BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES (Pathe, 1924), a Hal Roach comedy directed by Roy Clemens, stars the legendary Will Rogers in a 20 minute comedy short spoofing the movies decades before comedienne Carole Burnett would do the same in her hour-long variety show in the 1970s. Unlike most short subjects containing a story, comedy and chase scenes, this edition is a parody of silent movies of the day.
BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES opens with Will Rogers stepping out on stage from behind the curtain where he introduces himself and what movie viewers are about to see as spoken through title cards while doing his fancy rope work at the same time. Rogers talks about popular movies of the day before going through his own performance from some of those films. First comes BLOOD AND SAND (Paramount, 1922), where Rogers steps into Rudolph Valentino's role as Rufus, the famous matador, featuring a bullfight scene with a surprise finish. Moments later, Rogers spoofs swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks as ROBIN HOOD (United Artists, 1922) doing his bow-and-arrow tricks along with jumping about in slow-motion form. Rogers then goes into the melodramatic story of OVER THE HILL (Fox, 1921) where he takes a serious tearjerker to an amusing climax. The last of his brief movie satire concludes with Rogers imitating Ford Sterling and Charles Hall imitating Charlie Chaplin from Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops comedies, featuring the typical chasing scenes that have made the Keystone Kops so popular. Taking part of these projects are Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Earl Mohan and Noah Young.
The organ scored BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES is possibly the only known Will Rogers film from the silent era to become available on television. It's most notable broadcasts was a sole showing on New York City's WNET, Channel 13, in 1973, and again on that same station as part of its 13-week summer series of "The Silent Years" (1975) hosted by Lillian Gish, following the feature-length Tom Mix western RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (Fox, 1925). Before the conclusion to the 90 minute showing of "The Silent Years," there were also film clips of Rogers doing imitations of two most relatively known movie cowboys of the silent film era, William S. Hart and Tom Mix, before Gish herself closes the show and what's to be presented on the series next week.
Will Rogers did a handful of silent shorts and feature films during the 1920s, but aside from his stage work, notably those under producer Florenz Ziegfeld for his annual "Ziegfeld Follies," Rogers became extremely popular in talkies of the 1930s in many comedy-dramas for Fox Film Studios before his untimely death by 1935. Though BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES may not stand the test of time either for Rogers or the unfamiliar movie titles he is spoofing for contemporary viewers, taking a look at Rogers himself, even in a silent film, is an interesting aspect to his work, style and legend as a whole. (**)
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