Monday, June 1, 2020

Silent Film of the Month: Battling Butler (1926)

Run Time: 77 minutes. Studio: Buster Keaton Productions. Director: Buster Keaton. Writers: Paul Gerard Smith, Al Boasberg, Charles Henry Smith, Lex Neal. Producers: Joseph M. Schenck, Buster Keaton. Main Cast: Buster Keaton, Snitz Edwards, Sally O'Neil, Walter James, Bud Fine. Cinematographers: Bert Haines, J.D. Jennings.

Usually I try to dedicate my silent film of the month post to a more obscure or forgotten movie and would not do a Buster Keaton silent feature. While Battling Butler is not obscure or forgotten, it is often overlooked. It is probably the least talked about of all of Buster's silent feature films. However this is a bit unfair as it is a hilarious movie.

The story is one of simple mistaken identity. Alfred Butler (Buster Keaton) is a pampered rich man, who has always had everything in life handed to him on a silver platter. He falls in love with a woman (Sally O'Neil), whose family considers him a wimp. His butler (Snitz Edwards) finds out that Alfred Butler is also the name of a boxer, so to put him in good with his girlfriend's family the butler tells them that he is the famous boxer. This leads to Alfred having to actually fight in the boxing ring.

This movie was surprisingly based off a British stage musical of the same name, yet Buster was perfectly able to make this a Buster Keaton film and not simply an adaption.

This movie has just as many laughs as anyone could want from a silent Buster Keaton feature. There are so many laugh out loud funny moments here. I love Buster's version of "roughing it" and Buster's training are Keaton comedy at its finest and funniest. The final shot is also Buster's humor at his best. The plot while simple is beautifully woven together showing that Buster was just as great a filmmaker as a comedian. With all the broad slapstick. Buster also puts some subtle but masterful bits of filmmaking here.

One of the most surprising parts of this film is the climatic fight. Throughout most of this movie, slapstick comedy reigns supreme. With this you may expect a slapstick boxing fight similar to what Charlie Chaplin did in City Lights (1931), but we get a more dramatic and intense final sequence. However it works perfectly, by this point in the film we have learned to care about Buster's character and plight, making this a great suspense sequence. Yet we don't feel cheated because the training sequence gave us boxing related slapstick at its best. Both the slapstick scene and the more serious scene of course feature Buster doing all his own stunts and while quite different from the stunts that he performed in say. Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), they are just as impressive.  

This was a very popular movie and was a major Boxoffice success. Buster himself would refer to this as his favorite of his films. For some reason unknown to me though it is often written off as a lesser Keaton film. However this does not change how great of a movie this really is and how it will still delight audiences today.

The following are some exhibitors reviews from Exhibitors Herald (in 1927)

"Battling Butler: Buster Keaton - 70% Not as good as I excepted, but it pleased all the children and the majority of the adults. Should have been put in five reels instead of seven and it would have made a far better comedy. Had a good turn out for this on New Years day, so I am satisfied. Seven Reels. - Rfeiffer, Princess theatre, Chilton, Wis. - Small Town Patronage."

"Battling Butler: Buster Keaton - 50% Fairly entertaining and in places quite funny, but in my estimation it was far from being an outstanding comedy. Everybody laughed and seemed to enjoy it but didn't receive one compliment on it or any particular knock. Played January 4-5. Homer P. Morely, Princess Theatre, Buchman, Mich. -Small Town Patronage."

"Battling Butler: Buster Keaton - Very good. Have seen Buster in better ones. Do not think that it pleased s well as 'Go West' but very good. Played December 28-29. Six Reels. Mrs. Fay Clark, Capital theatre. Hillsboro, Ia. Small Town Patronage."

"Battling Butler: Buster Keaton - 80% Keaton is always good and in 'Battling Butler' he is great. Not as many comedy situations as perhaps 'Go West' but he certainly is great in all the scenes of 'Battling Butler.' Our crowd yelled, giggled, laughed and applauded. What more can a comedy do? Played December 5-6. Six reels. A.D. Stanchfield, Rae theatre, Ann Arbor, Mich. -General patronage."

"Battling Butler: Buster Keaton - Good Buster Keaton, but not up to 'Go West,' which was his best according to our patrons. -J.J. Hoffman, Plainview theatre, Plainview, Nebr."  

The following is a brief article in Moving Picture World.

"For his advance on 'Battling Butler,' Charles H. Amos, of the Carolina theatre, Greenville, S.C., used a pair of clever youngsters as a perambulator.

"First he showed them the film to let them get ideas for comedy stunts, and then he put them on a truck on which a ring had been built. The truck perambulated the streets, stopping every little while to pull off a fast and funny round.

