Everett True Breaks into the Movies (ABC, 1916)
Everett True Breaks into the Movies (1916)… I don’t know — the kids seem to like it. We released it on video years ago and the denizens of 4chan’s comics message board very occasionally rediscover it and suddenly daily traffic spike into the thousands. Personally, I don’t get it. It’s kind of just The Masquerader (1914) with a popular newspaper comic strip character shoe-horned in. And, while he looks reasonably similar (aside from the terrible bald cap), Robert Bolder’s acting doesn’t capture Everett True at all. But whatever interests young people in silent film can’t be all bad, and I’ve got a nice new print (“new” as in new to me, but it is relatively new at 40-some years old) to make a 2K transfer of.
Breaks into the Movies is (perhaps) the first installment in a series of short comedies based on the perennially favorite comic strip The Outbursts of Everett True. In the funny pages, Everett True is a short-tempered fat man who deals with rude and inconsiderate people by beating them up. That’s about it. Simple as that plotline is, the movie doesn’t care to follow it. Instead, Everett (Robert Bolder) reads a want-ad for film actors in his morning paper. He heads down to the studio, where he cuts in front of a poor Arbuckle impersonator and a slightly better Chaplin one, and declares to the studio boss that the job is his. He then inserts himself into some sort of domestic melodrama as the heroic lead, which ends in a love scene. An actress (Elizabeth Erwin) tattles on him to his wife (Paula Reinbold), who rushes to the studio on the warpath. After a chase that leaves the studio in a shambles, Everett is marched home, only to be followed by the director with a check for a million dollars — the best actor he’s ever had, the director says.
Very weird, incidentally, seeing Bolder in this. I’m more familiar with him as a dramatic actor at Vitagraph.
There’s remarkably little information available about this ostensible series or the studio that produced it. About all I can turn up is this: the American Bioscope Company was incorporated in Chicago in September of 1915, but it appears to have actually begun operations late in the previous year. It seems to evaporate after the departure of its president and general manager, John E. Willis, in June of 1919 — or at least it completely drops from the radar, with no new films announced after that. It doesn’t look like they made much headway into the movie business at all. Certainly, none of their films were widely released. They seemed to have bet heavily on Everett True and it doesn’t look like it paid off.
Everett True Breaks Into the Movies, originally titled How Everett True Broke Into the Movies, premiered at the Elite Theatre in Kalamazoo, Michigan on July 8th, 1916 (or possibly a week earlier — July 1st). There’s only one brief article I can find that mentions the event, and it claims that the film smashed all records by selling 4,800 tickets for the evening and matinee screenings. That’s quite impressive, considering the theatre sat 900.
ABC ran small text ads in nearly every issue of Motion Picture News and Moving Picture World in 1917, all pushing Everett True, which it describes vaguely as one or more single-reel short comedies. (They also want you to know that the studio is available for rent). But I can’t find any convincing evidence that the film played again until September, 1917 — over a year after the premier — odd for a film evidently in such wild demand.
In 1925, Acme Film seems to have acquired ABC’s Everett True movie(s). The single ad that I found says that it was a ten-part series of one-reelers — they were selling them off as states rights releases. However, Breaks/Broke Into the Movies is the only one that seems to have a title and is the only one that I can find evidence of. Maybe there were nine other Everett True films, but if so, they have vanished into the ether and left not a single trace of ever being exhibited.
If I were to describe this film, Everett True Breaks Into the Movies, in two words, those words would be cheap and slapdash. Everything about the production is cheap. It’s interesting when you pull the camera back to reveal the lights and the edges of the sets — to break the magic, so to speak — when you’re showing the films-within-the-film being shot, but it breaks a bit too much of the magic when those same sets and props are re-used in what you’re pretending are the real-life linking segments. Everett True doesn’t do many Everett True-like things. The nearest he comes to his comic strip persona is to bash a studio grip that gets in his way with an umbrella. Even then, the grip wasn’t doing anything that particularly warranted Everett’s wrath. What I’m saying is, the plot of this film has nothing at all to do with Everett True.
I wasn’t joking when I said it was popular with a certain contingent of comic fans online — it’s amazingly so for a film that doesn’t even have an IMDb page — but I think the fondness is due entirely to its relation to the Everett True comic strip character and has little to do with the film itself. I certainly can’t recommend it on its own merit.
My rating: I don’t like it.
Available from Harpodeon