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Don Key (Son of Burro) (1926)

Passed | | Short, Comedy | 23 May 1926 (USA)
The head of a big movie studio is pulling his hair out because the company is bankrupt unless they can find a writer for a smash comedy. An aspiring writer is awaiting outside the office ... See full summary »


Hal Yates (story), Jack Collins (scenario) | 7 more credits »


Credited cast:
Max Davidson ... Mr. Browning - Movie Producer
Stuart Holmes ... Aspiring Screenwriter
Spec O'Donnell ... Office Boy
James Finlayson ... Vivien's Suitor
Vivien Oakland ... Vivien
Frank Butler Frank Butler ... Finn's Rival
Jerry Mandy ... Second Office Boy
Tyler Brooke Tyler Brooke ... Second Screenwriter
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Sammy Brooks Sammy Brooks
Kathleen Collins Kathleen Collins
Dick Gilbert
William Gillespie
Helen Gilmore
Jackie Hanes Jackie Hanes
Lucien Littlefield


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The head of a big movie studio is pulling his hair out because the company is bankrupt unless they can find a writer for a smash comedy. An aspiring writer is awaiting outside the office and the producer agrees to see him. He listens while the writer tells his story and acts the numerous parts. The story is rotten, but the producer lets him escape while vowing vengeance on any other author who would read his story aloud. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

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Short | Comedy



Did You Know?


Virtually everyone at Hal Roach Studios worked on this film, which had a very troubled production history. Eventually Stan Laurel wrote a script that allowed them to use some of the existing footage as part of a story where a studio executive is looking for material. See more »


Spoofs Don Q Son of Zorro (1925) See more »

User Reviews

Stan steps in and saves the show
14 June 2009 | by wmorrow59See all my reviews

Comedy fans will recognize this plot outline: our setting is the office of a harried movie producer, played by a veteran character actor known for comic roles. A screenwriter enters with the announcement that he has a brilliant idea for a picture, and proceeds to outline it for the producer and his staff. The story he tells is crazy and disjointed, and the producer reacts with growing befuddlement and irritation. Elements of the scenario include a middle-aged roué courting a younger woman, gags involving exotic animals, and a wild climactic chase. The screenwriter fails to sell his story, and is eventually ejected from the producer's office.

If the producer is Franklin Pangborn and the screenwriter is W.C. Fields, then this describes the 1941 comedy Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. But if the producer is Max Davidson and the screenwriter is Stuart Holmes, then we're talking about an obscure silent comedy short produced at the Hal Roach Studio 15 years earlier, called Don Key (Son of Burro). The bizarre title derives from the recently released Douglas Fairbanks picture Don Q Son of Zorro. This film has nothing whatever to do with Fairbanks or Zorro, but an obscure pun is, in a sense, the ideal title for such an oddity as this.

I don't know exactly what went on behind the scenes, but from what I gather the folks at the Roach Studio originally intended to make this a more conventional comedy, and then realized that the results weren't so good. Allegedly it was Stan Laurel (working behind the camera at this point in his career) who came up the film-within-a-film idea about a screenwriter pitching a story idea. It's a clever notion, because it allows the filmmakers to capitalize on the disjointed quality of the footage at hand. By periodically cutting back to the producer's office, and emphasizing his dismay at what he's hearing, they give the material a fresh quality by supplying their own ironic commentary, the way Saturday Night Live will sometimes run captions commenting on a performer who is not doing what he's supposed to do, or a skit that's bombing.

Although this is a Roach comedy featuring many familiar faces from the studio, the film-within-a-film scenes play more like the kind of material found in a Sennett comedy of the period, i.e. broad and cartoon-y in tone. The central character (i.e. the aging roué) is Jimmy Finalyson, and he's courting Vivien Oakland. She has a little boy who plays in the yard with a monkey who gets most of the best gags. When the monkey gets into a fight with a duck things get a little harrowing, but not to worry: a fake duck was employed for the more demanding scenes. ("Call in the stunt duck!") While Finlayson spruces up in a barber shop there's another Fieldsian moment when his ear is nearly sliced off, and a dog shows eagerness to get it. As it happens, Finlayson has a rival for Vivien's affection. They quarrel, and Finn also has a run-in with the monkey and gets squirted by the duck . . . the fake one, I believe. Things get complicated and more than a little confusing when burglars break into Vivien's house, shots are fired, chaos erupts, and everyone heads for the hills. As noted above, it all climaxes in a big chase, complete with amusing animation effects.

I hope Stan received a bonus check for his work on this project. It's not exactly a classic comedy, but definitely a great salvage job, since the framework involving the screenwriter neatly "explains" the weirdness of what we're seeing, and gives it a satirical spin. Don Key (Son of Burro) is kind of a mess, but thanks to Stan it's a nice mess.

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Release Date:

23 May 1926 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Don Key: The Son of Burro See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hal Roach Studios See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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