"The same boys were used for a novel prologue. Their gloves faces, hats and shoes were treated with luminous paint and after they had been introduced the house was darkened and only the painted objects could be seen. A two minute round ended in a knock out just as the main title come on the screen."

Picture-Play, 1926
If you want to watch this movie it is on YouTube.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Silent Films on TCM For June

Man With A Movie Camera (1929)
Hello my friends. Again as many of you are like me TCM viewers and silent movie fans, I am listing all the silent films on TCM this June.

Sunday, June 7th

(1923) Director: Rex Ingram. Starring Roman Novarro and Alice Terry. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

Sunday June 14th
Man With a Movie Camera (1929) Director: Dziga Vertov. 9:15pm Pacific. 12:15am Eastern.

Sunday June 21st

The Kid
 (1921) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan. 2:45am. Pacific. 5:45am Eastern.

July Days (1923) Director: Robert F. McGowan. Starring: Our Gang. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

Every Man For Himself (1924) Director: Robert F. McGowan. Starring Our Gang. 9:20pm Pacific. 12:20am Eastern.

No Noise (1923) Director: Robert F. McGowan. Starring Our Gang. 9:35pm Pacific. 12:35am Eastern.

It's A Bear (1924) Director: Robert F. McGowan. Starring Our Gang. 9:49pm Pacific. 12:49am Eastern.

High Society (1924) Director: Robert F. McGowan. Starring Our Gang. 10:10pm Pacific. 1:10am Eastern.

The Buccaneers  (1924) Director: Robert F. McGowan. Starring Our Gang. 10:30pm Pacific. 1:30 am Eastern.

Sunday, June 28th
The Crowd (1928) Director: King Vidor. Starring James Murray and Eleanor Boardman. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Cowboy Church #59

Hello my friends and welcome to another service of Cowboy Church.

Today's musical selection begins with the King of the Cowboys, Roy Rogers, singing The Circuit Riding Preacher from his and Dale's 1959 album, Jesus Loves Me. Circuit riders were real men back in the late 1700's and 1800's. They were part of the Methodist Episcopal Church and rode on horse across the early United States, preaching the gospel. Naturally this was a perfect subject for Roy to sing about as the lore was similar to that of the cowboy and Roy was a Christian. This song is set to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Old Republic with a few choruses of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms inserted in there.   Keeping on the subject of the circuit rider, here is one of the Ride This Train segments from The Johnny Cash Show (1969-1971). These segments had John talking about part of history and inserting a medley of songs in there. This was inspired by Johnny's fantastic 1960 concept album, Ride This Train, where John told various stories about U.S. history with many great songs woven in as well. This was often the best part of the TV show and these segments always put a smile on my face. This segment has John telling a story about a circuit rider and inserting a medley of gospel songs in there. This is followed by Bill Monroe's 1958 recording of Lord Lead Me On. Afterwards is The Maddox Brothers and Rose with their 1950 recording of In a Land Where We'll Never Grow Old. This song was written James Cleveland Moore. His father led the singing at church and when he heard his father's voice failing from age one day at church he went home and wrote this song. Next comes Merle Haggard covering Woody Guthrie's Jesus Christ. As many of Woody's compositions had strong social messages so does this song. It about how Jesus said we should help those less fortune than us and how today we can be just as reluctant to do so as so many where back when Jesus said it. While Woody was hardly a gospel songwriter, this was a message that fit strongly with the songs he would write. Of course Merle Haggard recorded many traditional hymns as well as songs like this. Next is The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1947 recording of The Old Rugged Cross. At this time the lineup of the group was Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer, Lloyd Perryman, Ken Carson and Hugh Farr. This is followed by The Hee Haw Gospel Quartet with Power in the Blood. Normally the lineup for The Hee Haw Gospel Quartet was Buck Owens, Grandpa Jones, Roy Clark and Kenny Price. However Kenny Price's part is filled in for by Gordie Tapp. This comes from a 1974 episode of Hee Haw. Ending today's music selection is The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis singing My God is Real. Remember my friends our God is real and he is with us always. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Isaiah 40:29

Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:12-14

Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. Proverbs 16:20

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, Proverbs 3:13

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Acts 2:21

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:34-36

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; And thus may the Lord God of hosts be with you, Just as you have said! Hate evil, love good, And establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the Lord God of hosts
May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. Amos 5:14-15

Thanks for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again.


-Michael J. Ruhland


Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #73

Hello my friends and Happy Saturday Morning. Once again it is tie for more classic cartoons.

