Here is the little comedian with a characteristic gesture offering you one of the new Ford cars. All you have to do is to think up the best gag for him.
It is not necessary for you to know the theme of Harry Langdon’s next film. The prize will be awarded to the funniest gag suitable to Harry’s personality. How it will be worked into the story can be left to the scenarist.
Have you ever thought of a comedy gag and then found you had no use for it? Here’s your chance to turn gagman for Harry Langdon and the FORD goes to the winner. Read the following story.
By Marion Brooks Ritchie
Last night The Chaser was previewed for the first time, and this morning General Manager Don Eddy told me that the latest Langdon comedy has ‘clocked off’ between three hundred and twenty and three hundred and forty-five laughs!
Then Don had to explain to me exactly what it means to ‘clock off’ a laugh. It’s like this: when a Langdon picture is being previewed, three or four different members of the company sit scattered throughout the audience with a sort of clock which registers each time it is clicked. When any ‘gag’ in the picture ‘gets a laugh’ – and it must be a good laugh – the clock is clicked by the man holding it. At the finish of the picture, the clock has totaled the entire number of clicks, and has so furnished them with the number of laughs in the production.
I had thought that $2,500.00 a week was an awful lot of money for Harry Langdon to be paying the staff of five or six men whom he employs to help produce the laughs for his First National comedies, but when they keep as close tabs on laughs as that, and almost judge the worth of a picture by an actual count, the enormous salaries of his gag men seemed nearer right.
Would you ever have dreamed a laugh could be as valuable as that?
You see, when a comedy is finished, a staff of five of six men have put their brains together to make the laughs. The laughs have been immensely serious to them. They know that one single piece of business may mean the making of the picture; one single gag may mean establishing a reputation, and on top of that, a salary way up in the hundreds.
Do you remember the gag where Charlie Murray takes out his dress suit, and instead of having moths fly from it to let us know how long a time it is since he has worn it, we are shown a newspaper carrying headlines of Dewey’s victory? That gag was one of the most talked about of the year, and it established Jack Wagner, the originator, as one of the highest paid laugh constructors on the First National lot.
Some of the best laughs in our boy Harry’s pictures have been dramatic laughs, with a tear very close by. In Three’s A Crowd, for instance, there was a gag of Harry being kept out on the porch while the stork arrives inside. It was a marvelous laugh, but with all the fun, Harry’s eyes almost softened it into a tear. That was Arthur Ripley’s ‘gag.’ Arthur is a great friend of the sad-eyed comedian, and as his head scenario editor and understanding pal, possible he came nearest to the real Harry Langdon.
Another dramatic laugh which I’ll never forget was a gag in The Strong Man. Harry is coming home to his sweetheart, and you’ll remember that he doesn’t know that she is blind. We, the audience, do know it. In typical Langdonian style, we see him, bashfully, come to her; he uses his every wile to make her like him, and then, with your heart almost breaking for them both, she takes his arm, they walk away, and he, who sees so perfectly, trips on the door sill, and falls flat on his face, while she in her simple blindness, carefully steps over the sill. The mist leaves your eyes in the relieving laugh that follows, and the dramatic tenseness of it is over. I’ll never forget that scene, and though I can’t explain my reasoning of it, I’ve always been glad to know that it was Harry’s own gag.
Talking of dramatic gags reminds me of a certain man who ‘gags’ for John Barrymore. You see, even pictures that are not comedies have their gag-men, and I always felt that this one man is particularly appropriate on the Barrymore set. He was always laughing; he always had something funny to say to everyone, and I used to wonder how he ever managed to keep it up. Always laughing; always fooling! And with it all, a something sad – maybe even ironical – in back of everything he gagged.
But to come back again to The Chaser. It struck me as very significant that when I came to check up the gags that handed me the biggest laughs, I found them practically divided equally among the whole gag staff. The castor oil gag, for instance, belongs to Bob Eddy, and even though it’s a long hard trail from Keystone Cops to Harry Langdon gags, Bob admits that being a Keystone Cop was great foundation work. In case you want to know about the castor oil gag, I’ll merely say that Harry, tired of life and endeavoring to leave this world via the suicide route, instead of taking the well-meant poison, swallows a bottle of castor oil! You can imagine the rest.
Another one of my best laughs of the picture goes to Clarence Hennecke. Clarence ought to be good, because he has had his comedy training with Mack Sennett, Hal Roach, and even back in the days of Vitagraph. He’s a serious fellow, too, and our boy Harry tells me that Clarence is daddy to a gag which left me weak. The scene is Harry, in his own inimitable way, standing on the outskirts watching all the other beau brummels making love. At last he perks up, buttons his coat, grabs the first girl in sight, hugs and kisses her until she faints, grabs another girl, repeats the performance, and then by mistake goes up to the giant chaperone.
This starts ‘the chase,’ which leads right into the knockout Harry McCoy gag. I simply can’t tell it and do it justice, and anyway, it would spoil it when you see it on the screen.
I almost forgot to ask about the egg gag. That Harry said, belongs, as I had guessed, to always-happy Ray Conlin. Picture Harry trying to make a chicken lay an egg. In your mind’s eye, see him stoop down in his anxiety, holding the hen, but all to no avail. Enter another hen, who calmly lays the much desired egg right where Harry almost sits. Then all you have to do is picture Harry finding eggy laid by henny number two!
‘So you can see,’ finished Harry, ‘gagging really is a valued art. We never can get too many of them, and they are a whole lot harder to construct than most folks realize.’
Right then the thought flashed through my mind. Of course I’d get the perfect gag for our own sad-eyed Harry boy!
‘What do you say, Harry,’ I spoke up fast-like, ‘let’s have a SCREENLAND contest! Let’s offer one of Henry’s new gear-shift Fords for the perfect gag. SCREENLAND’S readers will get it for you, cross-my-heart. What do you say?’
The whimsical Harry Langdon of the ‘delicious’ sense of humor immediately responded to my wild enthusiasm.
‘You’re on, Marion – go right ahead,’ the quick reply came back. ‘I get the gag; whoever wins receives the Ford. At least for once the good gag gets the Ford instead of the Ford getting the gag!’
You may submit as many gags as you like but submit each gag separately.