‘37. Pledge? Haley? What pledge?

“Spanky McFarland and his Our Gang playmates” made a ‘36 feature, General Spanky, which flopped, and Roach started producing the previously two-reel Our Gangs as one reel subjects. Roach gave up on the Gang in ‘38, selling the series to MGM, which made some pretty terrible entries. Some good shorts in the final Roach years, however, and while length decreased, time and money was expended to keep the series going. Give this one to Hal.

It makes you wonder if Roach felt he needed to bolster his studio’s image through the trade “pledge” ad specifically because he faced an uncertain season. The glory days of the studio as producer of sound short subjects essentially ended during these years, and, with occasional exceptions, the Roach Studio did not succeed in features.

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The Beau Hunks In Rehearsal

For many years, when blowing out birthday candles or on other occasions that gave me a free wish, I wished that someone, somewhere, would re-record all of the wonderful LeRoy Shield tunes heard as background music in the Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang, and Charley Chase Hal Roach Shorts. I don’t know which wish-making opportunity yielded the results: the incredibly wonderful recordings by The Beau Hunks Orchestra.

I still have birthdays, so I’ve switched over to the next impossible dream – seeing The Beau Hunks at a live performance.

I’ve talked to Piet Schreuders and Gert-Jan Blom about playing here in the U.S., and the financial implications of a tour are staggering. Not out of the question; just staggering.

Perhaps inspired by the concept behind stem cell research, Piet Schreuders informs me that there may be a solution that allows the sound and spirit of The Beau Hunks to travel. According to Piet, the formula is that the “…Beau Hunks ‘inject’ a few key members into existing local orchestras, bring their charts, rehearse for three days, and bingo, a good time is had by all. This opens up new possibilities — for instance, a performance on Roy Shield’s birthday in Waseca, Minnesota someday!”

Sounds great to me, as does the recent rehearsal above. According to Piet: “The Beau Hunks orchestra and the German Filmorchester Babelsberg recently combined to give a performance of Leroy Shield’s music and to accompany two silent Laurel & Hardy films. The performance was in Potsdam, near Berlin, Germany, on August 24, 2007. This clip shows a rehearsal of the tune “Let’s Face It” the day before, conducted by Scott Lawton. Beau Hunks leader Gert-Jan Blom watches from the front row.”

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