Today's selection begins with one of the most popular and best pairings of Mickey, Donald and Goofy, Lonesome Ghosts (1937). This film provides one with everything they could want from one of these cartoons. It has tons of fast-paced slapstick and creativity throughout. The story of this movie changed over the time it was being made, originally the haunted house was going to be a fake created by gangster Pete to scare others away. As you will see when you watch the film, the ghosts here are completely real. This caused a review for Motion Picture News too call the movie, "rather scary for tiny tots." A review in The Film Daily however said just the opposite stating "The Ghost stuff is all played for laughs instead of spookiness and the kids will eat it up." The following are a couple exhibitors' reviews from The Motion Picture Herald. "Lonesome Ghosts: Walt Disney cartoons - Another Disney of outstanding entertainment. - Harland Rankin, Plaza Theatre, Tilbury, Ontario, Canada. General Patronage." "Lonesome Ghosts: Walt Disney cartoons - I feel that Disney is living on his Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs reputation and his cartoons are not up to the usual standard he formally had. Running Time seven minutes - A.J. Jinks, Crystal Theatre, Ligonier, Ind. Small town patronage." 

Motion Picture Herald, 1937
  Next comes the first Daffy Duck cartoon directed by Chuck Jones, Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur (1939). Today many cartoon fans associate Chuck with being one of the main people who changed Daffy from his early high energy crazy self into a more vain, jealous and greedy character. This film however features Daffy in his early crazy high energy mode. A review in The Motion Picture Herald even stated, "The gags and situations are appropriately matched to the zany personality of the duck." Another review in The Motion Picture Daily stated "Leon Schlesinger delivers good color cartoon work in this "Merrie Melody," but the striving for whimsy hits only in spots." The following is an exhibitors' review also from The Motion Picture Herald, "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur: Merrie Melodies—Very few laughs in this one. Not up to standard of most cartoons in this series. Running time seven minutes. - Don Bloxham, Place Theatre, Exira, Iowa, General and rural patronage."

In the late 1940's Columbia was unhappy with its Screen Gems Studio and was looking a new studio to make cartoons for them. Steve Bosustow, producer of the UPA cartoons and one of the founders of the studio, interested them in distributing UPA's output. Columbia agreed to a trail run, if UPA could make a couple cartoons starring Columbia's biggest cartoon stars, The Fox and the Crow. The result was three great films (Robin Hoodlum (1948), The Magic Fluke (1949), Punchy DeLeon (1950) that were decisively different from what had been done with the characters before. Director John Hubley would later say " It [Robin Hoodlum] was funny and very sophisticated. Columbia didn't like it -it wasn't a standard audience film. We made another one called The Magic Fluke, which was a more popular story using the same characters, the Fox and the Crow. It was more successful." Regardless of how Columbia felt both Robin Hoodlum and The Magic Fluke would be nominated for Academy Awards and Columbia would become the distributor for UPA's cartoons.


Thanks for joining me come back next week for more animated treasures. Peace, love and cartoons.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Wall: A Memorial Day Poem by Michael J. Ruhland

This is a poem I wrote years ago after seeing the Vietnam monument. It is dedicated to all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country. 

 We have seen heaven.
We have seen hell.
We have felt things
no lips could ever tell.
All the tears I can recall
as they wrote your name on the wall
I'm still there in my mind.
There must be another place in time.
To God my head starts to bow,
because only he can help me now.
Too many good men I've seen fall.
Too many names upon the wall.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Happy Memorial Day From Movies With Michael

Hello my friends. Happy Memorial Day, I hope all is well with all of you. Today we remember those who gave their lives for this great country, doing things many of us could never imagine. Without these men and women, we could not be here today able to enjoy the great freedoms of this country. Also God bless all of our veterans and those currently in the military, I am grateful for everything you have done and do.

What is better watching for today than World War Two cartoon shorts?

And of course there are the Private Snafu cartoons.

Though not as groundbreaking as Birth of a Nation (1915) or Intolerance (1916). D.W. Griffith's Hearts of the World (1918) is an excellent war movie.

One of the greatest silent war epics (as many of you know) is actually a slapstick comedy. Of course I am speaking of Buster Keaton's The General (1926).

Before the U.S. Entered World War 2, Charlie Chaplin took on one of history's greatest villains with The Great Dictator (1940).


Though it pales in comparison with the Hemmingway book, A Farewell to Arms (1932) is an excellent war related romance.

Many musicians have performed songs giving turbine to those who have fought and given their lives  for our country.

One of the most overlooked feature films from the Disney Studio is Victory Through Airpower (1943), a documentary on the importance of using airpower to win World War 2.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. John 15:13
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thank you again to everyone who has ever fought for this great country. I am so grateful to you for all of the freedoms we have.

-Michael J. Ruhland